Pink Gin Cocktail | Mid 19th Century English Medicinal Cocktail

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History Of The Pink Gin Cocktail

The history of the Pink Gin cocktail is mostly tied to the history of Angostura Bitters. Native to South America the bark of the Angostura plant was traditionally used to treat stomach issues, break fevers, and help with diarrhea. In the early 1820s the German doctor Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert moved to Venezuela where he worked serving the Spanish army. Using the local Angostura plant he developed in 1824 a medicine he called “Amargo Aromatico” to treat stomach issues. In 1850 he began mass producing his aromatic bitters and exporting them to other counties. Most spirit and liqueur history is medical history (For example gin was originally invented by the dutch as a kidney medicine) and it was common to take concentrated and inedible medicine, like Angostura bitters, and mix them with a lengthener that made them less intense. Alcohol as you can imagine was a very popular mixer and genever was one of the most popular spirits in England during the 1850s. While most pink gin recipes today will use dry gin, it was most likely first mixed with genever and soon after old tom gin.

Should Pink Gin Be Made With Dry Gin, Old Tom, Or Genever?

The pink gin cocktail was most likely first made with genever and not dry gin or old tom gin. Old tom gin and dry gin were both invented around the 1860s and dry gin didn’t start to become popular to mix with till the late 1800s. Genever predates both of those spirits by 200 years as the Dutch began distilling it in the mid 1600s. So again it most likely was most likely first mix with genever since the others didn’t exist around the cocktails creation. Its pretty good with genever too, but it’s better with old tom.

The version mixed with genever would appeal to someone who sips gin straight. The herbal and alcohol flavors are very strong and the barrel aged flavors of the genever help balance that but there is no sweetness to cut it. The old tom version I feel is prefect. The sweetness of the old tom balances perfectly with the herbal and strong alcohol taste and makes for an enjoyable cocktail with little change to the original recipe. Mixed with dry gin the drink is way too intense. It needs sugar, it just needs something else to soften it. Maybe it could be shaken?


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Pink Gin Cocktail – A Classic Cocktail Not For the Faint of Heart

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A classic cocktail that taste pretty good but is still quite strong and flavorful and not for people do don’t like the taste of alcohol.


  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters

  • 2 oz Old Tom Gin


  • Add Ice To Mixing Glass and combine all ingredients in the mixing glass.
  • Stir the ingredients for 20 – 30 seconds to properly chill and dilute the drink.
  • Strain into glass.


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