The History Of The Pink Gin Cocktail.
The history of the Pink Gin cocktail is mainly 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 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 initially invented by the dutch as a kidney medicine). It was common to take concentrated and inedible medicine, like Angostura bitters, and mix them with a lengthener, making them less intense. Alcohol, as you can imagine, was a trendy 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 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 spirits by 200 years as the Dutch began distilling it in the mid-1600s. So again, it was most likely the first mix with genever since the others didn’t exist around the creation of the cocktail. It’s 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 perfect. 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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