Elizabeth Stewart recounts her father’s cocktail of choice, pink gin, and his predilection for the good stuff (and we don’t disagree.) With a single ice cube or neat, we think you’ll enjoy this charming bevvie.
“Never drink cheap gin.”
This is more or less the only piece of advice my father gave me. I’m not sure what might have ensued had I chosen to ignore it. Public drunkenness? Health problems? Foaming at the mouth delirium? It didn’t occur to me to drink gin for many years after receiving this piece of paternal wisdom—he laid it on me when I was about 15 years old—although when I did begin to partake, I always passed up the drugstore brands, no matter how strapped my state.
My English father had descended from a long line of seamen. As a Navy man, his drink of choice was a pink gin. Far from impugning the masculinity of its taster, the barely discernible “pink” in the drink—it always seemed a shade of orange to me—comes from Angostura bitters, an herbal concoction marketed by a German doctor in the late 1800s as a remedy for queasy stomachs. The namesake cocktail came to be when the aromatic bitters—also effective at countering seasickness—was adopted by the Royal Navy and added to the gin they took when the sun was over the yard-arm. Or before.
Dad’s method in making his cocktail was to swirl a few drops of Angostura around an old-fashioned glass, and then shake out any excess. He’d fill the glass with a couple of glugs of gin and a sliver of lemon peel. No ice—of course, no ice. We’re talking of a time (the 1950s) and place (Britain) where domestic refrigeration was rare. Since central heating was just as rare, there really was no problem, as it was every bit as cold inside as it was outside—possibly colder. The bitterness of the herbs, he’d once explained, offsets the oiliness of the gin, making for a palatable—indeed, what I’m told is a really nice—drink. It’s a drink to soothe and fortify, so long as the booze ain’t cheap. Father knows best.–Elizabeth Stewart
LC Delicate American Palate Note
We’re all for authenticity—in most instances, anyways—although we’d rather take our Pink Gin on ice, thank you. One cube is all it needs, just enough to take the edge off those gin-bound botanicals. Blame it on our delicate American palates.
- Angostura bitters
- Splash a generous few drops of Angostura bitters into an old-fashioned glass and tilt it around until the inside is coated. Shake out any excess. Pour in the gin.
- Drink and repeat.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Originally published June 16, 2011
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
My take on Pink Gin is more of a thirst quencher for sultry summers (who am I kidding? I’ll take one or three anytime): make a traditional Gin & Tonic, substituting a dash or two of bitters for the lime.
BTW, I’ve tried it with other bitters, but always come back to good old Angostura (which, ironically, has not contained any angostura bark, Cusparia trifoliata, since rumors of strychnine contamination circulated in the nineteenth century).
Can’t wait to try it, Gary. After all, the sun is over the yard-arm somewhere on the planet!
So true Gary, when it comes to bitters Angostura never fails to mix up the best of cocktails, though I must say when it comes to gin, I like you am very happy with a splash of tonic and a squirt of lime. Cheers!
Cheers to you too, Julie! Today, of all days, HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, G&T’s (and Pink Gins) are going down apace all over the United Kingdom. Long may she reign!
Cheers to you Elizabeth as well, I can just imagine what it is like in England, a very dear friend of mine who grew up in England went back this weekend just for the celebration. I can’t wait to hear the stories once she is back stateside.
I envy your friend, Julie. The Jubilee celebration is certainly proving to be a massive feel-good event and a fitting tribute to a lifetime of dedication and discipline.
We used to drink what my Canadian family called “gin and pink” at the cottage — gin with pink lemonade. It made for rockin’ board games (and spoons, do you play spoons?) on rainy afternoons.
I’ll bet it did, Alanna! Although I have to say, I’ve found gin to be a mean drink. That is, folks can have the tendency to turn mean drinking gin. Hence the rockin’ board games…?!
You intrigue me, sir! I’d heard of sloe gin, sloes being an ultra tart wild plum found in the UK, and thank you for the prompt to look it up. Seems the dark red juice of the sloe is mixed with vodka, gin, or neutral spirits to make a crimson liqueur. An old Esquire recipe for a Slow Gin Fizz adds lemon juice, sugar and club soda to make a lovely looking drink. A caveat: only imported sloe gin should be used, as apparently US brands are over sweetened and made with artificial colors and flavors. Guess Dad is right again…
Pink gin, not to be confused with Sloe gin. Which is neither pink nor gin! Thanks for the link. GREG
I’ll try a Pink Gin soon with my Plymouth or Bombay Sapphire. I used to brag about hating gin because it tasted like Christmas trees, and only in recent years did I discover the good stuff. I should have had your father’s advice earlier in my life!
Susan, I applaud your good taste in gin. Hope you enjoy the cocktail.