Why Gin Is Following in Rosé’s Footsteps

Gin joins the clamor for color made popular by the pretty pink drink.

Isolation Proof founder and distiller Jake Sherry mixes a batch of pink gin.
Mixing a batch of pink gin at Isolation Proof. Photo courtesy of Isolation Proof

Until now, the pink-drink craze has largely been driven by rosé wine. According to the IWSR, a market-analysis company that tracks drink trends, U.S. sales of rosé still wine grew by 118 percent from 2015 to 2020—and it shows no sign of slowing.

Producers of other beverage categories want in on the boom and are willing to develop new products to attract rosé enthusiasts. That’s how the new category of pink gin was born.

Not to be confused with the classic pink gin cocktail, consisting of gin with several dashes of Angostura bitters, pink gins are pink in color to begin with. Like their clear counterparts, pink gins must start by distilling juniper berries and other botanicals. They are then macerated with herbs, spices, and sometimes fruits to achieve their signature sunset hues.

Two styles of pink gin seem to be emerging: pinks that are dry and aromatic, great in a gin and tonic; and blush-colored gins that are artificially sweetened or dyed, infused with berries or red fruits. The latter tend to be darker in color and taste more like a syrupy liqueur than a botanical spirit. “Most of them are awful, with artificial coloring, artificial flavoring, not much juniper,” says Angus Lugsdin, cofounder of Salcombe Distilling Company in England, gin’s spiritual home.

Salcombe Distilling Company, setting out to make a pink-hued gin that would appeal to gin lovers and rosé lovers alike, introduced its Mediterranean-inspired dry pink gin in 2019. “Dry Provence rosé wine was the inspiration,” says Lugsdin. “We really wanted it to transport you to that vacation.” Called Rosé Sainte Marie, its botanical ingredients include lavender, lemon verbena, pink peppercorn and rose petals. The spirit gets its light pink color from a 24-hour steep in fresh English strawberries.

It’s this delicate steeping, says Lugsdin, that makes the rosé gin more approachable than the distillery’s flagship bottling. “You get a softer, rounder perfume,” he says. “It’s a really good gateway gin for people who think they don’t like gin.”

Here in the Garden State, distiller Gil Spaier of All Points West Distillery in Newark is also focused on the botanical side of the pink-gin category. To make his pink-pepper gin, Spaier macerates the distillery’s clear Cathouse Gin in pink peppercorn and hibiscus for a touch of color. “Pink doesn’t imply any flavor,” he says. “Our pink gin isn’t veering toward fruit cup; it’s veering toward the opposite. For me, if I’m going to sweeten something, I’m going to adjust the simple syrup [in a cocktail]. I’m not that interested in gin liqueur.”

In the Catskill Mountains, Isolation Proof founder and distiller Jake Sherry wanted to make one thing exceptionally well. Gin, with its array of flavor profiles, gives him “more latitude,” he says.

In addition to its clear gin, the distillery makes small-batch bottlings with seasonal ingredients such as ramps, wild apples and dried pears. In summer, his refreshing and colorful pink gin would be excellent in a Negroni. Since launching in 2020, Sherry has tweaked the recipe, using rhubarb and raspberry before trying other pink plants, such as grapefruit peel, pink peppercorn and hibiscus flowers. The result is a pink gin that can stand on its own or in a cocktail and is far more distinctive than another blasé rosé.  

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