Mention pink gin today, and chances are, most people would think of it as being a separate category of gin defined by that rosy hue and sweet to boot. So would it surprise you to know that pink gin actually started off as an actual cocktail that is decidedly not sweet at all?
History of pink gin
Like many historical cocktails, it's hard to pinpoint exactly where and when the pink gin cocktail originated. But the consensus is that it consists of gin and Angostura bitters (which is what gives the cocktail the colour) and that it originated in the British Royal Navy. Like the gin and tonic, this cocktail started off with medicinal intentions - Angostura bitters at the time was given to sailors to combat seasickness and stomach ailments. And like any of us, it seemed the sailors looked for something to offset the bitterness of the...well, bitters in order to make its consumption more palatable. Enter gin and a pretty blush concoction, though the cocktail was anything BUT sweet because it effectively comprised gin and bitters, i.e. one part gin with a dash or two of Angostura bitters. As it was the British Royal Navy, it was more likely than not they used Plymouth navy strength gin. And given this was in the 1800s, there wouldn't have been any ice so it would have been drunk at room temperature.
Modern day pink gin
It's hard to pinpoint exactly when pink gin evolved from that cocktail to being an actual expression of gin. Perhaps it was the 70s, or the 80s. Or maybe it was when rosé wine took off. Who knows. Whatever it is, today pink gin is associated with sweet flavoured gins that are pink in colour, whether such colour is obtained via artificial means or via infusion from fruits/botanicals.
However as the pink gin has evolved from being a cocktail to a widely accepted sub-category of gin, so too has it evolved from being that sweet concoction that most people associate it with. Today, there are pink coloured gins that are not sweet at all but are surprising in their depth and deft use of botanicals to achieve a complexity that just so happens to be pink. While the Poor Toms Strawberry Gin might suggest otherwise, it's a balanced number that has the strawberry flavours while still being juniper forward. The same applies for the Pinkster Original, that gets it colour (and slight fruity flavour) from raspberries. Or for gins that showcase Australian botanicals, try the Adelaide Hills Distillery Sunset Gin, Manly Spirits Lillypilly Gin or Applewood Coral Gin, both of which get their colour naturally from the native botanicals used.