I was at the Classic East, ordering a drink when a man approached the bar asking for a glass of rosé. I paused and he rushed to say, “I promise it’s not for me.” But the truth is, even with women making up the largest demographic of wine drinkers, rosé is enjoyed by all genders and in great quantities. By summer’s end, all the rosé splashed in our glasses—and across our social media feeds—can drive one to never order a glass of the pink drink again.
Enter Wölffer Estate’s “Pink” Gin, of which the second batch was just released earlier this month. Originally launched in September 2016, the spirit is unlike a traditional Pink Gin—a 19th Century cocktail of Plymouth Gin and a dash of Angostura Bitters—but a new take on a spirit that dates back to the Middle Ages. Wölffer’s winemaker and partner Roman Roth decided to take advantage of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Craft New York Act. The bill “cut burdensome requirements placed on producers and [eased] restrictions regarding the marketing of craft products” and established a grant program to aid growers and makers in readying their products for sale on the mass market.
Roman, who earned a degree in distilling and oenology in 1992 in Germany, decided to draw on the popularity of the Wölffer Estate rosé and incorporate it into the Estate’s premiere spirit. Unlike a standard gin distilled with grain, Roman uses their rosé as a base and infuses Juniper berries picked by hand from the Estate’s bushes between April and July, Anise, Fennel, Coriander, Cumin, Cardamom, and fresh Mint from the Estate garden. The rosé is what sets this gin apart, creating a fruit forward, grain-free spirit with a pale pink tint from the tiny amount of red grape skin extract added to the copper pot still from Christian Carl, Germany.
The craft gin category has gained popularity over the past few years, with distilleries like Caledonia Spirits’ Barr Hill and Tom Cat gins and Sipsmith’s Sloe and London Dry gins. Each of these spirits needs little accompaniment to shine in a cocktail and can be used in vodka-, tequila-, and whiskey-based drinks. But the pure and complex flavors of Wölffer’s “Pink” Gin can be sipped alone with just enough ice to cool it. A splash of tonic (no lime necessary) transforms the spirit into a grown-up Hawaiian Punch, save for the pitcher crashing through your wall.
Admittedly, I joined the “Pink” Gin party a little late. On my last trip east, I pulled into the Wine Stand to stock up on the Estate’s rosé and ciders when the gin bottle caught my eye. The label is playful, just like the gin (as I would soon learn), with juniper berries surrounding a butterfly and a geometric washi tape keeping the cork in place. When I arrived home later that night, I tucked my loot away and promptly forgot about it… until a very long day when I went searching for something a little stronger than iced tea.
Again, the gin’s label caught my eye and I poured it over ice with my usual gin to tonic ratio. My first sip told me I’d already tainted the drink. The flavors of the spirit seemed dulled by the tonic, so I made a second drink with less tonic. Immediately, the flavors opened with a jammy juicy sweetness on the front and sour cherry lingering on the back. Having worked in the food and beverage industry for many years, I’ve tasted countless small batch gins, many delicious and worthy of my afternoon cocktails, but their herbaceousness can be overpowering, leaving me overwhelmed halfway into the drink. But the Wölffer Estate “Pink” Gin balances the drinkability of a Hendricks or Bombay with the flavor of craft gin.
Should you find yourself on the East End, Wölffer Estates “Pink” Gin is available at their Wine Stand. For the gin aficionados outside of the beachy enclave, you can order the $34 gin from Bottle Hampton.