In the Pink

Portrait of Lady with a Hat - original watercolor by The Cocktail Artist
We are still working on recipes using the array of ingredients that we were introduced to at the Virginia Spirits Festival in September. This is where we discovered a very unique version of aquavit. We've used Linie Aquavit in several of our cocktails (the Basil Gimlet and the Split Rock Cocktail), and we certainly think that  Virginia's James River Distillery Oster Vit would be an excellent choice for those cocktails. James River Distillery uses oyster shells in the steeping process of their aquavit - hence the name “Oster Vit”. This might sound like a bit of a gimmick, but the end result is a terrific herbal (caraway and fennel) clear spirit with a crisp mineral taste. We tried it as a substitute for vodka in our District Martini recipe with excellent results. We're planning to continue to experiment with Oster Vit in place of gin or vodka in some traditional recipes. It has a terrific fragrance and is pleasant to sip neat.

We decided to use this new discovery in a version of an old cocktail. Our "In the Pink" cocktail is a spin on one of those (nearly forgotten) pre-prohibition cocktails - The Pink Lady. This cocktail was briefly revived in the 1950s, but the Lady must have acquired a bad reputation and just faded away. It could have been its name that wasn’t doing much to help with the cocktail's popularity. In a 2004 book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, author Ted Haigh renamed the drink “The Secret Cocktail”  - unfortunately it still does seem to be quite a secret to most people.

The Pink Lady contained gin and applejack (see this post in The Spruce to get the original recipe). Egg white gave the cocktail a pale pink color and fluffy white top - which created the allusion of something delicate - although (given the alcohol content) this was no drink for a lightweight. For our "In the Pink" version we eliminated the egg white and substituted Oster Vit for the gin. We also added a bit of blanc vermouth - making it a bit more like a martini. 

In the final version of our cocktail, we used Catoctin Creek Distillery’s excellent Quarter Branch Apple Brandy and True Syrup’s Authentic Grenadine. The crisp flavor the Catoctin Creek Brandy is perfect in this cocktail, but we know it’s hard to find, so you can substitute Laird’s Applejack or Bonded Apple Brandy here - but, DON’T even think of using that sticky-sweet bright pink grenadine in this (or really in any other) recipe. If you can’t get True Grenadine, go ahead and make your own by simmering equal parts pomegranate juice and cane sugar (with a couple of strips of orange and lemon peel thrown in). We also made the cocktail using Linie Aquavit and it's quite good, but the Oster Vit really is the perfect fit for this recipe.

The artwork in this post was done by The Cocktail Artist a number of years ago. Actually, he can't quite remember the subject model for the painting, but she is wearing pink. We decided she was a good depiction of a modern pink lady, and the flowers in her hat inspired us to garnish our drink with a lemon twist and a pink blossom. This lady, like our cocktail, knows her history but doesn't come across as fragile or demure.

The phrase “in the pink” goes back centuries and was used to mean “in good health” or to signify that someone is in peak condition. It also later came to mean “mildly intoxicated” - how perfect! We’ll drink to your good heath and after a couple of these we’ll certainly be “in the pink”! 


The "In the Pink" cocktail and its ingredients 

In the Pink

2 ounces James River Distillery Oster Vit (or Linie Aquavit)
3/4 ounce Catoctin Creek Apple Brandy (or Laird’s Applejack)
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc Vermouth 
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce True Syrups Grenadine (or homemade Grenadine)

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake well and strain into a cocktail coup. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Portrait of Lady with a Hat - original watercolor by The Cocktail Artist

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