"What’s your drink, Sir?” asked the bartender at the officers’ mess. “A Pink Gin,” I replied. He looked absolutely perplexed and said: “Sir, nobody drinks gin these days and I have never heard of anything called pink Gin.”
His remark took me back to my days in Waziristan, a mountainous region in northwest Pakistan. Everyday, after a round of exhausting patrolling in the morning, we would meet at the officers’ mess to relax. First, mugs of chilled beer were passed around. Then, just before lunch was laid out, a pink short drink was served.
Once I asked the British sergeant who was in charge of the mess bar about the drink. “Well, it’s like this sir. First, we put in a dash of Angostura Bitters and then we gently roll the glass. Few ice cubes are then added along with the required amount of gin. While serving, we add an olive or pickled onion. It’s called a Pink Gin because of the colour,” he explained.
I asked what Angostura Bitters was made of. The sergeant said: “Johnnie Walker scotch was born in 1820. This one was born four years later. It’s a special aromatic preparation comprising Gentian (mountain plant) with a variety of vegetable spices and colouring. Try it, Sir, and I am sure, you will enjoy your lunch afterwards”.
Years later, after the end of World War II, a friend invited me over for lunch at the Dorchester Hotel in London. My host was late and since I had nothing much to do, I waited for him at the bar lounge. After a short while, a waiter appeared with a drink. I was about to tell him that I did not order for it when I noticed someone waving at me from the bar. He had a huge grin on his face. Yes, he was the same mess sergeant and he had sent the complimentary drink – a Pink Gin of course!