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Pale Ink launches world’s first sugar-free coffee liqueur (and it’s gin-based…)

Hong Kong gin brand Perfume Trees Gin has released Pale Ink – the world’s first sugar-free coffee liqueur.

Kit Cheung, owner of Perfume Trees Gin

Back in 2018, Perfume Trees Gin was hailed as the first Hong Kong gin to include local flavours such as white champaca flowers, aged tangerine peels, and sandalwood. Three years after launch, the brand has announced its follow-up product: “Pale Ink”, a sugar-free gin-based coffee liqueur.

Kit Cheung, owner of Perfume Trees Gin, explains, “Coffee liqueur used to be a good selling category. However, sales are turning down in recent years and we found out this has a lot to do with the changing habits of drinkers who have become more health-conscious. In a lot of commercial coffee liqueurs, no matter what base spirit is used, we can’t taste it, as the sugar content is way too high – in fact an average bottle of coffee liqueur may contain up to 80 cubes of sugar.”

He adds: “That’s how we sparked the idea to develop a coffee liqueur that fits in with the wellness trend and at the same time lets the base spirit shine.”

For the first batch of products, the brand collaborated with Gary Au, founder of Urban Coffee Roasters and winner of the 2021 Coffee in Good Spirits Competition, to develop a liqueur made with locally roasted Ethiopian coffee beans.

Using a double, cold brew method, the roasted beans are then infused into the gin spirit, preserving its true, floral notes. The liqueur boasts 25% ABV.

Unlike Perfume Trees Gin, which is made in the Netherlands, the entire production of Pale Ink takes place in Hong Kong.

In order to follow the healthy drinking trend, the brand successfully creates the coffee liqueur using Natvia – a zero-calorie natural stevia extract – as a substitute for sugar.

Cheung recalls, “these natural sweeteners normally carry a herbal scent, which could be disturbing for some consumers. However, we have discovered a way to integrate it subtly with the citrus and herbal notes of the gin. As a result, Pale Ink is a liqueur that boasts layers of botanicals, citrus, floral and rich coffee notes.”

According to the brand, 100ml of Pale Ink has less than 150 calories, which is 20% less than that of vodka. As it is sugar-free, the liqueur can serve as a healthier alternative for health-conscious consumers or drinkers with special diet needs, such as ketogenic diet.

“As we don’t put real sugar in it, Pake Ink does have a rather light texture, which makes it one of its kind that can enjoy either neat or in cocktails. Drinkers can easily make a long drink with it by adding a dash of soda or tonic water at home; otherwise, it also works well with classic cocktail recipes, such as Espresso Martini. Bartenders can also top up the texture layers with the use of different spices such as vanilla and cacao nibs if necessary.”

Opened for pre-order now, the first batch of Pale Ink is limited to 2,000 bottles which are all sold out already. The brand is now preparing for the second batch. Cheung said after the launch in Hong Kong, the brand is planning to export Pale Ink to other Asian markets, such as Taiwan, Singapore, Australia and Japan.


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