A Brief History of Gin
British? Think again! Gin actually has its origins in Holland. William of Orange’s relaxed spirit laws encouraged resourceful Brits to craft their own versions of the Dutch “genever”, with ingredients such as turpentine and sulphuric acid for flavour. Lovely.
Gin earned the moniker “mother’s ruin” in the 1700s, due to the many stories of maternal neglect at the hands of drunk mothers. An alcoholism epidemic swept the poorer streets of Britain and gin was thought to be the culprit.
In the 19th century, gin got a makeover! The newly-flourishing gin palaces of London’s west end began putting pubs out of business very quickly, as people were lured in by the promise of cheap, quick booze and little else in the way of food or comfort. (Reminds us of a certain pub chain…)
At this time, us Brits were consuming 7.4 million gallons of alcohol a year. That works out to be about 2-3 gallons per person… Nowadays it’s a paltry half a gallon each per year! We’ll need to step our game up to match our ancestors…
Gin & Tonic was used to ward off Malaria, with quinine being added to the tonic to fight the disease. That’s why we drink so much of it, in case we ever end up in the jungle. Probably.
It was around this time that the British icon, Pimms, was born. A fusion of fruit and gin that we still believe is part of our 5-a-day.
Gin made a luxury comeback in the roaring 20s, being the preferred drink at many a Gatsby-style soiree. Fancy.
During the Second World War, a certain Mr Churchill used to stay at the Dorchester and enjoy many a dry martini. A man of good taste, we say.
The 1960s saw gin take a nosedive in popularity, replaced the new kid on the block vodka.
And now? Gin has made a tremendous return to popular culture, with indepedent distilleries and niche bars opening all over the country. As you can see from this timeline, gin has always been there for us - from wartime to party-time - and we full intend to honour it on June 18th.
Credit to Olivia Williams and her wonderful book “Gin, glorius gin” for some of the facts here!