The History of Gin: Mother’s Ruin

Gin is now one of the most popular drinks in the UK, with every conceivable flavour being added to it. In fact, gin has always been a popular drink but not always in sophisticated gin bars. Of all the spirits on the shelves, gin has possibly the most stories to tell. Here’s a small slice of the history of gin.

Medicinal Gin

Juniper berries, the main ingredient in gin, were first mentioned in 70AD as being steeped in wine to help with chest ailments. However, gin as we know it began in The Netherlands in the 1600s as jenever, a mix of juniper berries and malt wine. This harsh tasting drink was still considered medicinal. By the 1700s and after a few tweaks, gin was born. The name change isn’t exactly clear, but perhaps inebriated English folk struggled to order a genever but could comfortably shout gin!

Gin Madness
By the late 1600s, gin had a real breakthrough. New Royal decrees and tax allowances gave a huge boost to the production of spirits, and gin was being produced on a colossal scale. It became cheaper than beer but far more potent.

It was the drink of everyone. Whilst the nobility sipped delicately on gin, the poorer classes necked it a little too vigorously. Hot gin and gingerbread tents set up on the frozen Thames promised warm relief (or a total comatose state) from the bitterly cold winters. These first ice bars were known as the Frost Fairs. It’s highly unlikely that they worried about what types of glass to serve the gin in and whether a copa de balon was best.

Fearing an inebriated nation, the government swiftly stopped the party with a distiller’s licence.

Mother’s Ruin
By the 18th century, gin was demonised. Propaganda drawings of women dropping their babies in a gin stupor made it the most vilified of spirits. When one woman was hanged because she allowed her baby to die as she went on a hunt for more gin, the public was outraged.

Spirit taxes were increased and by 1830 beer once again became cheaper than gin. As a result, gin's popularity waned.

Gin Today 
Gin has undergone a massive resurgence. With it no longer being in the media for creating insanity or depravity, it is the drink of the moment. After centuries of ill-repute as mother’s ruin, it’s time to put ice and a slice in your balloon glass, top with gin and a mixer and enjoy.

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