Gordon’s Gin  » Food  »
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  • There may even be some truth it the tale, for all I know
  • The heirs to this wonderful discovery were a company who became the leading British gin manufacturer and, rather than being English, they are, like many of the best things from Britain, actually Scottish

    • by Andrew HN Gray
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      There are certain traditions which seem to have been around since the dawn of time, but when they’re examined, you find that they are, in fact, fairly recent. There’s the America’s Cup. Everyone gets very excited about it and commentators go way, way back to discuss who won it and how, yet it’s only been around for a little over 150 years. Before then, you had to make your own races. Then there are traditions that people have. The French like to have a revolution every few decades and they have been keeping to that tradition even in the past few decades. They just haven’t been quite as successful the last few attempts they have had (1968 being a case in point).

      In other matters, we know that the English like roast beef. Indeed, the French nickname for them is ‘les rosbifs’ and it doesn’t bother the English one iota. The English (and other British people like the Welsh) call Frenchmen ‘frogs’, because they eat frogs’ legs. This isn’t idle fancy, by the way. I have eaten them myself in a restaurant in Paris).


      So, we have our ideas which seem to be set in stone – at least in Europe. One of these is something known in the British Isles as ‘mother’s ruin’. This may not be a familiar name elsewhere, so I will explain. It was said (it may, indeed, still be said) that a lady who finds herself in the family way and who doesn’t want to be, should drink plenty of gin and sit in a hot bath. The effect of this is said to be a miscarriage and a resolution to her difficulty. There may even be some truth it the tale, for all I know.

      Back in the eighteenth century, when the cities were beginning to expand, many people in cities like London and Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester had immigrated from the country. Wages were low and employment conditions were appalling. Such was the misery of many people who worked in the factories that were dirty, dangerous, smelly places that they sought recourse to alcohol. The cheapest and strongest was gin and it was noted at the time as a social ...


      • ill, with drawings and paintings of the time showing the effects of this demon drink on the poor.

        However, scroll forward two hundred and fifty years and there has been a social revolution. The drink that was a sort of ‘opium of the masses’ in the eighteenth century is now the drink of the middle and upper classes. If you are invited to dinner in Hampstead or Basingstoke – even in Edinburgh or Aberystwyth – then you are more than likely, especially on a hot, summer evening, to be offered a G & T. This is a telegraphic term used to express the term ‘gin and tonic’, but it’s normal simply to use the initials.

        Why should this be? Well, back in the eighteenth century, if you drank gin, the only thing to make it a longer drink was water. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tasted gin and water, but it isn’t all it could be. It would be fair to say that you could well have it thrown back in your face if you actually gave it to

        someone. It tastes ghastly! However, with the expansion of the British Empire in the nineteenth century, India became a British possession. In order to fight malaria, a drink was concocted containing quinine as an antidote to the illness and it was called ‘tonic water’. In the hot climate of India, the old planters and soldiers found that it went very well, indeed, with gin. A slice of lemon helped even more.

        The heirs to this wonderful discovery were a company who became the leading British gin manufacturer and, rather than being English, they are, like many of the best things from Britain, actually Scottish. Gordon’s Gin, in the green bottle, is the toast of most summer evening parties in the UK. It makes a delightful, long drink. If you want a cocktail, gin tends to be the basic spirit that gives it a ‘kick’ and the one that most favour is the old smoothie, ‘Gordon’s’. Of course, there are many other gins about, and Gordon’s can’t rest on its laurels, but as I write, it is still regarded as the main player in the UK marketplace.



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