Gin-teresting times

How the county is lead­ing the re­vival of gin

EDP Norfolk - - Inside - RACHEL BULLER

FROM ‘Mother’s Ruin’ to the quintessen­tially English sum­mer tip­ple of choice, gin has come a long way since it first hit our shores in the 18th cen­tury.

Trendy new spir­its are pop­ping up ev­ery­where, from small kitchen ta­ble en­ter­prises or as new ven­tures for ma­jor in­ter­na­tional drinks com­pa­nies.

These are not just any gins. These are lov­ingly hand-crafted, del­i­cately-flavoured, with real prove­nance – and we can’t get enough of them.

Ac­cord­ing to the Wine and Spirit Trade As­so­ci­a­tion last year saw an­nual gin sales rise by 16%, with around 40 mil­lion bot­tles sold, cre­at­ing a £1bn econ­omy.

In Norfolk there are sev­eral spe­cial­ist gin com­pa­nies, each of­fer­ing some­thing new and fresh to the mar­ket. Where once in a bar you would have sim­ply asked for a gin and tonic with ice and a slice, to­day you are faced with a vast se­lec­tion of craft gins and a sim­i­lar ar­ray of dif­fer­ent ton­ics, all in­fused with an ex­tra­or­di­nary range of un­ex­pected, exotic flavours.

There are even spe­cial­ist events and whole bars ded­i­cated to the ex­pe­ri­ence – such as the Gin Palace in Nor­wich which has over 180 dif­fer­ent types, served with a host of ac­com­pa­ni­ments from blue­ber­ries to car­damom. But when gin first hit our shores some 300 years ago, it wasn’t the el­e­gant taste ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing sold to drinkers to­day. In fact, dubbed the ‘gin craze’, it swept the na­tion and was blamed for a break­down of so­cial or­der.

Gin, which has its ori­gins in Hol­land, be­came pop­u­lar in Eng­land when Dutch-born William of Orange took to the throne. By 1730 it is be­lieved around 10 mil­lion gal­lons of gin were be­ing dis­tilled an­nu­ally in the cap­i­tal alone.

De­scribed as ‘opium for the peo­ple’, gin could be bought cheaply and be­came the drug of choice in over-crowded, slum­rid­den Lon­don. It was blamed for mis­ery, ris­ing crime, pros­ti­tu­tion, mad­ness, higher death rates and fall­ing birth rates.

The ar­rival of the drink also co­in­cided with women be­ing al­lowed to drink along­side men in bars for the first time and it was blamed for lead­ing many women into child ne­glect and pros­ti­tu­tion, re­sult­ing in the nick­name ‘Mother’s Ruin’ – a la­bel that has stuck for cen­turies.

In 1751, with pub­lic pres­sure grow­ing, the Gin Act was passed with new li­cens­ing mea­sures, which, com­bined with a se­ries of bad har­vests, saw the ‘gin craze’ grad­u­ally fiz­zle out.

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