Bri­tain To­day

Gin feiert in Großbri­tan­nien ein großes Come­back, was in der derzeit­i­gen poli­tis­chen Lage dur­chaus ver­ständlich ist.


Colin Beaven on gin

In this fast-mov­ing world, it’s nice when some­thing slows you down — like the per­son in front of you in the queue at the bar. And if that per­son plans to or­der a gin, it re­ally helps not to be in a hurry.

In the past it wasn’t re­ally im­por­tant what brand you got when you asked for a gin and tonic. You were prob­a­bly given Gor­don’s, which was the only one most of us had heard of. Now there are hun­dreds to choose from: lo­cal gin, craft gin, gin you drink with le­mon, gin you drink with cu­cum­ber, gin made with spices, fruit, flow­ers and no doubt weeds.

So when the bar­man asked the woman in front of me what par­tic­u­lar gin she wanted, it took her a while to make up her mind.

“Gor­don’s?” she said, ten­ta­tively. The choice seemed unimag­i­na­tive.

“Sorry, we don’t have that one,” said the bar­man. Silly me for think­ing that the wait was fi­nally over.

It can’t be good for us to be mak­ing so much gin. We’ve been here be­fore. In the 18th cen­tury, gin was sold ev­ery­where. The pop­u­la­tion was never sober. The work­ing classes were the non-work­ing classes. A pic­ture called Gin Lane by Wil­liam Hog­a­rth shows fam­ily life in ru­ins, with women so drunk they can’t look af­ter their chil­dren.

The govern­ment had ac­tu­ally en­cour­aged the pro­duc­tion of gin, be­cause it helped to keep the price of grain high. But by 1736, peo­ple were drink­ing so much that a law was passed to try to limit sales.

It’s like diesel cars to­day. First the govern­ment wanted us to buy them, be­cause they give off less CO2 than petrol ones. But they for­got that diesel en­gines give off fumes, and now they have to find ways of lim­it­ing air pol­lu­tion. Would it help to make craft diesel flavoured with herbs, fruit and spices?

You might think the 1700s were no more than his­tory. But watch out for Ja­cob Rees-mogg, an­other em­bar­rass­ing Bri­tish politi­cian. He’s a Con­ser­va­tive mem­ber of par­lia­ment — the MP for North East Som­er­set. For fun, though, his col­leagues call him “the MP for the 18th cen­tury”.

Why? We’re not say­ing he’s never heard of mod­ern in­ven­tions like mo­bile phones and Aus­tralia. It’s just that he looks so old-fash­ioned and sounds so re­ac­tionary. And some say he could be our next prime min­is­ter. In that case, a gin shop on ev­ery cor­ner would be the only way to make life bear­able.

Talk­ing of gin, has the woman in front of me fi­nally cho­sen? No, she’s still hum­ming and haw­ing. I know there’s a queue, but there comes a point where you have to barge in.

“Ex­cuse me, I’m sorry to barge in...”

“Bar gin? You se­ri­ously want to bar us from drink­ing gin?”

Of course not. It wouldn’t be hu­man, nor prac­ti­cal. But could we at least bar peo­ple from vot­ing for politi­cians who make us so de­pressed that we can’t stop drink­ing it? It’s a bit un­demo­cratic, but just think of how good it would be for our health.

is a free­lance writer. He lives and works in Southamp­ton on the south coast of Eng­land.

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