It’s Gin, lots and lots of good old Gin…
A DEFINITION FIRST OF ALL: Dutch Courage
There are two legal classifications of London gin – ‘Gin’ and ‘Distilled Gin’. ‘Gin’ is a flavoured spirit with a minimum strength of 37.5% abv with the main flavour being juniper. A ‘Distilled Gin’ must be made by a process in which the juniper and other natural flavourings are distilled with the spirit in a pot still.
There is also an Appellation around Plymouth Gin in that it must be made in Plymouth.
(appellation = a legal term which is centred around geographical location)
Gin has a long and dark history starting in Italy in the 11th Century when monks were flavouring distilled spirit with juniper.
The first recognizable ancestor of gin is credited to a Professor of medicine at Holland’s Leyden University called Dr Sylvius.Gin has a long and dark history starting in Italy in the 11th Century when monks were flavouring distilled spirit with juniper Click To Tweet
British soldiers fighting in Holland during the 17th century found the spirit, which they called ‘Hollands’ and may have brought it home. It is the ‘Hollands’ that gained the nickname ‘Dutch Courage’ as it gave the English soldiers the heart and resolve to fight away from home. Its true English popularity came when William of Orange became King of England in 1689 (King William III). He declared war on the French and supported the war by banning all French imports, which included brandies and wines.
With no Cognacs or wines, rums had not yet been established and whiskies being drunk only by the Scots and Irish, Genever (abbreviated to Gin) became the drink of choice. To re-enforce this, the government passed a law 1690 encouraging the distillation in England of brandy and spirits from corn.
This meant that anybody could distil grain spirit for an extremely low tax. Hundreds of back-street distilleries sprung up with only a handful making good products. By the 1720’s, London’s streets were awash with gin, much of it made with bad or poisonous ingredients and sold cheaply from street vendors. It was nicknamed ‘mother’s ruin’ as many addicted women neglected their children in favour of getting dosed up on gin.
To tackle this problem, the government passed a series of laws from 1729 to restrict the sale and distillation of gin while encouraging beer production and sale. By the 1760’s the situation was under relative control with the poorer classes back drinking beer in back-street taverns.
In 1825, the government again tried to free the trade in spirits. This time, to compete with beer taverns, the gin sellers opened up large, opulent establishments known as ‘Gin Palaces’. The hard liquor was a welcome change to the repressive factory conditions of the industrial revolution in England. Unfortunately, as before, entire families were getting drunk in these new venues so taxes were raised to make spirits expensive and beer cheap again. Long live beer!
Using history as our model… All we need to do is invent a horrendously strong drink that can’t be taxed and then taxes on beer will be lowered. Someone get on this now!!
Did you enjoy our brief overlook on Dutch Courage?