Nothing quite beats coming home after a long day at work to a Gin & Tonic, but only a few hundred years ago Gin did not have the same reputation it does today.
Gin was first distilled in the Netherlands, where it was used as medicine. It made it’s way across the channel into England, where it really took off. It became so popular in the mid 1700s that this period became known as the Gin Craze.
It was cheaper to produce and buy than beer and some people were even paid part of their wages with Gin.
Unfortunately, people often indulged a little too much, and Gin was once commonly known as Mother’s Ruin. This was because it caused infertility and was even used as a contraceptive.
In fact, people indulged in it so much that the government were forced to introduce a Gin Tax in 1729.
This was in order to curb what was then an epidemic of people abusing Gin, as it was cheap to buy and easy to get. Everyone sold it and most people could afford it.
But it had detrimental effects on the population, often being attributed to falling birth rates at the time.
When the government imposed the tax however, like with prohibition America, drinking did not stop, it only moved underground and was soled under names such as Knock Me Down, Cuckold’s Comfort, and Ladies Delight.
In 1736 they attempted yet again to curb the amount of Gin being consumed by the population, and decided to introduce licensing, charging £50 per license.
And yet again they failed. Only three licenses were purchased between 1736 and 1743, but Gin was still being consumed in gallons.
People just couldn’t get enough of it and there are even stories of families selling children in order to get more.
If you’re looking for a visual representation of how Gin was characterised in the 1700s, then look no further than William Hogarth’s Gin Lane, created in 1751.
Not only does this show how Gin lead mother’s to neglect their children, but if you look closely enough, there are people being placed in coffins, others going to pawn brokers so they can afford Gin and a man sharing a bone with a dog.
In the same year the government introduced yet another Gin Act, except this time, it worked.
The Gin Act of 1751 restricted the sale of Gin in smaller establishments and to smaller or unlicensed merchants, as well as an increase in tax. It meant that merchants were less likely to want to sell Gin and people were not able to afford it as easily.
This pretty much put a stop to the underground trade of Gin and effectively ended the Gin Craze, much to the relief of all the babies being dropped down stairs!