07 April 2016, The Tablet

England’s salvation


W.C. Field’s boast that he never drank anything stronger than gin before breakfast catches the faint air of colonial decadence that until recently hung round gin. No other spirit has spawned so many acts of parliament – eight in all. Little wonder its road to respectability has been long and rocky.

From being the ruin of London’s poor in the eighteenth century, through the louche elegance of the city’s “Gin Palaces” in the nineteenth, gin has come to epitomise twenty-first-century metro-political chic. It is now by far the most widely drunk spirit, whether drunk neat with ice, as a cocktail base or in the archetypal gin and tonic.

An index of gin’s changed fortunes is the recent proliferation of craft distilleries, such as Sipsmith. Its operation in Hammersmith is the first copper-pot distillery to open in London for almost 200 years, albeit with a production rate of only 300 bottles in each batch – minuscule compared with the conglomerate brands.

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