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Why is gin so popular in London?
In a word tradition, or habit, or maybe alcoholism. One of those words anyway.
There may have been a renaissance in gin nationally over the last few years but London, well, that’s had a much longer and not always healthy love affair with Genever.
I blame William of Orange. The ‘gin craze’ started around 1720 although Genever (genièvre, peket) the Dutch word for gin, had been readily available since the time of the Glorious Revolution in 1688. Quite soon the Dutch (and Belgian) spirit had usurped the taste for French wine and brandies, anything French at the time was questionable.
Due to its ease of distilling (three day turnaround) and the fact almost every business seemed to have a pot still, gin was sold by weavers, dyers, barbers, carpenters and shoemakers. Gin was sold from barrows, provisional stalls, alleys, back rooms and cheap lodging houses. It was imbibed insatiably by vagabonds and vagrants, prison inmates and guards, workhouse poor and by Londoners young and old, rich and poor, even children got a look in, and why wouldn’t they, after a hard day of being worked to the bone.
The lust for gin, during this early period of its history, may account for London becoming seen as the world capital of gin, because when it comes to gin, London has everything, from specialised bars to distilleries and an enduring heritage associated with it embedded into the very fabric of the city with this heritage emblazoned across gin bottles the world over: London Dry.
London Dry Gin doesn’t have to be made in London of course, or even England. London Dry is a style not a place, but because the place has become so synonymous with the drink, they are almost impossible to separate.
Gin drinkers in Britain have been putting away gin in record quantities since 2016, with over 40m bottles sold, outstripping sales of beer and sparkling wine.
Annual gin sales rose so high they smashed through the £1bn barrier, leading the drinks industry to declare 2016 the, “year of gin”.
And guess where most of that was drunk...