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The Weird and Wonderful Story of Gin (Hardback)

From the 17th Century to the Present Day

P&S History Social History 20th Century 19th Century 18th Century 17th Century Food and Drink

By Angela Youngman
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: A Dark History
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 20 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399002769
Published: 8th March 2022

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Gin is a global alcoholic drink that has polarised opinion like no other, and its history has been a roller coaster, alternating between being immensely popular and utterly unfashionable.

The Weird and Wonderful Story of Gin explores the exciting, interesting and downright curious aspects of the drink, with crime, murder, poisons, fires, dramatic accidents, artists, legends and disasters all playing a part. These dark themes are also frequently used to promote brands and drinks.

Did you know that the Filipinos are the world’s biggest gin drinkers? And even that Jack the Ripper, Al Capone and the Krays all have their place in the history of gin? Not to mention Sir Winston Churchill, Noel Coward, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and James Bond!

This is a very thorough book on the history of gin or genever an alcoholic drink through many centuries for both the wealthy and the poorest of the poor. With the start or development around the 14 or 1500's made from grain and juniper berries with a start in Dutch society. With part of the benefit of the development was a secondary market for surplus grain and something safe to drink compared to the water in some areas. There was a time where it seemed everyone was distilling gin. There were of course many downsides with the fact that societies were having trouble finding enough men for the army and navy who were not drunkards. They were making millions of gallons in the 1700's it is amazing to think. There are many interesting points that maybe not directly relate to gin but to alcohol in general. Around the time of prohibition gin was sold as a cure all for many maladies. People found many ways to get around prohibition by doctors getting a license to prescribed alcohol, there 60,000 doctors who gained the right to prescribe and not only doctors but dentist, veterinarians and pharmacist. Alcohol was a definite money maker for organized crime as it was projected that Al Capone made 60 million. You learn of how the Royal Navy had to have a higher proof of gin and how the term proof came about. Some of the items or material used to distill gin is wild as there is one brand in Australia that uses ants and brand in Uganda made from bananas that is so strong it is highly recommend not to drink straight. As you read through this book you will see many times the reemergence of gin all the way up to recent times thanks to Sex and the city with the Cosmopolitan and even Harry Potter.

NetGalley, Thomas Kelley

As featured in

Norfolk

I must admit that I was hooked when I saw the front cover as I love the picture on the front. This book looks at and explores Gin, its history, manufacturing, its travel through history, the ups and downs of the drink, and how it is seen and perceived in today’s society. Similar to the books about tea, chocolate and sugar etc a lot has happened in the world gin trade and how it is made. There is often a lot of crime around these staple products, mainly because a lot of money is involved, but I quite enjoy the journey these products go through to what they are today. I do have a few friends who enjoy gin, and it certainly seems to be the fashionable drink at the moment. If you like your history but want something a little different I would certainly recommend this book, a very interesting read.

Read the full review here

The History Fella

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Ah! The might juniper berry! A fun and revealing look at a historical perspective of the beginning and the popularity of gin. A very original piece of writing.

NetGalley, Maggie Palner

I’m not a gin drinker. I think I’ve maybe had two gins in my 63 years because I’m much keener on beer and red wine for my alcoholic indulgence. The Weird and Wonderful Story of Gin by Angela Youngman has, as its subtitle, “>From the 17th Century to the Present Day” – and that’s exactly what the book covers. The thirteen chapters cover many aspects of gin in depth:
The first seven chapters take us from the early versions of jenever in the sixteenth century through to the 1970s. The depth of Youngman’s research is impressive. Not only are we taken through the various C18th Parliamentary Acts that tried (and mostly faied0 to curb over-indulgence in gin, we see what part gin played in the Bright Young Things’ culture of the 1920s; Prohibition; the Happy Valley set in Kenya; and even Evelyn Waugh’s description of having three gins before lunchtime. And yes, good old Denis “it’s never too early for a gin and tonic” Thatcher! It’s absolutely fascinating!

Further chapters cover the tradition of gin in the Navy; its new dawn in the twenty-first century, discussing the marketing of various brands; how gin has inspired various forms of art from songs in Mary Poppins to TS Eliot’s Sweeney Agonistes, plus strange ingredients such as ants and tonka beans. We then myths, legends and imagination, e.g. Heston Blumenthal’s drink served during his Fantastical Feasts TV series. The final chapter brings us up to date with the pandemic and the repurposing of alcohol for hand sanitisers.

No, I’m not going to forsake my beer and wine for gin, but I do have a better appreciation of the drink – and a great admiration for Youngman’s writing.

NetGalley, Colin Edwards

The Weird and Wonderful Story of Gin by Angela Youngman is a wonderful history of gin, its highs (so to speak) and its lows.

Many of us know a couple of the chapters in the story of gin, usually based on our location and our areas of interest. This book fills in all of the gaps and connects the dots so that the various perceptions of the drink make sense. This is well researched and written in a very engaging manner.

I was particularly interested in the various literary and pop culture references. I think other readers may well be drawn to other aspects. All in all this is a nice contribution to any social history library. The many varieties of gin now available would likely amaze the traditionalists from centuries ago.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

I love gin and it was so fun to read about its history. I thought I knew a lot about gin but I was sorely mistaken. This book goes into great detail on the origins and history of gin. I learned a lot and feel ready to regale others with my gin history knowledge.

NetGalley, Abbey Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For readers like me who love a crisp London Dry with tonic and lime, as well as perhaps an artisanal, boutique gin, like Empress 1908, with it's deep indigo hue that sparkles and changes colors depending upon it's mixture, Angela Youngman’s fascinating, “The Weird and Wonderful Story of Gin—From the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day,” is the perfect accompaniment with your afternoon toddy. Cheers! Sláinte! and read on.

NetGalley, Joy Hunt

Although I’m not a big drinker, something about this book just seemed fascinating. And I’m so grateful to have gotten an ARC, because it did a great job of breaking down the history of gin (learned something brand new to me) and managed to make it extremely engaging!

NetGalley, Madison Siwak

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Gin once known as mothers ruin has changed dramatically since was first created.
These days there are so many different varieties each unique and wonderful to the palate.
You can even make gin at home.
This book takes you back in to the world of gin as start to learn the history and fascinating story of gin.
Definitely worth buying.

NetGalley, Karen Bull

As featured in

The Bookseller

About Angela Youngman

Angela Youngman is a professional journalist and author living in Norfolk. Her other books include The Dark Side of Alice in WonderlandNorfolk: A Dog Walkers GuideKiddiwalks Norfolk, and Green Roofs. She is a member of the International Travel Writers Alliance and Garden Media Guild, writing for a wide range of travel, tourism, transport, culture magazines and websites. Angela enjoys finding the unexpected and unusual stories relating to destinations such as London.

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