From Hogarth‘s Gin Lane:

Drunk for a penny
Dead drunk for twopence

Clean straw for nothing

This weekend, my husband and assorted friends and I will be trotting onto a ferry to Block Island (off the coast of Rhode Island). The Ready For A Party Spouse suggested we bring cocktails onto the ferry, and since I am feeling slightly wistful about the end of summer, I suggested the most summeriest of cocktails, gin and Fresca (also one of the most white trashiest cocktails, I think, but that’s not why I asked for it).

Gin has a rich and storied history in the Regency; known as ‘blue ruin,’ gin became popular in England when the government allowed unlicensed gin production along with insisting on a heavy duty for imported spirits. According to Wikipedia, “by 1740 the production of gin had increased to six times that of beer, and because of its cheapness it became popular with the poor.” Eventually, of course, the British government realized they could be making more money, and enacted the Gin Act of 1736, resulting in riots, massive illicit distilling and the cynical marketing of “medicinal” spirits with such fanciful names as Cuckold’s Comfort and My Lady’s Eye Water. Because of its ease of production, gin was often mixed with even worse ingredients, and might have caused higher death rates.

The gin they drank back then–at least the gin that started it all–tasted different from the Gordons, Bombay, Tanqueray etc. East Coast elitists sip with their tonic on the golf course. The original gin was Genever, or Holland gin, is “Richer, maltier, and with a greater depth of flavor” than today’s gin, and from some accounts, gin elitists (not the same as E.C. elitists) mourn the loss of the earlier type of gin.

But then I saw that Amsterdam-based spirits company Lucas Bols is doing a global relaunch of Bols Genever, which is made from a recipe the company was using in 1820. New York liquor stores will start stocking Bols Genever at the end of this month, with stores in San Francisco and London to follow shortly.

Having read of the devastation gin caused in our period, now I’m not so sure I want to be drinking the stuff this afternoon, but I am interested in tasting Bols Genever, just to see if I can detect a difference in the flavor.

Do you have a favorite cocktail, either for summer or fall? Are you interested in the shadier aspects of Regency life? Do you like to try period-authentic flavors?


PS: Apologies again for not coming back to comment, I will be on the road most of today.
*Fagin to Oliver in Oliver Twist