Saturday 6 September 2014

Review ~ Gin Glorious Gin by Olivia Williams

August 2014

This is not just a book for those who like a twist of lime and a couple of ice cubes with their gin and mixer. It’s a riotous romp through the culture and history of London as seen through the eyeglass of this most iconic of drinks. From the squalid image of the bawds and hookers of Hogarth’s Gin Lane, through to the sophisticated pleasure palaces of our modern day, Gin Glorious Gin covers a whole range of senses and uncovers the complex history of a drink which knows no common dominator.

Immortalised in the work of Dickens, Fielding and Dr Johnson, this story begins its journey with the history of gin and its development from the steeping of juniper berries in alcohol, to the origin of the phrase ’Dutch Courage’ during the Thirty Year War in 1618-1648. Initially, a tipple of the poor, the great unwashed of London  would seek an hour’s oblivion in a pint of mother’s ruin, whilst the upper classes preferred a more elite form of inebriation  in their glasses of sherry, brandy and claret.

Not only was Gin viewed as a means of escape, but was also extensively promoted as a medicinal. In 1642, the London herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper, considered juniper berries to be a wonder drug and a cure all for all ills. The area around Clerkenwell Green where he collected his herbs would go on to become the hub of London’s gin making.

The book brings the evolution of gin right up to date with a journey through to the modern day distilleries, and discusses the sophisticated distillery processes which have evolved, from the mass production of our more iconic brands, to the smaller and more stylish, smaller companies who blend for a sophisticated palate.

It’s a great read, thoroughly enjoyable, informative and witty, with just the right amount of history, so that it doesn't become too bogged down in facts and figures.

It would make the perfect accompaniment to a long, cold glass of gin and tonic – ice and a slice of lime in mine.

My thanks to Netgalley and Headline for my copy of Gin Glorious Gin


  1. I like a bit of social history. :) Interesting! One for the list later on, I think.

  2. Thanks Jane - it would make a perfect Christmas present along with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire :)


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