The Book of Gin: A Spirited World History from Alchemists' Stills and Colonial Outposts to Gin Palaces, Bathtub Gin, and Artisanal Cocktails

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Overview


Gin has been a drink of kings infused with crushed pearls and rose petals, and a drink of the poor flavored with turpentine and sulfuric acid. Born in alchemists’ stills and monastery kitchens, its earliest incarnations were juniper flavored medicines used to prevent plague, ease the pains of childbirth, even to treat a lack of courage.

In The Book of Gin, Richard Barnett traces the life of this beguiling spirit, once believed to cause a “new kind of drunkenness.” In the ...

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The Book of Gin: A Spirited World History from Alchemists' Stills and Colonial Outposts to Gin Palaces, Bathtub Gin, and Artisanal Cocktails

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Overview


Gin has been a drink of kings infused with crushed pearls and rose petals, and a drink of the poor flavored with turpentine and sulfuric acid. Born in alchemists’ stills and monastery kitchens, its earliest incarnations were juniper flavored medicines used to prevent plague, ease the pains of childbirth, even to treat a lack of courage.

In The Book of Gin, Richard Barnett traces the life of this beguiling spirit, once believed to cause a “new kind of drunkenness.” In the eighteenth century, gin-craze debauchery (and class conflict) inspired Hogarth’s satirical masterpieces “Gin Lane” and “Beer Street.” In the nineteenth century, gin was drunk by Napoleonic War naval heroes, at lavish gin palaces, and by homesick colonials, who mixed it with their bitter anti-malarial tonics. In the early twentieth century, the illicit cocktail culture of prohibition made gin – often dangerous bathtub gin—fashionable again. And today, with the growth of small–batch distilling, gin has once-again made a comeback.

Wide-ranging, impeccably researched, and packed with illuminating stories, The Book of Gin is lively and fascinating, an indispensible history of a complex and notorious drink.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the book’s prologue, Barnett captures the essence of his work in one line: “Gin’s proverbial clarity, like a prism of clear glass, refracts a rainbow of historical color.” Not only does this sentence portend the chronological account of “this liquid fire” to come but also gives a glimpse of Barnett’s incisive thought process and distinguished prose. The author of Medical London: City of Diseases, City of Cures, Barnett begins with distilled alcohol’s and juniper oil’s early incarnations as intoxicants and elixirs, and his expertise and passion for the subject is immediately gin-clear. At times, Barnett’s research is so thorough that when he outlines London’s 18th century “gin craze” that led to a host of parliamentary Gin Acts, the reader gets a little drunk of information. But as Barnett explores gin’s role in the creation of the cocktail, and the tale shifts to America, where gin’s bootlegging and pop culture connections are exposed, his story becomes an intoxicating blend of history and entertainment that is sure to stimulate drinkers and teetotalers alike. (Dec.)
From the Publisher

"An absorbing popular history of one of history’s most popular drinks. … A well-balanced blend of popular history and scholarship, written in a style as dry and bracing as its subject." —Booklist

"A myriad of interesting facts, along with social commentary and historical information... Having awakened our thirst, Barnett reminds us that after five centuries now is the best time to enjoy gin." –The Scotsman (UK)

The Book of Gin is full of history that will make you grin. … an enchanting read.”—Cooking by the Book

"From the very beginnings of genever production, Barnett takes us on a colourful journey through gin's history and its intersection with culture: from the contention in 1310 that spirits might contain the essence of sunshine; distilled by vines into their fruits, through wars, world exploration, and global trade, to the Dutch Golden Age and the Roaring Twenties, to its current renaissance in the cocktail world. … The urban, gritty tales are as entertaining as they are informative, involving intriguing characters and delving into the works of Daniel Defoe, William Hogarth, Charles Dickens and - of course - Ian Fleming's James Bond. … It's rare that a book so catches our attention at Class, but this is a must-read for those who loves gin: it's not just a geeky companion for nerds, but a truly enjoyable history for anyone who likes to end the working day with a G&T." —Class Magazine (UK)

“Mr. Barnett takes the reader on a historic journey from the City States of Italy at the end of the Dark Ages to the gin fueled dance floors of the Stork Club and El Morocco in New York City. We get a peek into the gin revival among growing artisan distillers movement in the new millennium. If you love a classic gin martini pour yourself one and tuck into this fascinating story … Oh, and make sure the gin bottle is full.”—Dale Degroff, aka “King Cocktail,” founder and president of The Museum of the American Cocktail, and author of The Craft of the Cocktail

“Few drinks have haunted society as starkly as gin … In The Book of Gin, Richard Barnett artfully charts the aromatic distillate’s unlikely path from medicine to public menace, blending references as varied as the Archidoxa of Paracelsus and … Mad Men to create a nuanced portrait of the drink and its impact on humanity. … The titular subject of Barnett’s book may be a distillate, but gin owes its life to the men and women who produced, promoted, consumed and condemned it, from William III to James Bond. The most lyrical of their names and stories … pepper Barnett’s story like bursts of poetry.”—The Times Literary Supplement

"Well-balanced and bracingly smooth, Richard Barnett's The Book of Gin is equal parts rich and intoxicating narrative mixed with an entertaining and wholly accessible era-spanning history of one of the world's most storied spirits."—Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All

“How can you not want to indulge in gin – both the drink and this book – for as author Richard Barnett points out, gin is ‘a seemingly inexhaustible vehicle for myth-making and story-telling.’ From medieval alchemy to London’s notorious Gin Lane to glamorous Hollywood cocktail parties, our most able raconteur Barnett provides insight into how gin became an unabashed icon and serves as a metaphor for Western culture."—Peter Krass, author of Blood & Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel’s

"Mr. Barnett’s research is fairly astonishing. With every few turns of the page, he conjures up obscure primary sources to illustrate gin’s genealogy. Drawing from acts of Parliament, temperance tracts, Gordon’s Gin advertisements and Hollywood films, Mr. Barnett punctuates his tale with the language and imagery of the many eras of gin’s history."—The Washington Times

Kirkus Reviews
Gin and tonic? Gin rickey? Gin gimlet? Stop being so prissy: In this lively history, Barnett (Medical London, 2008, etc.) notes that the way to drink gin is neat, "with perhaps an occasional dash of bitters to soften the rough edge of pot-still spirit." You don't have to be British to like gin--indeed, writes the author, most of the output of the Tanqueray plant, now located in Scotland, is sent to the United States. However, though invented in its more-or-less modern form in Holland (or perhaps Belgium), gin is a very British thing to drink. Readers of Robert Hughes' book The Fatal Shore (1986) may remember its opening gin-soaked pages, public drunkenness being one cause for so many Cockneys to be sent packing to the Antipodes. Londoner Barnett pays homage to Hogarthian visions of the streets of the British capital, but he's as much interested in the chemistry of the sauce as he is in its (mostly deleterious) social effects. Accordingly, he offers a kind of prehistory of gin that takes us through cultures that have found interesting things to do with juniper, including the Finns and their sahti, "a beer flavored with juniper berries instead of hops, and filtered through juniper twigs," and the ancient Romans, whose physicians counseled applying crushed juniper berries to the genitals in order to chase away unwanted offspring. Barnett charts the rising and falling fortunes of gin, from poor man's swill to retro-lounge hipster's beverage of choice, and he closes with a personal and highly provisional catalog of favorite gins, from stalwarts such as Beefeater to more bespoke lines such as Wees Distillery Very Old Geneva and the British-Icelandic hybrid Martin Miller's Westbourne Strength Gin. A toper's pleasure, though perhaps it should come with a warning label.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802120434
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/4/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 498,670
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Murder of Mrs. Atkinson 1

Living Water 7

Rough Spirits 40

The Infernal Principle 81

From Chinchón to Martinez 118

The Silver Bullet 146

Epilogue: Gin Renaissance 181

Appendix 1 Selected Texts 189

Appendix 2 The Hogarth Sampler 222

Notes 241

Bibliography 253

Acknowledgements 261

Index 263

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 4, 2013

    Too Academic

    I really wanted to like this book and was looking forward to reading. I don't many other people who like gin yet it's had an interesting place in history (gin palaces, bathtub gin, etc). I picked up a few interesting snippets about the history of gin. What ruined the book for me were the endless references and quotes. It felt like reading a master's thesis vs a book. The last 30+ pages are all references.

    If you're looking for an interesting, light read about gin this is not your book. If you're looking for an academic study, this is the one.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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