Picture this, it's 1688, works stressing you out, money is ok but not great, England and France are arguing (shock) and you have a lot of free time on your hands. Food is cheap and you love a cheeky drink, with the public’s choice being French brandy (At the time).
You love Gin but it’s slightly out of your price range…well slightly might be un under exaggeration. Then some absolute hero called William of Orange figures out how to make cheap Gin for the masses. Even the government starts to encourage you to drink Gin to boost the economy by reducing taxes on Gin….do you see where I’m going with this?
You are most definitely are not the only one who would have done it. In fact, most people did the same thing you would have done, which of course lead to an epidemic of pissheads on the streets, some even laying in the streets and could have sworn they saw a flying pig.
You’ve got to remember that the gin they had back then was a lot more potent than the 38-43% we are used to. This was serious stuff with deadly side effects but... people bought them anyway.
The situation actually got so bad that the government released 5 major acts in 1729, 1736, 1743, 1747 and 1751 which were designed to reduce the likes of Margaret and Susan from the post office on Clement Street getting absolutely white-washed 4 days a week.
So lets quickly go through the acts and what the aims were.
1729 - EPIC FAIL
The government introduced higher taxes for selling Gin and also raised retail license fee’s. Distillers still found a loophole in the act and how it defined “Gin” when the resulted in the larger distillers being heavy taxed and the smaller ones thriving.
In fact, these taxes were so strong that they actually helped fund the building of the British Empire. (That’s a lot of Gin!) It was clear that the introduction of the first act didn’t stop pissheads from doing what they do best.
So a replacement Act was introduced in 1733 to stop the sale of Gin from market stalls and retail stores and encouraged pubs instead. Again, another loophole was found, so it had no impact on how often Margaret and Susan got wasted.
1736 - ANOTHER EPIC FAIL
This replaced the revised 1733 act, with retailers having to pay a £50 annual fee (roughly £8000 in today’s money) to sell Gin.
This worked in a sense that it reduced the number of official Gin making companies, but increased the number of illegal underground sellers, some who sold some seriously dodgy Gin which blinded and killed a lot of people.
In 1737, it was added that informants that reported any illegal distilleries would get rewarded, which is where things got really dark due to informants being killed by mobs.
Again, this Act had no effect on how often and Margeret and Susan got pissed. (Susan’s probably lost her job at the post office at this point for turning up looking like a dog's dinner and staggering to her work station.)
1747 - LETS FUND THE WAR
Increased taxes to fund the war that was going on at the time. The annual fee was reduced on retailers which basically encouraged the shops to sell more.
1751 - JOB DONE
After the war ended, crime was the new threat. Soldiers had no skills and were not supported so they became thieves and mugged people with Gin being the main source of the problem. The retail annual fee was increased and only made available to pubs, and rewards were also increased for reporting illegal distilleries. which effectively got rid of all back street Gin sales.
Eventually, things calmed down after this final Act, and things got a lot better. Virtually most of the dodgy Gin disappeared and so did the number of pissheads laying on the streets. Today, many of us enjoy Gin as quite a sophisticated drink without running the risk of going blind like the olden days. With the many types of Gin flavours and mixers out there, tell us..what's your favourite Gin and mixer combo?