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William of Orange's gift to the nation.

THE invention of gin in 17th-century Netherlands is usually credited to the physician Franciscus Sylvius.

It arrived in England with the Glorious Revolution when William of Orange ascended to the British throne, but Dutch gin (also called jenever or genever) is distinctly different drink from English-style gin.

The Dutch distil their jenever version with barley (also sometimes aged in wood), giving it a slight resemblance to whisky.

Jenever is produced in a pot still and is typically lower in alcohol and more strongly flavoured than London gin.

Gin became very popular in England after the Government allowed unlicensed gin production and at the same time imposed a heavy duty on all imported spirits.

This created a market for poor-quality grain that was unfit for brewing beer, and thousands of gin-shops sprang up all over England. Made in pot stills that gave it a sweet taste, it was often adulterated by turpentine and sulphuric acid.

By 1740, the production of gin had increased to six times that of beer, and because of its cheapness it became extremely popular with the poor, made infamous by the artist William Hogarth.

Hogarth's engravings Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751) contrasted beer with its safer, healthier image because of brewing, contrasted with gin's use of unclean water.

This negative reputation survives today with phrases like "gin-mills" to describe disreputable bars or "gin-soaked" to refer to drunks, and the drink itself as "mother's ruin".

The Gin Act 1736 imposed high taxes on retailers and led to riots in the streets. The prohibitive duty was gradually reduced and finally abolished in 1742, but a later 1751 Act licensed retailers and gin-shops.

Production revved up with the column still's invention in 1832, and the London dry style was developed later in the 19th century. In tropical British colonies, gin was used to mask the bitter flavour of quinine, a protection against malaria, which was dissolved in carbonated water to form tonic water.

This was the origin of today's popular gin and tonic combination, even though quinine is no longer used against malaria, nor would it be necessary for most of today's gin tipplers.

Gin is a popular base spirit for many mixed drinks, including the martini and other cocktails. Secretly produced "bathtub gin" was commonly available in the speakeasies and "blind pigs" of Prohibition-era America, due to the relative simplicity of the production method.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 12, 2007
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