I don’t get gin
Everyone else seems to – but I just don’t
With the country bathed in glorious sunshine, everyone is outside, taking to picnic blanket and pub garden en masse.
Sunglasses rest on foreheads, shirt sleeves are rolled up, floral skirts billow in the light breeze, and in every right hand nestles a glass of cool gin and tonic water, with a wedge of lemon (or lime for the purists) lounging alongside a pair of ice cubes.
Who the hell do they think they are?
My mum used to drink a gin and tonic on a Sunday while she cooked the roast.
I remember sniffing the glass once between carrying the dishes out from the kitchen and thinking “if that’s what alcohol smells like, I’m staying teetotal.”
Gin is not a pleasant thing to drink. As far as I’m concerned it’s like a razor blade-flavoured mouthwash.
And yet kids these days can’t get enough of it.
Once the enclave of waistcoast-wearing neckbeards and women in their mid-fifties, gin has spread like a furious sour wildfire across the nation, with bimbos in disco-pants Instagramming their streamlined #geezyteezies and your beater-clad rugby pal badgering you about how they’re ‘2 for £7 mate.’
When I was in first year, I heard stories about some hockey boys playing a drinking game called “gin run”.
They’d start in a house at the bottom of a hill, run up to the pub at the top and order a shot of gin.
Rather than swallow the shot, they had to hold it in their mouths on their run out of the pub and back down the hill to the start point.
The winner was the person who finished first and spat the whole 25ml back into a shot glass.
The loser was either the last to finish or the runner who managed to swallow or spit up his shot before reaching the finish line – and his forfeit was sinking all the residual gin-and-saliva mixers his fellow competitors had left him.
Similarly, I recall a number of my friends playing another drinking game called “gin face”, in which the brave participants must drink gin neat from the bottle and pass it on, all the while avoiding making a “gin face”.
Urban Dictionary defines a “gin face” as “any facial expression which contradicts the contestant’s previous claim of affection for gin”.
I would describe it more as the same face you make if you step on an upturned plug or hear your uncle making a racist joke in the wrong company.
Gin is a forfeit in both of these games. And there’s got to be a reason.
Call me a cynic, but maybe, just maybe, it’s because gin tastes really grim.
Gin first got popular in this country back in the 17th Century back when the government of the time imposed heavy sanctions on importing spirits – when there was literally nothing else to drink.
Back in those days, gin was made from the grain whicht was too poor-quality for beer, distilled with juniper, a spiceused in the treatment of lumbago and gout.
Colloquially, people referred to it as “bath-tub gin” – because of where they mixed it.
When juniper wasn’t available, distillers would use turpentine as a substitute. You know, paint stripper.
Your average gin drinker in those days couldn’t tell the difference.
I spoke to an industry insider (or ‘gin-sider’ if you will) about why we seem to be going through a second ‘Gin Craze’. She reckons it has a lot of its roots in the first Gin Craze – but with a significant twist.
“Gin is now a premium category – and that’s largely thanks to small distilleries crafting artisan gin,” she says.
“About a decade ago in the States, small craft distilleries started small batch production in a way that guarantees good quality gin – using copper pot stills to redefine the perception of gin.
“The thing with gin is that there’s a lot of scope to be genuinely creative and experiment with botanicals to craft something truly unique.
“So then over here you have this tiny craft distilleries sizing up against one another – like Hendricks and Sipsmiths.
“Hendricks now have 5% of the domestic gin market – and the reason for that is that it’s become a brand that people identify with.
“Brand identification is the driving force behind the gin revolution – all these small distilleries with quirky little narratives. There’s never been such hype about one particular category before.”
In other words – you’re all doing what THE MAN is telling you to – and tuning down the part of your brain that tells you ‘this tastes awful’ in order to drink what everyone else is drinking.
She also told me that the chances are the thing I don’t like about gin is the juniper – “that’s the strong botanical that makes gin gin”.
Now don’t get me wrong – I like a drink. Just ask my sponsor.
I just can’t ever imagine a situation where I’d go up to a bar and order myself a gin and tonic.
There hasn’t a craze I’ve been less sold on since Beyblades.
Yes, it’s “less fattening” than cider, and “purer” than a vodka-lemonade, but it also tastes ‘as violent’ as northern Iraq.
Or maybe I’m just bitter enough as it is.