The history of gin is a long and complicated one, but at the heart of it is the claim that it is “mother’s ruin. ” This nickname is said to date back to the early 18th century when gin was first becoming popular in England. Many people believe that the high levels of alcohol in gin were responsible for the social problems and moral decay that were plaguing the country at the time. The gin that was being produced in England at the time was highly potent and unlike the gin, we drink today.
The original version of London Dry Gin had a much higher alcohol content than it does today, and it also was infused with all sorts of things, like juniper berries and other botanicals. This meant that, when people began drinking it on a regular basis, they developed both a taste for gin and tolerance for its high alcohol content.
How gin got the nickname Mother’s Ruin
Gin, also known as “Mother’s Ruin,” has long been a favorite drink of the British. Britain became partial to brandy during the early 1600s but started to ‘wake up’ to gin during William III’s rule in 1689. The public was allowed to produce gin in their homes providing they passed a 10-day public notice.
Then, between 1720 and 1757 (the so-called “gin craze”), thousands of distilleries appeared all over England. This phenomenon was down to a new act titled the Mutiny Act 1749 which specified that if you were making alcohol in your home, you wouldn’t be asked to house soldiers.
Gin became very popular in England by 1730. Mass production increased until it reached 10 million gallons by the end of that century, and there were over 7,000 sellers of it at its apex in just five years. The next few decades would see some ups and downs for gin production, but the average Londoner consumed 14 gallons of the drink every year between 1743 – 1750!
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During the 18th century, the ‘Gin Craze’ was one of England’s biggest problems. Due to the increased production of gin and increased demand for it, criminals took advantage of the situation and set up a lucrative trade in selling illegal spirits to an already more than willing audience.
The government decided to put a little more tax on gin just to make sure the population didn’t overindulge. This is when The Gin Act was introduced in 1736, which ultimately made this beverage harder for the public to get their hands on. It stopped unlicensed sellers from selling it unless they paid £50 (the equivalent of £100,000 today) for a license as well as other such stipulations.
Those who were convicted of purchasing illegal liquor were often subject to severe fines and alcohol withdrawal treatment centers were established across London to cope with those addicted to alcohol and looking for help. ONLY 3 LICENCES WERE ISSUED DURING THIS TIME!
Although gin became a staple of the British diet during the 18th century, from as early as 1720 and up to 1757 it was shown that more women than men were falling prey to its appetite-suppressing qualities, causing mothers to neglect their children in favor of reaching for their first drink or moving further along in addiction.
This sparked the phrase ‘Mother’s Ruin’ which aptly describes the role gin played in women’s lives at this point; destroying their archetypal motherly love.
The image of a mother drinking gin while her baby falls into a gin-vault show how drinking ‘Mother’s Ruin’ can harm family life.
In 1751, Parliament passed the Gin Act, which placed restrictions on the distilling, retailing and consumption of gin. At the same time, poor grain harvests increased the price of grain and food, which combined with the new restrictions, made it so that gin was not affordable for everyone.
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The reasons why gin consumption began to decline in 1757 were numerous, but can be attributed to the Gin Act of 1751. The change in the law meant that it was illegal to sell small quantities of alcohol, which had caused a rapid increase in the consumption of gin.
The act also placed a hefty tax on gin and as a consequence, prices began to rise. In addition, the Gin Act of 1751 also changed the way gin was produced, by introducing a minimum distillation period of nine days.
The minimum distillation period meant that the quality of gin was much higher, so the name ‘mother’s ruin’ was no longer appropriate. Despite regulations surrounding the production of gin and the increase in price, there was still a high demand for the beverage.
However, gin was no longer being consumed in the same way that people were during the height of the gin craze. Instead of being consumed in large quantities during the day, gin was now drunk in much smaller quantities in