This article is taken from the May 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.
I have always enjoyed a liquid Lent. And although each year I forgo a fridgeful of foodstuffs — variously bread, cheese, potatoes, red meat, white meat and sundry others — with blithe ease, I take care about the fluids. For though one must fast, one must leave some liquors on which to feast.
One year I gave up everything except beer — and put on half a stone. Another year, remembering that old and surely bogus story about the Russian refugee from the Reds who declared, “between the revolution and the firing squad there is always time for another magnum of champagne”, I drank only bubbles.
Such elan might have appealed to émigrés from the Bolsheviks but it held less attraction for my bank manager, and I never did it again. This year all wines, and beers were verboten and while most spirits were also prohibited, in a nod to Joe Kennedy, gin and whisky became my bootleggers.
In the twenty-first century, gin has made a roaring comeback
Gin, originally jenever from Flanders, became an English staple after the arrival of William of Orange in 1688. James II took ship and fled and the cognac trade followed him. Protestant William, no fan of Catholic France, imposed restrictions on Bourbon brandies and the English yeomen switched their allegiance to juniper berries.
Unlicensed and unlimited, the Gin Craze ensued and it was not long before the womenfolk joined their yeomen in a headlong pursuit of Dutch Courage. Many a mother was ruined by a noxious mixture topped off with turpentine before the authorities acted to close Gin Alley with the Gin Acts of 1751. But by then the country was sufficiently hooked on the habit that it proved impossible to kick.
In the nineteenth century, we learned to mix gin with tonic to mask the taste of malaria-busting quinine. In the twentieth century, gin became the baseload for pretty much every cocktail, that is until Humphrey Bogart and Fleming’s Bond combined to supplant it with vodka.
Now, in the twenty-first, gin has made a roaring comeback with every flavour under the sun and all the colours of the rainbow. Even the new gin glasses are larger than life — fishbowls which barely fit through narrow doorways. Whatever happened to the highball?
Gin is back, and how. So as the pancakes were polished off and Ash Wednesday dawned, it was the obvious drink not to drop. The best gins are the dry ones. Too many people get carried away by Bombay, yet better — far better — is Tanqueray.
And best of all is Tanqueray 10. Centred upon juniper, T10 is rooted in three other botanicals — coriander, angelica and liquorice — which lend it tasting notes of both pepper and pine nuts. The flavours burst onto the tongue then are becalmed by the tonic as they slip down the throat with a citrussy flourish.
In blending Tanqueray 10, nothing is overlooked. Even the new bottle design is based on the iconic American cocktail shaker, acknowledging Tanqueray’s place as the prince of martini makers. In its bottle it looks good. Out of it, it smells and tastes great. And its affects are pleasant too.
Clean spirit makes for sound sleep and a clear head. The bathroom scales also respond kindly. So next dry January, or next Shrove Tuesday, as you are deciding what is out, make sure you keep gin in.
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