Gin: A Short History by Moses Jenkins examines the fascinating narrative of one of the world’s most beloved spirits. Gin, at its most rudimentary description is a base spirit that’s been fused with “botanicals” during its production. With so many subtle differences between the countless gin formulas across the centuries, there’s probably a flavor of gin out there for everyone. The book starts with a clear and detailed description of the gin production process, going into some history of how today’s gins are cleaner and produced for a more discerning palate than they have in the past. Very few pleasures in the history of human existence have ridden on the roller coaster of popularity over the course of history as gin has. From its ancient use for medicinal purposes, to the supposed ruination of society of the 18th century, and finally to the high brow craft spirit it is today, gin has been used to explain away every ill as well as the fountain of strength to the people who enjoy it. It’s pretty funny how the spirit went from the cure to the cause of many diseases over the course of a few decades. Mind you, for a long time, like…a stupidly long amount of time, gin was regarded to the general public as the only “bad booze.”
“Phew, thank God I stopped drinking gin. Switching to Brandy ought to cure this Jaundice right up!”
The author takes great pride in describing each of the different “eras” of gin consumption, providing illustrative and anecdotal examples of how society was molding itself around our love of the hard stuff.
I hate to use the term “coffee table” book as that usually sounds pejorative, but the attractive presentation and illustrations of Gin can’t be overlooked. While the content is of course more detailed and thorough than your big standard coffee table book, you get the best of both worlds with Gin by also having an eye pleasing title in your living room for guests. The progression of advertisements, political cartoons and bar culture are all curated by era along with its written history, and add a lot of value to what’s being discussed. The home bartender in the family will appreciate Gin as well, as the book provides numerous recipes and pictures of famous (and also fairly obscure) gin based cocktails. Eyeballing a few of these cocktails during my read-through made me want to break out my Hendrick’s and my shaker …and get busy.
Verdict: Gin A Short History by Moses Jenkins is a detailed catalog of gin history from its most elementary beginnings to its status today as a symbol of a refined strong drink for the upwardly mobile. Gin is a must have for anyone fascinated by the strange history of an intoxicating drink that needs a respectable new conversation piece. Get out the shaker, scare up some bitters, and enjoy a nice refreshing glass of world history.
An advanced copy of Gin was graciously provided by Osprey Publishing. All remarks and opinions in the review are my own.