Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

204 × 125 × 17 mm
168 pages
69 illustrations, 46 in colour
01 Apr 2012

Gin A Global History Lesley Jacobs Solmonson

Mother’s Milk or Blue Ruin, Dutch Courage or Cuckold’s Comfort – the fanciful nicknames that gin has acquired only hint at its colourful story. The story begins with the aromatic juniper berry originally used by the Dutch to flavour the whisky-like genever. The drink then made its way to Britain, where cheap imitations laced with turpentine and other caustic fillers made it the drink of choice for poor eighteenth-century Londoners. Eventually replaced by the sweetened Old Tom style and then by London Dry, gin was introduced to the wider world by means of the British Empire, and during the Jazz Age became a mainstay of a new drinking culture: the cocktail.

Today classic cocktails like the Gimlet and the Negroni are embraced by drinkers who enjoy a new breed of modern gins, and gin has reclaimed pride of place in the world of mixology. Gin: A Global History will attract both cocktail aficionados and lovers of food history as it chronicles gin’s evolution from cheap liquor to modern alcoholic marvel.

‘The Gin, volume seems particularly well-timed the spirit is enjoying a US renaissance. Author Lesley Jacobs Solmonson brings us through gins history at a blistering pace that manages to satisfy with plenty of drama and botanicals. Somerset Maugham, Dorothy Parker, The Dutch East India Company, and Robert Benchley (I must get out of these wet clothes and into a dry martini.) all get their due.’ — Boston Globe

‘The author of this effervescent little history traces modern gins origins (as the Dutch drink genever) and its subsequent use for medicinal purposes and in the military (Dutch courage), and its demonisation during the London gin panic. Never again, the author writes wistfully, would the city of London be as consistently intoxicated as it was between 1720 and 1751.’ — The Guardian

‘Solmonson traces the spirits appearance in written English to an 18th-century tract that called it a fiery Lake that sets the Brain in Flame, burns up the Entrails, and scorches every Part within. Sounds about right.’ — New York Times Style magazine

‘This is a fascinating little book crammed with intriguing facts and topped off with cocktail recipes with names like corpse reviver. It makes a person very thirsty . . . for knowledge, of course.’ — The Daily Telegraph, Sydney

‘I have well over half a dozen books on the history of gin on my bookshelf, and yet there always seems to be more that needs to be said. Ms. Solmonsons brilliant little tome takes its place among the best. It truly is a global history, focusing on the development of gin styles from sweet and malty to dry and crisp, along with relevant period illustrations giving the reader a broad sense of just how important gin has been in the world of spirits. After the well researched facts have been laid out, there are a few appendices which are of especial value . . . A very nice volume in an ongoing series dedicated to all things edible and libatious.’ — GoodSpiritsNews.com

Gin: A Global History and Vodka: A Global History are two delicious, well-mixed cocktails of history and booze. The first thing I learned from these books is alcohols long-lasting dual effect on society . . . I also learned that every kind of liquor has its own story. In these handsomely bound little volumes, part of the Edible series from Reaktion Books, the authors retell the centuries-long and always fascinating stories of vodka and gin.’ — The Inquisitive Eater

‘Food writer Solmonson balances the kind of context and detail that will appeal to serious readers with accessible prose, chronicling the evolution of gin as medicine, as a threat to the health and industry of the British lower classes, as staple of the British fleet, and as star of the gin martini.’ — Library Journal

‘A colourful history of the liquor from drink of choice for the poor to modern cocktail essential.’ — Your Family History

Show all

Lesley Jacobs Solmonson is a food writer and co-founder of 12bottlebar.com, a site devoted to classic cocktails. She has written for such publications as Gourmet, Wine Enthusiast, Santa Barbara and the International Sommelier Guilds.


1. Gin's Medicinal Origins
2. Genever in the Low Countries
3. Gin in Britain: Colonialism, Gin Palaces, London Dry
5. Gin in America
6. Gin's Renaissance

Appendix: A Selection of Gins Today
Select Bibliography
Websites and Associations
Photo Acknowledgements