It’s official: they’re ruining Mother’s Ruin. While we had our hands full with the Prosecco shortage, they snuck in and started ballsing up gin.
First came the artisans distillers with their botanical infusions of cardamom and peppercorn and hand-plucked bog myrtle, their fancy tonics and sprigs of foliage, elevating a gin order from a simple choice between two or three dusty bottles to a delicious galaxy of infinite variables. Then came the internet, lapping up the gin craze and belching it out again in memes and ‘Fri-YAY’ gifs and generic Tinder bios. Gin, the helpful shorthand for “I collect Penguin paperbacks and maybe own a vintage tea set but it’s ok, I’m definitely still fun.” No journey was complete without a handbag gin tin, the perfect flavour companion to a station pasty and a bag of Percy Pigs. Never mind that after three swigs they go a bit like warm lemon Fanta; it’s the spirit of the spirit that was important. With gin, everyone was happy. Or at least, everyone was drunk.
But then, finally, along came the marketing men – jumping aboard the gin wagon and driving it straight into a ditch. There are gin and tonic crisps now. Gin body lotion, gin popcorn. Notebooks and aprons emblazoned with ginspiration (that’s another thing, it puns so beautifully – a quality that’s both an asset but ultimately a downfall). More tenuous ginny tie-ins than you can shake a cocktail stick at.
“They’re in danger of making gin naff!” cried The Pool’s Lucy Dunn last week, brandishing a link to a plastic gold-rimmed gin pong set. “I WANT MY GIN BACK.”
Now barely a day goes by without my inbox being ginfiltrated (you see? It’s a sickness) by a juniper-addled PR stunt. Gin Christmas crackers. Gin Advent calendar
I started drinking gin at uni, for the same reason everyone does; I thought it made me look cool. When all around you are giddy on syrupy vodbulls and £1 pints of cider and black, the fastest shortcut to cred is ordering a clear drink that makes you wince slightly after every mouthful. But soon I came to love it in its own right; the potent aroma, the clink of ice, the crisp, medicinal punch of that first cold gulp at the end of a frazzled day. It’s warming in winter and refreshing in summer, especially from a fishbowl goblet if you want to be Mediterranean about it (and by Mediterranean I mean horizontal in an airport shuttle bus).
Plus, tropes about weeping women notwithstanding, gin has always felt pleasingly less stereotyped than most drinks – it’s a gender-fluid fluid, loved equally by sharp-tongued women, elegant men, Snoop Dogg. It’s Noel Coward in a theatre bar, Dorothy Parker with her two, three, four dry martinis, Phyllis Diller claiming the only time she ever enjoyed ironing was the time she “accidentally got gin in the steam iron”, your legendary great aunt who flew Spitfires and once had a tryst with a lesser Mitford. Casually subversive but timeless too, gin comes with an in-built wink.
Although, credit to the marketeers for their efforts, gin has had some negative press to overcome. A study last year at Austria’s Innsbruck University revealed that people who prefer bitter flavours are more likely to demonstrate malevolence, narcissism and psychopathic tendencies. Perhaps we didn’t, though, until people started making wall plaques with ‘Gin and bear it!!’ on them in glitter.
Now barely a day goes by without my inbox being ginfiltrated (you see? It’s a sickness) by a juniper-addled PR stunt. Gin Christmas crackers. Gin Advent calendars. Asda, Morrisons and Co-op are stocking gin and tonic teacakes; Aldi has done sloe gin mince pies. Even Fortnum & Mason are flogging non-alcoholic G&T tea bags. “Genius!” “Ginspired!” “It’s THE DREAM!” say all the dutiful news stories. ‘The dream’ is a phrase that meant something once, kids, and it wasn’t drinking boozeless lemon and fennel water for £6.95 a pop.
And we all know what happens from here – the judgement creeps in. I spend enough time apologising to the basic bitch police for my pumpkin spice latte and Aperol Spritz consumption, I am not about to let society shame me for liking a G&T too. So can our favourite spirit retain some gintegrity while the gindustry flogs itself silly?
For a positive spin on the situation, I ask the biggest gin hound I know: my friend Rahul, a man whose love of the ol’ Vera Lynn is so established that he receives “about 20” gin-themed birthday cards every year. “Gin jokes have become the new ‘Keep Calm and Carry On,” he admits. “But there’s also been an explosion of high quality gin-themed products, like Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling – and high quality gins are now available everywhere, which is awesome as it means the public has moved on from Gordon’s.”
So at least once the hangover has eased and the marketing boys have moved on to bastardising the next beverage (what’s left – peapod wine? Creme de menthe?), we’ll still have more ways than ever to get decadently ruined. And crisps to soak it up. I suppose we can all drink to that.