“Long before it became fashionable, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was a dedicated gin drinker.” So says “The Times” today in an article about the Royal Family launching its own brand of Gin.
“ My Grandma (b. 1887) was a prodigious gin drinker especially in the 1930s when she ran a hotel in Cornwall with a busy residents’ bar. Whether quaffing Gin would have been regarded as “fashionable” I don’t know but it was certainly popular. My Nan’s preference was “Gin and French” which had a healthy slug of Gordon’s topped up with Noilly Prat – a French Vermouth. A popular alternative was “Gin and It” which used Italian Vermouth.
The mixing of Gin and Vermouth reached its apogee in the United States with the invention in the interwar years of the “Martini” which certainly was “fashionable” . The barman’s challenge for a Dry Martini was to maximise the spirit and minimise the Vermouth. 🍸. The drink is essentially neat Gin with a bit of flavouring – a bit like “Pink Gin” , popular among Naval Officers.
In the 1950s the prewar Vermouth based cocktails were still popular alongside the ubiquitous Gin and Tonic or Gin and Bitter Lemon (the latter seems to have fallen out of fashion). Over these years, pre and post war, the gin brand was relatively unimportant. They were nearly all “London” gins – Gordon’s, Booth’s, Beefeater – and whilst there was some brand preference it was really what you put in the gin that mattered rather than the gin itself.
The development of designer gins is a modern phenomenon which has taken it out of the commodity product category. Gins can be like malt whisky with variations brought in by the blending process and the choice of botanicals etc. This has given the industry a massive boost – helped by improvements in tonics driven by the remarkable “Fever Tree” company. The added value that these initiatives have given the industry is considerable – who can blame “Royal Family Limited” from cashing in ?