on 31 October 2012
I've read a lot of books and articles on gin and I have to say that this was the one of the most informative in terms of content. A bit turgid in places, but I forgive that as a lot of what I've seen uses a lot of poetic licence so you can't separate fact from fiction. Just check out John Doxat's very fluffy book on Gin if you want to compare.
I agree though that there is a production quality issue. Paper and binding are relatively poor (just compare with the Gin book from the edible series) and the cover is almost psychedelic, with all that green and a high shine finish to the dust-jacket. I also object to the publisher - Dedalus - bigging itself up by having it's name in the book title. This detracts from the perception of the contents before reading. However, these points aside I've given a rating on the basis of content rather than physical properties.
on 30 November 2012
I rather enjoyed this book, it was thoroughly researched, especially in the origins of gin as genever, and combined a detailed history of gin with several entertaining historical anecdotes. And the very back of the book contains two good resources: a list of gins to drink, and a recommendation of places in which to drink them. When is the Daedalus Book of Pimm's Cup coming?
on 15 December 2011
'Gin' is a global history told through the lens of one very potent and very familiar substance. Barnett captures the mixing of cultures - caused by wars and exploration and global trade, from the Dutch Golden Age to the Roaring Twenties to the `gin renaissance' of the late 20th century - as he documents the history of mixing spirits. I was struck by how often the social meaning of gin changed, from the cause of working-class downfall to a symbol of high social status and sophistication, with many transitions in between. Barnett further deepens the history of gin by mining its literary and pop-cultural portrayals, from major artists and authors like Hogarth and Dickens to 20th-century films. Most of all, this book tells the story of gin's powerful social effects (in addition to its powerful physical effects!).
I found this book engaging and interesting, and its thoughtful history shook the foundations of my knowledge of gin and its role in society. Barnett's atmospheric chapters transport you to London's gin palaces and the saloons of the Wild West, and onto world-traveling ships where scurvy was rampant and malaria lurked at many destinations. Many things surprised me about gin - did you know that `bathtub gin' is, shockingly, a myth? And that you can still buy gin today that is made to imitate Victorian-era gin? (though without the then-common additives of turpentine and sulfuric acid...) And did you know that James Bond's famous martinis, based on the way they look in the glass, were probably STIRRED?!
on 24 November 2011
As an avid reader of popular history, I found this one well-researched and enjoyable. The author conveys the history of gin from pre-genesis to the current day intelligently, lucidly and engagingly. Gin it seems by its very nature encourages myth-making but the author resists the temptation to simplify for a good story. He draws on literature, legal documents, recipes, scientific treatises, medical reports, tax records and many other sources, of which a small but delightful selection is included in Appendix One.
In addition the book is full of a wealth of anecdotes and intriguing characters. When aphids wipe out Europe's vineyards leading to a denting in production of wine spirits we are told that `even entomology... was striking a blow for British gin'; and we meet Dudley Bradstreet, trooper, government spy, playwright and ingenious gin seller at a time when it was illegal to sell gin.
I thoroughly enjoyed this history, and furthermore I now want to try some cocktails beyond my usual gin and tonic.
on 30 November 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed 'Gin,' and as a young academic lady who enjoys rather fabulous vintage places in London such as Bourne & Hollingsworth, I think it's the ideal book for my social group, as well as for that older generation who enjoys their evening martini. It strikes me as being very well researched, and it takes the reader on an historical romp through the ages, where we learn about the history and evolution of gin & its associated cocktails.
Appropriate attention is given to gin's relationship to malaria and quinine, and Hogarth gets the space he deserves. I enjoyed the explanations of the various cultural backgrounds of this botanical creation using juniper/genièvre. There are plenty of facts and tidbits throughout the book which could only come from thorough research, and which are written with a story-teller's enthusiasm.
I also found the 'tasting notes' completely honest: the author readily admits that he was not out to conduct a scientific experiment, and honestly, who could blame him? One would much prefer reading (or, I would reckon, writing,) this book whilst sipping a cocktail, rather than choking down straight-up spirits. I'm grateful to the author for pointing out interesting producers such as Sipsmith's - I found the tasting description matched my own experience with this gin, which I tried expressly because I'd read about it in this book.
Put on your 1920s attire & go out for a martini - and when you get home and kick up your heels (or when you're recovering the morning after,) crack open this book and learn something.