Why is gin called mother’s ruin?
Gin has gathered a lot of different names in the past decade due to the recent boom in its popularity! However, the one nickname that it has carried through the years is Mother’s Ruin. Unfortunately, it does not come from the most pleasant of stories. Here is a short history lesson into how Gin came to be.
We will take you back to 1688 in England, where we begin to see the first Gin boom begin. Great Britain was in the middle of religious turmoil, as politicians and royalty fought over what should be the leading religion. In order to settle this debate, a group of protestants wrote a letter to William of Orange to ‘investigate’ the birth of the new heir to the throne, a Catholic prince. This letter led to Britain’s next invasion, and influenced the rise in gin and its popularity. William of Orange needed England as an ally in order to win against France. Great Britain began to favor William over James II, who eventually left - sending his family to France and escaped. Thus, leaving William III to take the throne in 1689.
As William became King, his feud with France continued. A contributing factor to the first gin craze was that French brandy was banned and duties on spirits made from British corn were reduced. Agriculture played a huge part in Britain’s economy, and was one of the leading drivers that contributed to the gin craze. Britain was experiencing a corn surplus and due to the deregulation of spirits, consumption of spirits rose considerably. By the 1700’s, the gin craze had begun.
William of Orange had brought with him his Dutch influence, and the Dutch were renowned for distilling Genever. Genever was previously being imported originally for medicinal purposes, but now with a surplus of corn and a Dutch king - British distillers began to create their own for a different type of consumption. 90% of English spirits were being distilled in the capital by 1720, with many distillers using Genever as their comparison. Due to the current political situation and fortunate harvest, Gin was extremely cheap to make and sell. This led to a rise in Gin within the ‘lower classes’, creating chaos within the capital and led the government to pass a series of Gin Acts from 1729 onwards, in order to regain control.
Spirits consumption rose from 2,600,363 liters in 1684 to 36,368,720 in just over 50 years ( Gin The Manual, D. Broom) . Between 1720-1750, the city's birthrate plummeted - authors and politicians began to blame Alcoholism as one of the root causes. This is most notably depicted in William Hogarth’s ‘Gin Lane’ illustration (below), where you can see a mother carelessly slumped on the steps while her child slips out of her arms. It is during this period that Gin gathered the nickname Mother’s Ruin.
Finally, a Gin Act that worked was passed in 1760 taxing distillers for their low wines and any corn-based spirits produced. Consumption began to fall and a series of poor harvest meant there was less grain to distill with as well. Prices rose and the gin craze began to dissipate.
We told you the story was not very pleasant!