The Gin Act of 1751
William Hogarth (1697–1764)
Gin is the anglicized, abbreviated version of Genever, the Dutch name for the juniper berry, which is the main flavoring ingredient in the spirit. In the late 1600s, English troops returning from battle on the continent brought this clear wine to London in their bags. It was an instant hit, and by the 1680s, Holland’s exports had surpassed 10 million gallons.
Then, in 1689, England outlawed the importing of all spirits in order to promote domestic manufacture. Domestic distiller incentives made gin cheap and plentiful, changing the kingdom’s drinking habits. Gin supplanted beer and ale as the most readily available of the few viable social pleasures, and the working people embraced it wholeheartedly.