“I don’t know what reception I’m at, but for God’s sake give me a gin and tonic.”
So moaned Sir Denis Thatcher, husband of Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, who clearly felt that when it call gets too much that Gin’ll Fix It.
The irascible Denis may have opined that it’s never too early for ‘Gin O’Clock’ - something that the hordes of gin lovers who attended the recent London Gin Festival would attest to.
So let’s start with the blindingly obvious, in case you didn’t know.
It’s now officially cool to drink gin.
To continue the political references, War-time PM Winston Churchill suggested that: “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”
A tad dramatic yes, but for generations gin has been seen as the sole preserve of the middle classes, portrayed as ‘Mother’s Ruin’ and a liquid panacea to the ills of a hectic or stressful lifestyle.
But for the new generation gin is the perfect tonic. And the new saying goes, Keep Calm and Drink Gin (in moderation, of course.)
So it was eyebrow-raising to see so many young people at the London Gin Festival, run over three days at the Tobacco Docks in Tower Hamlets.
There was even a hen do enjoying the more than 100 unique gins on offer, lots of interesting tastings, talks from industry heads, music and well, lots of chin, chin darling.
The philosophy of the festival is “great music, a really good atmosphere and just a general great night out drinking gin,” confided organiser Jym Harris who along with his partner, Marie, founded the event.
And the Tobacco Docks in Shadwell were the perfect location for the event.
“We really like to use interesting buildings but obviously we have to use buildings that are of a size that you can use for a gin festival so that’s why we picked the Tobacco Docks,” Jym explained.
On arrival gin hundeds of afficionados received a gin glass, ‘The Gin Book’ bible with a zillion things gin (including detailed tasting notes), a pen to mark their favourites, an order form and their entry badge.
There was even a cool little cloth bag to carry your drink in and glasses were rinsed out for the next tasting. Impressive attention to detail by the organisers.
Visitors tucked into libations such as Eccentric Citrus Overload, Poetic License Northern Dry, Steam Punk, Bathtub Old Tom, Sir Robin of Locksley and Dictador Colombian Ortodoxy. Yes, all gins...
Nowadays juniper berries are just the start for gin makers who include a smorgasbord of ingredients in their blends - cocoa, candied banana, pine, marzipan, tea, coriander, black pepper, eucalyptus, walnuts, chamomile, shamrock, red clover, sarsaparilla, rock samphire, bog myrtle, red cole (a style of horseradish), parma violets, Douglas fir, curry leaves, sunflower root and milk thistle.
The list is endless.
There’s even a gluten free gin called Pinkster and from Arkay, the world’s first non-alcoholic gin - though not terribly popular at the Festival, for obvious reasons. It was blended for the pregnant lady or a designated driver apparently.
Festival goers packed the “gin room”, with four main bars, a Punch bar and Cocktail bar staffed by very knowledgeable staff recommending appropriate mixers for each individual drink.
And would you ever consider mixing milk with gin? Well, it was one of the eye-catching cocktails wowing the crowds.
“We’re gin heaven,”, quipped one wag.
According to research by Mintel, young consumers are driving the gin revival.
The survey found that although over half (56%) of white spirit and RTD (ready-to-drink) drinkers think that gin is an older person’s drink, it is younger consumers who are the most likely to drink gin.
Over two in five (42%) Brits aged 18-34 have drunk gin in the past 12 months, compared to just over a quarter (27%) of over-45s.
Sales of gin were expected to reach more than £1 billion for the first time last year (£1.04 billion), up by 25% since 2012 when sales stood at £829 million.
Chris Wisson, Senior Drinks Analyst at Mintel, said: “One of gin’s sobriquets is ‘Mother’s Ruin’ and the drink still has certain associations with older drinkers, contributing to it being likely to be seen as an older person’s drink and the least likely as a young person’s drink. “However, our research indicates that gin is in fact now most likely to be drunk by younger consumers, suggesting that it has a chance to forge a dynamic image and move into even more innovative areas.”
There’s even a World Gin Day now (pencil in Saturday, June 10, 2017) and the drink made headlines across the globe earlier this month when a company revealed it was looking for a ‘gintern’ to drink G&Ts and travel the world.
ILoveGin wanted someone to sample new gins and mixers and visit distilleries.
You only need to work two days a week, can work from anywhere but be prepared to visit the firm’s west London head office once or twice a month.
ILoveGin describes itself as “a monthly gin and tonic club, helping people discover their new favourite craft gins as well as the perfect tonic/mixers.”
Dedicated gin lovers will no doubt point to the celebrated health benefits of their favourite tipple.
In fact, gin was used as a form of herbal medicine in the Middle Ages and juniper berries are a superfood.
They can fight infection and help to prevent heart disease, improve blood circulation and even help flight kidney and liver disease
A G&T can also help you achieve younger, healthier looking skin as well as keeping your waistline trim.
A cautionary not however. Not all gin soirees end happily.
In Abeokuta, the largest city and state capital of Ogun State in southwest Nigeria, four people died last month after drinking local gin or ogogoro.
Happily those who enjoyed the fabulous London Gin Festival had no such concerns.