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The Book of Gin: A Spirited World History from Alchemists' Stills and Colonial Outposts to Gin Palaces, Bathtub Gin, and Artisanal Cocktails Hardcover – December 4, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (December 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802120431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802120434
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Gin Lane, Hogarth’s famous print showing eighteenth-century Londoners in a riot of drunkenness, makes an entertaining frontispiece—but The Book of Gin paints a much broader picture. Barnett, whose writing credits include both the medical journal the Lancet and the entertainment weekly Time Out, offers an absorbing popular history of one of history’s most popular drinks. Beginning with the ancient origins of distillation, he vividly depicts Old England’s ups and downs with regulation and consumption, and the births of the gin-and-tonic, Prohibition, and the cocktail era, and soon arrives in modern times. We are, he says, in the middle of a gin renaissance: Now is the best time in the last five centuries to be drinking gin. Generous appendixes include period writings and recipes, and Barnett’s scrupulous research is evident in endnotes, a lengthy bibliography, and a detailed index. While not, perhaps, written with the widest possible readership in mind, this is nonetheless a well-balanced blend of popular history and scholarship, written in a style as dry and bracing as its subject. --Keir Graff

Review

"An absorbing popular history of one of history’s most popular drinks. … A well-balanced blend of popular history and scholarship, written in a style as dry and bracing as its subject." —Booklist

"A myriad of interesting facts, along with social commentary and historical information... Having awakened our thirst, Barnett reminds us that after five centuries now is the best time to enjoy gin." –The Scotsman (UK)

The Book of Gin is full of history that will make you grin. … an enchanting read.”—Cooking by the Book

"From the very beginnings of genever production, Barnett takes us on a colourful journey through gin's history and its intersection with culture: from the contention in 1310 that spirits might contain the essence of sunshine; distilled by vines into their fruits, through wars, world exploration, and global trade, to the Dutch Golden Age and the Roaring Twenties, to its current renaissance in the cocktail world. … The urban, gritty tales are as entertaining as they are informative, involving intriguing characters and delving into the works of Daniel Defoe, William Hogarth, Charles Dickens and - of course - Ian Fleming's James Bond. … It's rare that a book so catches our attention at Class, but this is a must-read for those who loves gin: it's not just a geeky companion for nerds, but a truly enjoyable history for anyone who likes to end the working day with a G&T." —Class Magazine (UK)

“Mr. Barnett takes the reader on a historic journey from the City States of Italy at the end of the Dark Ages to the gin fueled dance floors of the Stork Club and El Morocco in New York City. We get a peek into the gin revival among growing artisan distillers movement in the new millennium. If you love a classic gin martini pour yourself one and tuck into this fascinating story … Oh, and make sure the gin bottle is full.”—Dale Degroff, aka “King Cocktail,” founder and president of The Museum of the American Cocktail, and author of The Craft of the Cocktail

“Few drinks have haunted society as starkly as gin … In The Book of Gin, Richard Barnett artfully charts the aromatic distillate’s unlikely path from medicine to public menace, blending references as varied as the Archidoxa of Paracelsus and … Mad Men to create a nuanced portrait of the drink and its impact on humanity. … The titular subject of Barnett’s book may be a distillate, but gin owes its life to the men and women who produced, promoted, consumed and condemned it, from William III to James Bond. The most lyrical of their names and stories … pepper Barnett’s story like bursts of poetry.”—The Times Literary Supplement

"Well-balanced and bracingly smooth, Richard Barnett's The Book of Gin is equal parts rich and intoxicating narrative mixed with an entertaining and wholly accessible era-spanning history of one of the world's most storied spirits."—Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All

“How can you not want to indulge in gin – both the drink and this book – for as author Richard Barnett points out, gin is ‘a seemingly inexhaustible vehicle for myth-making and story-telling.’ From medieval alchemy to London’s notorious Gin Lane to glamorous Hollywood cocktail parties, our most able raconteur Barnett provides insight into how gin became an unabashed icon and serves as a metaphor for Western culture."—Peter Krass, author of Blood & Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel’s

"Mr. Barnett’s research is fairly astonishing. With every few turns of the page, he conjures up obscure primary sources to illustrate gin’s genealogy. Drawing from acts of Parliament, temperance tracts, Gordon’s Gin advertisements and Hollywood films, Mr. Barnett punctuates his tale with the language and imagery of the many eras of gin’s history."—The Washington Times

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Customer Reviews

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I feel smarter for having read it.
Daniel J. Kaszeta
I found this book to be a very well researched, well written history of gin.
Eric
I bought this book as a gift for my husband.
Meg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Todd Bartholomew TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Readers can be forgiven for shrugging when they read the title and question the need for a book about the history of gin, as they may do with books about other seemingly singular topics. What is the point? What can it tell us? The truth is quite a bit. Most of us probably don't know the origins or evolution of everyday products like gin and how it's influenced and shaped society. We may swill a gin and tonic but we rarely give thought as to why, but the truth is our everyday habits have resonances deeper into history and those events that have shaped how we live today as a society. Barnett plumbs the origins of gin, a distillation of many different aromatics into a truly potent potable, FAR stronger than the gin we drink today. Popularized in the Netherlands it wasn't long before the British latched onto it making it something more associated with their culture than with the Dutch. But it was those very strong characteristics of early gin that gave rise to the ruin of many in early 17th century England. It became the crack cocaine of its era with many falling under its sway to their ruin. Before long gin was demonized and its use stigmatized users. Before long gin began a slow slide into disrepute, a slide that would be saved by the rise of the British Empire. What ultimately saved gin was the need for treating malaria. Early explorers to South America discovered that the bark of the Quinine tree was an effective treatment to prevent malaria. But Quinine was horribly bitter tasting. An effort began to find a way to make Quinine more palatable for those Britons venturing into the more malarial parts of the Empire. Before long a tonic was developed that incorporated Quinine and the addition of gin to the mix was the perfect solution.Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By CZimm on January 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I drink gin; and I bought this thinking it would be a fun, quirky book about gin and cocktails. But it was sooo much more! It was about the cultural and political history of the spirit itself, and also of all the other things associated with it; such as distilling, trade history of the botanicals, alcohol's cultural perception, and histories of bitters/vermouth/etc. If you're interested in cultural history, albeit a gin drinker or not, than this is a great read!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Kaszeta on December 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Barnett's book is an excellent history of "mother's ruin" and he manages to effectively describe not just the history of the beverage but also the various contexts in which gin has been of note throughout history. I also think this book will be important in the overall history of "moral panics" as the various gin panics share some commonalities with other moral panics throughout history. But besides the intellectual importance of the book, it is a pleasure to read. The prose is pleasantly high-brow without being smarmy or boffin-ish. I feel smarter for having read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anjin on January 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This magnificent book reflects Mr. Barnett's medical and academic roots. It provides amusing and interesting side stories, such as HMS Agincourt's history and nick name of HMS Gin Palace, while also providing the fundamental reasons for the fluctuations in the popularity and status of gin from its medical uses, price stabilization for other markets and of course tax revenue.

This is truly a treatise worthy of a great drink. It also, for better or worse, inspires the reader to more personal research while all the time being able to justify it as seeking cures for many maladies. In parallel to the detailed history of gin, Mr. Barnett provides almost Dickensian insights into society, especially that of London and the United States. This is not a book to be skimmed, it is to be read, imbibed may I say, and relished.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Meg on December 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book as a gift for my husband. He loves gin and is making plans to try his hand and distilling his own. He loved this book, and it helped to inspire him even more!
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Format: Hardcover
For those people with a curiosity or genuine interest in gin - you will not be disappointed in the content as it is fairly exhaustive, particularly in the development of gin from proto-beginnings to modern incarnation. Moe than the first half of the book is about the evolution of gin and the remainder is more focused on the modern age and the cocktail culture of the 19th and 20th centuries. Personally, I found the second part more interesting with the origin of many popular gin drinks and gin during prohibition etc... The first half was drier history, so to speak. I would have liked to have seen more on the modern era, which to me seemed a bit rushed. This is also a British focused book - by that I mean that the reviews and comments on gin are principally for gins available, and many only available, in the UK. Not a big deal, but given this is a book of gin, not British gin, I would have liked to have seen some American, or other, gins addressed. Seems like that would have been easy enough to do.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book to be a very well researched, well written history of gin. Barnett filled the book with perfectly timed vignettes amidst the thoughtful research that clearly went into this history. Barnett effortlessly chafes the facts from the myths and provides many an anecdote to bring out at your next cocktail party. This is a must a read for anyone who fancies themselves a lover of gin.
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