Alcoholic beverages became so popular in the UK that entrepreneurs began using all sorts of additives to enrich themselves.
In the 18th century, the gin it became the greatest drug man could take – at least in England – and threatened to tear British society apart.
In 1751, posters began to be distributed with a powerful illustration, created by the satirical painter William Hogarth. According to the ABC, the poster depicts a woman with her head tilted back, completely drunk and dressed in tattered rags.
The most shocking part of the image is the baby, who slips from the woman’s arms, about to fall down the stairs. The alcoholic state does not allow you to be aware of the situation.
“Gin Alley” (1751), by the painter William Hogarth
The poster was intended to portray the serious consequences of alcoholic beverages and was disseminated as a way of supporting the “Gin Law”, which was intended to prohibit their manufacture, sale and consumption.
But gin was not always seen as the enemy of society: Franciscus Sylvius, a professor at the Faculty of Medicine in the city of Leyden in the Netherlands, distilled juniper berries with pure alcohol to produce a medicine.
The aim was to explore the beneficial properties of the fruit for the kidneys.
The English perfected and popularized it until it becomes a problem. The culprit was the Dutch King William of Orange who, when he ascended the British throne in 1698 as William III, took the gin formula with him.
Consumption went out of control among the English soldiers returning from the Netherlands, who, instead of using it as a medicine, drank it in large quantities.
In this confusion, entrepreneurs saw an opportunity and did not hesitate to add additions to the drink to reduce the cost, make the taste acceptable and enrich themselves. Lesley Solmonson, author of the book Gin: A Global History, told ABC that “they used sulfuric acid, turpentine oil and lime”.
“It was like death was in a glass“, he described.
The consequences did not take long to appear, both for the health of the British and for society itself. The “Gin Law” was also not effective: at the time, clandestine distilleries increased, the price of alcoholic beverages rose and the quality continued to deteriorate, causing physical and psychological damage among the population.
The ban was eventually lifted by the Government, which created new rules to regulate the production, sale, consumption and taxation of the drink.
Everything changed in the beginning of the 19th century, when James Burrough produced the famous Beefeater, one of the best-selling gins in the world to date.
He is responsible for the Gin-Dry formula, whose essential ingredient – London water – inspired the name London-Dry gin. The secret formula has since been kept in the Tower of London, guarded by the famous Beefeaters, guards whose medieval-style clothing delights tourists.