A few years back, musician David Byrne mused on the state of his industry, the decline of CD sales, and the pending demise of the retail record store. Byrne posited that CDs and music itself should not be confused with one another – that calling a CD “music” was akin to calling a shopping cart “groceries”. One was merely the packaging and delivery of the other. Music had existed long before recording and would continue to exist long after vinyl, cassette, 8-track, DAT, CD, and MP3. It’s a theory which I whole-heartedly endorse – with one exception. Ask any band about the moment they first laid eyes and hands on their debut album, all pressed and packaged and ready for public consumption. It’s one thing to send your child off to their first day of school and quite another to pick them up, knowing that in the between hours, they’ve changed and returned to you evolved somehow. Absolutely familiar yet different in ways you can’t quite put a pin on; the baby bird having finally soloed.
This may all sound a bit introspective, but it’s exactly how Lesley felt last week when we held the first copy of her just-released book, Gin: A Global History. Despite having proofed draft after draft, spent months procuring recipes and images, and searched through ancient texts and distillers’ archives – despite having lived and breathed the book for the last few years – Lesley stared at the book incredulously. It was one thing to have written it and something else entirely for her to hold it in her hands, feeling the weight, touching the slickness of the jacket, and smelling the freshly printed pages. I couldn’t wait to brag about her accomplishment – and, as luck would have it, I just happened to have the perfect place to tell the world how proud I am of my wonderful wife and her wonderful book.
In case you haven’t guessed, “Gin: A Global History” tells the story of that most important of cocktail ingredients, beginning with Pliny the Elder and ending with gin’s current artisanal renaissance. Along the way, gin and the juniper that defines it fight the Black Plague, come to the aid of the Dutch, bring London to its knees, take to the Seven Seas, invade America, battle the Feds, and lose the Cold War. In many ways, as Lesley tells us, the story of gin is the story of Western Europe and America. From its humble medicinal origins and the genever of the Low Countries, gin traveled to England, only to cripple London during the Gin Craze of the early 18th century before giving rise to the classic London Dry style. Today, there’s a gin for everyone – malty genevers, sweet Old Toms, martini-friendly dry gins, and individual expressions containing literal bouquets of flavors.
In addition to the charming history lesson, the book includes profiles of dozens of gins on the market today, as well as recipe contributions from Gaz Regan, Dale DeGroff, Ted Haigh, Philip Duff, Charlotte Voisey, David Wondrich, and Hugh Williams – not to mention Jerry Thomas and Charles H. Baker Jr. “Gin: A Global History” is more than just a history of the spirit, it’s a perfect compendium of gin knowledge for the aficionado and the enthusiast alike.
But, don’t just take my word for it; I’m more than a bit biased, of course. I suggest that you read the book for yourself, and to make that an even easier proposition for you, we’re going to be giving away copies now and again throughout the rest of the year – starting today. For the first drawing, all that you need to do is successfully answer the gin trivia question below. Include your answer in a comment to this article, and next Monday (April 30, 2012), a toddler wearing a Native American headdress will randomly draw from a fire helmet (we don’t pretend to understand his ways) the name of someone who has provided the correct answer. Now, the question –
THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED, BUT THERE WILL BE MORE BOOK GIVEAWAYS TO COME.
Which of the following is not a name once or currently associated with gin?
a) Old Raj
b) Old Mr. Boston
c) Old Gregg
d) Old Tom
Please join me in congratulating Lesley on all of her hard work, and we hope that if you pick up the book, you thoroughly enjoy it. Gin: A Global History is available through online merchants and booksellers across the globe.