Gin: A Global History

“These are food memoirs, salacious and exotic, colorful, powdered, sweet, greasy and globe-trotting… sharp and speedy little reads, spotted with off-kilter illustrations”

— Chicago Tribune, regarding the Edible Series

GIN: A Global History

May 2012

168 pp; 40 color images – 20 halftone images

Reaktion Books UK

Distributed by University of Chicago Press in North America



Mother’s Milk, Mother’s Ruin, and Ladies’ Delight. Dutch Courage and Cuckold’s Comfort. These evocative nicknames for gin hint that it has a far livelier history than the simple and classic martini would lead you to believe. In this book, Lesley Jacobs Solmonson journeys into gin’s past, revealing that this spirit has played the role of both hero and villain throughout history. Taking us back to gin’s origins as a medicine derived from the aromatic juniper berry, Solmonson describes how the Dutch recognized the berry’s alcoholic possibilities and distilled it into the whiskey-like genever. She then follows the drink to Britain, where cheap imitations laced with turpentine and other caustic fillers made it the drink of choice for poor eighteenth-century Londoners. Eventually replaced by the sweetened Old Tom style and later by London Dry gin, its popularity spread along with the British Empire. As people today once again embrace classic cocktails like the gimlet and the negroni, gin has reclaimed its place in the world of mixology. Featuring many enticing recipes, Gin is the perfect gift for cocktail aficionados and anyone who wants to know whether it should be shaken or stirred.

LESLEY JACOBS SOLMONSON is available for interview.

For further information please contact:

Laura Avery, Promotions Manager,  University of Chicago Press


Phone: 773.702.0376

Property of Lesley Jacobs Solmonson


Every spirit – be it gin, whiskey, rum, or brandy – has a tale to tell. Gin’s story is rife with contradiction. It has been the drink of both kings and commoners. It inspired the first modern drug craze in eighteenth century London, yet London Dry gin went on to become the embodiment of sophistication in the dry Martini. In America, it was both savior and demon – a medicinal aide in the original ‘Cocktail’ and a pariah during Prohibition. And, while gin is enshrined in modern bar culture, it still battles the remnants of a negative reputation as seen in expressions like ‘gin-mills’, ‘gin-soaked’, and ‘gin- joints’.

Of all the spirits, gin is quite possibly the most beloved and the most berated. Those who enjoy the juniper-based liquor often drink it to the exclusion of all others. Those who favour a different poison loudly decry gin’s charms, claiming that, as one poetic barfly pronounced, ‘gin tastes like Christmas trees smell.’ To some extent, that piney character is gin’s defining glory and its inevitable curse.


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