Sharing a celebratory drink with friends is an age-old custom, but have you ever wondered where this practice came from? We have. That’s why we’ve dug deep into the bowels of history to find out the alluring mysteries of liquor and and teach you the hidden rules to sending alcohol gifts to UK.
The History of Liquor in the UK
During the 16th century, the Dutch began producing a spirit called “genever.” It essentially consisted of a malt wine base combined with juniper berries to mask its crude flavor. At this point, like most alcoholic beverages in Europe, this was meant to be used as a “medicinal” liquid. However, by the 1700s, it had taken on a new form: gin.
The first known written use of ‘gin’ appears in a 1714 book called ‘The Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices, Publick
Benefits’ by Bernard Mandeville. He wrote: ‘The infamous liquor, the name of which deriv’d from Juniper-Berries in Dutch, is now, by frequent use… shrunk into a Monosyllable, intoxicating Gin.’ The takeaway being, the British were far too inebriated to pronounce the word “genever”; thus, the shortened term “gin” became the norm.
Around this time, William III of England became King of England, Ireland, and Scotland. He implemented a trade war against France that launched heavy taxes on French wine and Cognac in an attempt to weaken their economy. He also instituted The Corn Laws in England, which provided tax breaks on spirits production, resulting in what was called “a distilling free-for-all.”
Encouraged by public policy, budget-friendly spirits flooded the market — a pint of gin was actually cheaper than a pint of beer. Public drunkenness didn’t carry the stigma it has today and the urban poor in London sought relief from the harsh realities of poverty with excessive consumption of the cheap beverage. Thus the Gin Craze was born.
By the late 1700s six and one-half million people drank over 18 million gallons of gin a year, most being consumed by the small minority of the population then living in London and other cities. Unsurprisingly, the government began to see social issues arise. Remember – gin distillation was a “free-for-all”, with things like turpentine, sulphuric acid, and sawdust going into the mix. The people of England grew sick or insane. Erik Delanoy, New York brand ambassador for Oxley Gin, says. “During the 18th century, gin was by and large the most heavily vilified spirit. It was blamed for the death of thousands by overconsumption, murder, negligence, and insanity, which incited measures to outlaw its production and consumption, but to little avail.”
As a way of controlling its drunken populace, Parliament passed the Gin Act of 1751, which raised taxes on alcoholic beverages. The law prohibited the sale of gin in quantities of less than two gallons and taxed it so high that it was virtually impossible for poverty-stricken gin drinkers to purchase. By 1830, beer was again cheaper than gin for the first time in over a century.
Thankfully, gin consumption today is neither deadly nor madness-inducing. Instead, it’s been re-embraced as a luxury craft cocktail ingredient.
Best Holidays for Sending Liquor Gifts in the UK
There’s hardly a bad time to send someone special a surprise bottle of spirits. However, there are certainly times where it packs a little extra punch!
Like most of the world, New Year’s Eve in the UK is a big event. Many people see the year out with a big bang. A huge party with toasts and well wishes for fortune in the year to come. As Big Ben strikes midnight, you’ll find fireworks, singing, dancing, and — of course — drinking as people of Britain say goodbye to the old year and ring in the new. While champagne is the traditional drink for New Year’s Eve, try a sophisticated twist on an old classic by serving up a Champagne Cocktail, blended with chilled champagne, brandy, and bitters. Garnish with an orange twist to serve
Good Friday is a Christian observance that commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is part of Holy week and it is a public holiday throughout the UK. In the past, the UK restricted alcohol sales during Easter. Now, this is now only the case in Northern Ireland, where people can only serve alcohol between 17:00 (5 pm) and 23:00 (11 pm) on Good Friday. Since most people refrain from eating meat on Good Friday, it’s common to enjoy fish and chips for tea (dinner). Whether you eat fish or meat for your main course, the most common thing on the Good Friday menu in the UK is hot cross buns. While every family may have their traditional recipe for hot cross buns, they are all made from sweet yeast dough, with currants or other dried fruit and spices like cinnamon.
People in the UK spend Christmas with family, opening gifts, decorating the tree, and enjoying the lights all over town. They celebrate with many holiday traditions that are similar worldwide; however, one custom native to the UK is Wassailing, an old Anglo-Saxon practice that doesn’t take place much today. The word ‘wassail’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase ‘waes hael’, which means ‘good health’. Originally, the wassail was a drink made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and sugar. It was served from huge bowls, often made of silver or pewter. The Wassail drink mixture was sometimes called ‘Lamb’s Wool’, because the pulp of the roasted apples made it frothy, giving it the appearance of lamb’s wool. Consider starting up a new old tradition with your family this holiday, and share a bowl of wassail.
The 10 most popular varieties of wine in Britain.
Did you know that the UK is the world’s 6th largest wine market and the second by volume and value?
In general, wine is one of the most common favorite drinks among consumers in the UK. (Beer is a very close second) The average British drinker consumes around 108 bottles a year! But which wines are the most popular? We’ve compiled this list to help you choose the best wine for your next occasion!
- Pinot Grigio
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
How to Make a Pimm’s – a UK Favorite Cocktail
After reading the above, I’m sure it’s no surprise that the UK’s favorite cocktail, Pimm’s, includes their favorite debaucherous beverage: gin. The recipe for Pimm’s lists a gin infusion that includes herbal botanicals, caramelized orange, and warm spices. Realistically, you can make it with whatever chopped fruit and herbs you want but traditionally the recipe calls for lemonade, mint, strawberries, orange, and cucumber.
Think of this much like a sangria, we have a recipe for you below but measure to your taste! Feel free to get creative with this and tell us all about what you try!
- 1 part Pimm’s No. 1
- 3 parts Lemonade
- Fresh mint leaves
- Chopped strawberries
- Orange slices
- Cucumber slices
You’ll want a jug that can comfortably fit twice the amount of lemonade you’re using. Fill your jug halfway with some ice along with the fruit and mint. Don’t worry about getting this exact, you can always add more later. Cocktails should be fun, not stressful.
Then add your Pimm’s followed by your lemonade and stir. Taking a quick taste here will let you know if you need a touch more Pimm’s or more sweet lemonade.
Grab glasses for your guests and fill them with fresh ice, and top with this sweet summer cocktail. Adding a final mint leaf or wedge of orange can really set this cocktail over the top.
You’ve learned a ton about the UK. Now what?
- Send beer, wine and liquor gifts to UK
- Learn even more with our blog Singing Rice Wine’s Praises: The History of Sake in Japan
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Toni T. is a writer, mother, amateur makeup artist, and coffee addict — not necessarily in that order! A lover of all things vintage, she’s an encyclopedia of useless 80’s trivia and adores a bold red lip. She is a second-generation Greek American with dreams of traveling abroad to see the land on which her ancestors walked but, for now, she resides in the ‘burbs of New Jersey with her husband and children.