But first, this...
Gin didn't have the most auspicious of beginnings. Its invention is credited to Dutch medicine man Dr Sylvius (not his real name, one suspects) in the 17th century. The good doctor peddled his sickly-sweet concoction as a patented cure for all kinds of ailments, including lumbago, gallstones and, most fantastically of all, 'the insufferability of being trapped in one's own body - forever.'
It first spread to England through soldiers who had looted it from their vanquished Dutch counterparts (giving rise to the name 'Dutch Courage'). When William of Orange later occupied the British throne, he encouraged the spread of gin to such an extent that, by the first half of the 18th century, over half the drinking establishments in London were gin houses. Quaffing of this cheap, unrefined spirit reached such epidemic proportions that several acts of parliament were passed to bring consumption under control.
Most successful of all was the Gin Act of 1751, which forced distillers to sell only to properly-licensed shops. Even so, the gin they offered was a far cry from the spirit we enjoy today; impure, sweet, and often flavoured with turpentine. Surely there was a better way?