The Empire strikes back

The judges hard at work last year

With this week’s sloe gin competition much in mind, to which all are welcome, and to which all are welcome, (tonight, Friday March 15, in Olde Worlde Wines from 7:30pm in Cinque Ports Street), I wondered why “G&T” seems to be such a British drink (or is this only in certain circles perhaps from the days of the Empire)?

Certainly there is no lack of choice for “mother’s ruin” as I visited a Brighton bar last year which claimed to stock 75 varieties but – as I only had a day-return ticket – I did not have time to check them all out.

However I have checked out Rye’s local supermarket Jempson’s (still called “Budgens” by quite a few) and it stocks 20 different kinds ranging in price for a 70cl bottle from around £12 to around £30.

And, while some were not flavoured with additives such as sloes, others were flavoured by British mulberries (found in the Lamb House garden from persecuted-Huguenot days) Scot strawberries and Indian limes (as well as sloes) which, in theory, seems to fit with the Imperial tradition (allegedly) of a G&T in the clubhouse.

But other gins featured blood oranges from Sicily – and more basic oranges from Spain – hardly outposts of the Empire, dear boy.

And, while sloe may work well in gin, I did boggle at gins flavoured (sorry, infused) with strawberries and violets. However our local supermarket did have a sloe gin – at £25 for 50cl which seemed a lot.

The finished brew

All sorts of tonics were also available, including a lot with quinine (controlling tropical fevers perhaps, sahib) and the obvious lemon and less obvious cucumber – with these ranging in price from 55p to £1.75.

Given those prices a G&T can (courtesy of Schweppes and Gordon’s) therefore seemed a good buy (particularly for train journeys from Brighton).

However, with limes and lemons at 30p each, I decided on a bit of DIY – and my glass iced up quite nicely in the garden!

There’s no ice in my freezer as it’s packed full in anticipation of the Brexit supermarket meltdown, but perhaps that’s another story for tonight’s sloe gin competition.

Maybe you have an answer as to why G&T is so British – or is it?


Image Credits: Rye News library, Simon Kershaw.


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