When we think of illicit spirits we think of prohibition America but our own isle also has hundreds of years of experience in dodging the law when it comes to strong drink. From the highlands of Scotland to the bays of Cornwall, the Irish hills to the London streets, we've always been up to something naughty.
For as long as spirits have existed, there has been someone doing something really naughty with them: selling gin through pipes in a London back alley; standing guard on a Cornish clifftop waiting for a smuggler's signal; or dodging bombs and shrapnel running whisky in the Blitz. It is a history that is thrilling, utterly fascinating and uniquely Britis
From the gin dispensed from a cat's paw at the Puss and Mew shop which could have been the world's first vending machine, to whole funeral corteges staged just to move a coffin filled with whisky, the stories show off all the wonderful wit and ingenuity required to stay one drink ahead of the law. The accompanying recipes are just as intriguing: How did we drink gin before tonic? Was punch really made with curdled milk? Or breakfast served with brandy porridge, and gin mixed into hot ale? What did the past really taste like?
Drink historian and liqueur maker Ruth Ball has delved deep into that history in researching her first book Rebellious Spirit: The Illicit History of Booze in Britain. As well as recreating many of the recipes of the time to discover exactly what our ancestors were drinking. Now she is going to share a little of that insight with you, from the gin dispensing cat of the 1700s to the black marketeers of the second world war.