Clean Straw For Nothing – A Guide to Drinking on a Budget (2)

…And we’re back, after a hiatus of what seems like forever! Personally, I blame all the drinking. Yes, it’s…

Clean Straw for Nothing

For this edition we’re going to cover everyone’s favourite pipe-cleaner – lovely gin!

“Gin, cursed Fiend, with Fury fraught,
Makes human Race a Prey.
It enters by a deadly Draught
And steals our Life away.”

Like porter, gin is a good, honest London drink. We, the good folk of the Big Smoke, have been deadening our senses with this juniper-and-turpentine-derived beverage since the 18th century when the so-called ‘gin-craze’ took hold. William Hogarth, renowned chronicler of London deviance, recorded this in his famous ‘Gin Lane’:

Gin Lane by William Hogarth

Gin Lane by William Hogarth – Stolen from Wikipedia

Nowadays, gin is a rehabilitated drink. Arguably this began donkey’s ago with the Martini, the prince among cocktails, but nonetheless for years the image of gin as ‘Mother’s Ruin’ persisted. Of course we live in fancy times, and I fear there isn’t a spirit around that hasn’t been absorbed into the cost-prohibitive cocktail culture that exists today.

 “It is with the deepest concern your committee observe the strong Inclination of the inferior Sort of People to these destructive Liquors, and how surprisingly this Infection has spread within these few Years … it is scarce possible for Persons in low Life to go anywhere or to be anywhere, without being drawn in to taste, and, by Degrees, to like and approve of this pernicious Liquor.”

So what’s a cash-poor gin fan to do? I’ll tell you…

Gin and Tonic, can

Now, I’d tried these pre-mixed sort of drinks before. I remember many moons ago, when I was about eighteen, sampling a pre-mixed whiskey and ginger to much disgust. So when I first saw these on the shelves I approached with trepidation, nontheless lured in by the cheap price and respectable ABV.

My worries were unwarranted. While this won’t be the best gin and tonic you’ve ever tasted (that, of course, is made by your own fair hand and contains as much gin as you need; tonic to fizz) it certainly gets the job done. Note again that ABV there – that’s stronger than a can of lager, in half the size. Get a few of these down you and you can be acceptably steaming in no time at all.

Another handy thing about these little babies is their size. You can cram a couple in your overcoat pockets and bang, you’re laughing for any long walk or tube journey. In fact that’s another little touch – a can of lager or a bottle of something decent will stand out like a sore thumb on the tube. I myself had some old bag pull the alarm on me when I dared to open a bottle of czech lager on the district line one night. These badboys, however, resemble naught so much as some kind of ‘energy drink’, and thus you can imbibe unmolested.

One of the great joys of the gin and tonic is its versatility – some like lime, some like lemon, some even like a dash of bitters. You’re not going to get that variety here, I’m afraid, but our friends at Gordon’s have produced a version with cucumber that I find quite delectable.

Gin and Tonic with Cucumber

Image stolen from somewhere on the internet.

They also, naturally, provide one with ‘slimline’ tonic, and a quick google reveals that they also do one with elderflower, which I will be asking my offy to keep an eye out for.

Not that you’re necessarily restricted to Gordon’s – Sainsbury’s for instance have their own brand which is just as tasty. This is where price becomes a factor, though. While you can often find cans of the Gordon’s stuff on offer, as seen in the picture above, if you can’t then two cans is going to set you back a cool £4. On the other hand, the supermarket own-brand gear normally goes for £1.50.

The cheapest I’ve seen is Saver’s own brand, which they were flogging for a quid a tin. I was tempted, but like a lot of places they’d not kept them in the fridge. I’ve seen this happen time and again, normally in supermarkets (Tesco’s are a bad offender) and you shouldn’t stand for it. Go, instead, to a nearby off-licence, where they’re normally sensible enough to chill the drinks that require it.

Right, that’s it for this edition, though of course the subject of gin will be revisited. After all, with the recent revelation of a cheap, Aldi own-brand gin conquering all contenders at a booze award, there’s clearly plenty more to cover…


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