I had meant to write properly about Ruth Ball's 'Rough Spirits and High Society: The Culture of Drink' weeks ago, but things have a habit of getting in the way of good intentions, there will be more about this book in due course.
I loved Ruth Ball's first book 'Rebellious Spirits' for its mix of enthusiasm and erudition (reading it was the initial inspiration for posting book and drinks matches) so a second book from her about drinking history was always going to be something to get excited about. This one is published by the British Library and has an absolute treasure trove of pictures to illustrate our historical relationship with drinking - this includes the impact that coffee houses, and tea, along with the public spaces in which they're consumed in have had on our culture too. It's a brilliant book which would make a great present for anyone with a passing interest in food, drink, or history.
I'm matching it with Warner Edwards Honey gin because the history of gin consumption in Britain is interesting (there's an excellent short history in the book). In the eighteenth century it was a craze that threatened public order, the Victorian gin palace changed our expectations of what a pub looked like, and it's place in cocktail history. There is also the current gin craze, which shows no signs of diminishing just yet, and which continues to challenge old ideas of what gin is and how it might be drunk.
That's where Warner Edwards come in. They're one of the new wave of small distilleries, and I think they're one of the more interesting. Based on Falls farm in Harrington (just over the border into Northamptonshire) their usp is all about the provenance of the product. All of their gins, and there are 6 of them now, are excellent starting with the Harrington dry and going through Sloe, elderflower, rhubarb, Mellisa, and now Honey gin.
There might be better gins out there (it's a big and ever growing field) but not that many. The current packaging is extremely handsome (a detail, but if you're paying more than £30 a bottle you want the product to look damn good), but it's the flavours that make these gins really interesting. The honey gin has a gentle sweetness to it, which is in no way overpowering. It makes a great gin and tonic, and a very good martini. I haven't yet made a Bees Knees with it, but I will. There are more suggestions Here. It's the perfect gin to go with if you want something unusual and distinctive, but not too outlandish. It's also a great example of the next chapter in the story of both gin, and our relationship with spirits generally, which is why I think it's the perfect thing to crack open with book.