Why is Gin Known as Mother's Ruin?

With the rapid increase of craft gins emerging on the scene, we thought we'd look into why exactly is one of our favourite tipples also known as “Mother’s Ruin”?

The phrase “Mother’s Ruin” is regularly used across the UK as another term for gin, yet the reason behind how this phrase originated remains unclear. So, to find out more, we first need to delve deeper into the history of gin.

Throughout the Thirty Years War in Central Europe from 1618-1648, British soldiers were provided with gin to settle their nerves. At the same time, the spirit was also used in London as a medicine to treat kidney problems or indigestion. Following on from this, “Jenever” was regularly imported from the Netherlands to the UK since it was so cheap.

“Jenever” is the traditional, juniper-based liquor from the Netherlands which was adapted by producers in England who used their own grains to produce their own versions of the spirit, which gradually evolved into the gin we know and love today. Traditional Bottle of Jenever By the early 1700s, the production of gin in London remained unlicensed, with the Government choosing to tax other spirits such as French brandy instead. Consequently, thousands of gin shops emerged across England during a period known as “The Gin Craze”.

Traditional Bottle of JeneverA bottle of Traditional Jenever

In London alone, approximately 7,000 gin shops emerged and around 10-4 million gallons of gin were produced every year in London during this time. However, while “The Gin Craze” ensured the price of gin remained cheaper than other spirits, societal issues of mass overpopulation and poverty in England the 1730s meant that gin became popular with poorer members of the public, especially women. Unfortunately, the surging popularity resulted in damaging consequences. For example, rates of death from alcohol increased as well as crime rates. Not only this, but mothers were said to have neglected their family and their children as a result of the addictive nature and high alcohol content of the spirit. According to various sources, this is where the history of “Mother’s Ruin” emerges from.

Following the increased crime and alcohol-related death rates, the Government at the time decided to implement various pieces of legislation in an attempt to tackle these issues. In 1736, the Government introduced “The Gin Act” and implemented both a high licensing fee and retail tax price for gin sellers. When this led to riots in the city of London amongst the poorer members of society, who rejected the new legislation, the Act was amended in 1751. Within this Act, the Government prevented the sale of gin to unlicensed merchants and restricted the permit of licenses to substantial property holders. During this time, the Government also decided to promote non-alcoholic alternatives in an attempt to address the societal issues exacerbated by “The Gin Craze”. The tea industry was therefore encouraged by the Government to improve the health of its citizens.

Gin Lane ImageGin Lane by William Hogarth

Overall, despite the fact that the exact origins of the term may remain unclear, “Mother’s Ruin” was developed as a term to describe some of the detrimental consequences of “The Gin Craze” that emerged in London after the Thirty Years War.

We're currently going through a very different 'gin craze' here in Scotland and the UK as a whole and you can view our full range of Scottish Craft Gins.