Who is Madame Geneva, and why should you care?

Who is Madame Geneva, and why should you care?

3
min
Gin, Knowledge

In recent years, gin has grown to become a widely popular spirit associated with craft cocktails and modern life, but it has not always been the case.

Juniper: The background behind Gin's essential botanical
The beauty of Oak Barrel Gin
Gin, spirit wisdom

Who is Madame Geneva, and why should you care?

3
min
Gin, Knowledge

In recent years, gin has grown to become a widely popular spirit associated with craft cocktails and modern life, but it has not always been the case.

The first time I came into contact with the history of Madame Geneva was in No.1 bestselling author Mark Forsyth's book A Short History of Drunkenness. At first, I was under the impression that Madame was some illustrious, socialite or brothel-mama from a by-gone era. And in a way, she was, however not in the way you might think.


The Madame, in fact, was never a real woman. The reference to Madame Geneva is a colloquial term for gin primarily used in a time of the spirit's darker past. The name is thought to be ultimately derived from the Dutch spirit jenever–the spiritual predecessor to modern gin. More specifically, The Gin Craze–sometimes referred to as the Gin Panic.


The Gin Craze was a period of 18th century England where gin drinking amongst the poor and disenfranchised rose to a dangerous level of addiction and rampant alcoholism. It was not uncommon during those years to see streets flooded with half-clothed wandering homeless people–who had traded their garment for the cheap spirit.


In London alone, there were more than 7,000 gin shops by the year 1730. Gin was available to buy at every street corner. The result harboured decades of societal idleness, criminality and moral decline.


And as for the moniker of Madame Geneva? The origins of the term are lost to history. However, as the traditional role of a 'madame' is to govern over the access to certain carnal sins, the reference to the wanton nature of extreme intoxication is not entirely lost on me.


And why should you care? Well, this wouldn't be an authentic example of spirit wisdom if it didn't illuminate both the jovial and the melancholy history of one of the world's most beloved spirits.



'Gin Lane' by William Hogarth - 1751
Gin, spirit wisdom

Who is Madame Geneva, and why should you care?

3
min
Gin, Knowledge
'Gin Lane' by William Hogarth - 1751

In recent years, gin has grown to become a widely popular spirit associated with craft cocktails and modern life, but it has not always been the case.

The first time I came into contact with the history of Madame Geneva was in No.1 bestselling author Mark Forsyth's book A Short History of Drunkenness. At first, I was under the impression that Madame was some illustrious, socialite or brothel-mama from a by-gone era. And in a way, she was, however not in the way you might think.


The Madame, in fact, was never a real woman. The reference to Madame Geneva is a colloquial term for gin primarily used in a time of the spirit's darker past. The name is thought to be ultimately derived from the Dutch spirit jenever–the spiritual predecessor to modern gin. More specifically, The Gin Craze–sometimes referred to as the Gin Panic.


The Gin Craze was a period of 18th century England where gin drinking amongst the poor and disenfranchised rose to a dangerous level of addiction and rampant alcoholism. It was not uncommon during those years to see streets flooded with half-clothed wandering homeless people–who had traded their garment for the cheap spirit.


In London alone, there were more than 7,000 gin shops by the year 1730. Gin was available to buy at every street corner. The result harboured decades of societal idleness, criminality and moral decline.


And as for the moniker of Madame Geneva? The origins of the term are lost to history. However, as the traditional role of a 'madame' is to govern over the access to certain carnal sins, the reference to the wanton nature of extreme intoxication is not entirely lost on me.


And why should you care? Well, this wouldn't be an authentic example of spirit wisdom if it didn't illuminate both the jovial and the melancholy history of one of the world's most beloved spirits.



Juniper: The background behind Gin's essential botanical
'The Funeral Procession of Madam Geneva' John Clark - 1736
Gin, spirit wisdom