From The Boys' and Girls' Little Book of Alcohol, available at amazon, iTunes, and soon on barnesandnoble.com:
Straight gin has such a degenerate reputation that to drink it without mixing in some other ingredient is to invite either derision or an intervention. I have no idea why. Straight up, on the rocks, or neat, asking for nothing but gin simply isn’t done in public, and pouring a glass at home makes many people so self-conscious that they begin to think they can actually feel the cirrhosis nodules beginning to grow in their livers.
Drinking straight gin is the kind of thing folks do with the blinds drawn.
This is sad and quite needless. Juniper-flavored alcohol has a long, formerly proud history as a tonic. Monks made it, for God’s sake–literally. People in the Dark Ages made that drab era a little lighter with it; they drank it as a way of warding off the Plague. Of course it didn’t really work to that end, but gin did make one’s buboes seem a great deal less repulsive for the brief period between their onset and the drinker’s unpleasant and smelly demise. Buboes are best experienced through a gin haze–on that I think we can all agree.
The 17th century, when gin was flavored with turpentine, will not be elaborated upon here except to note that the phase didn’t last long.
Juniper berries returned as the primary flavoring soon thereafter, though today’s premium brands often feature such an array of secondary essences that the roster resembles the ingredients in high-end organic shampoo. Beefeater gin, for example, features not only juniper but also eight other botanicals: the seeds and root of angelica, licorice, almonds, oranges, lemon peel, and everybody’s favorite, orris root.
What the fuck is Orris root? Orris happens to be one of the “notes” in Yves Saint Laurent’s perfume Opium. It’s flowery and heavily so when sniffed on its own. And apparently witches use it to pry into other people’s subconscious. So the next time a business colleague buys you a Beefeater martini, throw a burning candle at him or her immediately. If the person is merely flabbergasted by the unexpected gesture, you can safely proceed with the meeting. But if he or she burns to a crisp within seconds, you’ve ridded the world of a witch, an act Martha Stewart would call a Good Thing. If some uppity restaurant manager rushes over, just explain matter-of-factly that you simply revealed your late business colleague to be a wicked witch and that you’ve done the world a public service. Then threaten to call the board of health, if for no other reason than to change the subject.