It’s a long-establish convention – with many examples evident throughout our website – that drinking glasses, particularly those of Georgian provenance, should be engraved with motifs emblematic of the drink for which they were intended to be used.

Barley and hops for beer, vines and grapes for wine, apples and pears for cider and perry, wheat and nuts for ales - the list goes on, and the associations with decorative form and function have gone a long way towards establishing the means by which collectors are able to identify and categorise glasses.

This holds true for gin glasses, as well as those made for any other purpose outlined above. Although these can generally be recognised by their size, common design elements and in some instances the sheer volume in which they are (still) available – a legacy of the vast amounts produced to supply the inebriates of London’s notorious gin craze – there are also gin glasses which bear the image of juniper berries – that being the flavouring of the original medicinal genever which originated in the Low Countries in the late 17th century.

What, then, are we to make of today’s example of 18th century stemware, which is palpably a gin glass given its distinctive composition, but which carries the engraving of wheat ears, tiny little floral buds – and stars ?

The wheat is clearly the staple gin derivative – cereal grains of one kind or another from which the base alcohol was distilled – that’s easy enough, but what of the other seemingly insignificant doodles ?

Well, it may be the case that this particular glass harks back to the original restorative qualities of Dutch gin, but in the form of a later English equivalent. A browse through the many hugely interesting catalogues of quack preparations, potions, unpleasant unguents, salves and ointments which made up the panoply of 18th century hick medicine reveals that gin was an ingredient in many supposed remedies and elixirs. Furthermore, an oft-quoted (though infinitely variable) cure for ‘windy cholic’ or ‘gripe’ is recorded as requiring the addition of chamomile and star anise. It may be somewhat fanciful on my part, but the star and the tiny buds could quite easily represent these two ingredients, and what we may have is instead of any old common or garden gin glass, a rather fine medicinal gin tincture glass – far more efficacious, but no less debilitating in all probability.

Gin’s restorative qualities are further propounded in these same medical almanacs, with other divers physick medicaments requiring both turpentine and juniper berries, those well-known gin additives of yore (turpentine being a common supplement during the darkest ravages of the gin craze to ‘improve’ the flavour of the utterly rank, illicit preparations that were sold to the insatiable masses). So, just consider, the next time your hipster chums offer you a cheeky glass of the latest gin based contrivance bastardised with liquorice, kumquat and coriander – it could be an awful lot worse !

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