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Becoming the king of drinks

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explains how gin became the King of Drinks. It discusses the various and changing uses of gin against the backdrop of the establishment of colonial rule. Colonialism impacted on particular uses of gin without intending to do so, for example through the introduction of colonial currencies that challenged the particular use of gin bottles as unit of value. The chapter examines the changes in the liquor trade between 1900 and the 1930s, including the disruption of trade during World War I and the temporary ban of gin in its aftermath. The resulting combination of price, availability and status privileged Dutch gin among imported liquors. The chapter explores how branding and product recognition helped to forge the ritual status of gin, as African consumers interpreted its colourlessness, bottle, label, and closure as indications that imported Dutch gin was particularly ‘pure’ and therefore appropriate for ritual use.

Keywords: African consumers; colonial rule; Dutch gin; liquor trade; World War I



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