Oliver Cromwell gin?

This was to be have been the weekend when I made my sloe gin in time for Christmas, but, due to not entirely unseen circumstances, I’m afraid this will have to be postponed until next weekend.

(For anyone interested in some tips for making Sloe Gin, I point you in the direction of that Interesting and Instructive Blog – The Wartime Housewife).

Nonetheless, I have managed to assemble the two essential ingredients – sloes and gin.  The sloes I gathered from the Brampton Valley Way, so if you happen to notice the almost complete absence of sloes along that walkway it isn’t due to climate change or some sort of blight – it’s my fault.

The gin, on the other hand, I bought at Aldi.  I intend to discuss the arguments against and in favour of Aldi and Lidl on another occasion, but suffice it to say at the moment that for sloe gin you have to be looking for cheap gin,  and – if it’s cheap you’re after – Aldi’s yer man.

Aldi’s own brand gin goes under the name of Oliver Cromwell Dry London Gin.  At first sight, this appears to be an incongruous endorsement.  Can we imagine Cromwell entering Harborough after the Battle of Naseby, flopping down on a barstool (in, I think, The King’s Head) and saying – “A g and t, barman, and make it a large one- I’ve had a helluva day!” ?  I think not.

On the other hand, someone who thought that – even if he didn’t have much of a taste for the stuff himself – he might have kept a bottle in the house for the use of visitors was the Georgian poet and playwright John Drinkwater.  His play – Oliver Cromwell – which doesn’t seem to have been revived much recently, but was a great hit in its day, contains the following exchange (Hampden and Ireton have dropped in chez Cromwell to discuss the Ship Tax, the poetry of Herrick and suchlike) – 

_Ireton:_
I don’t know how things are going. But I feel that great events are
making and that you and Mr. Hampden here may have power to use men. If
it should be so, I would be used. That is all.

_Cromwell:_
John’s the man. I’m likely enough to stay the rest of my days in Ely.

_Ireton:_
I don’t think so, sir.

_Cromwell:_
No? Well. A glass of sherry, John–or gin?

_Hampden:_
Sherry, Oliver.

(CROMWELL pours out the sherry.)

So there we have it.  Perhaps – once they’re aware of this – we can look forward to Lidl developing a range of John Hampden sherry.  I, for one, would buy it.

(I can’t find any confirmation of this, incidentally, but I’m fairly sure that Drinkwater was the original model for the character of Ratty in The Wind in the Willows.  There is, I’d like to point out, no resemblance whatsoever between Ratty – one of the most attractive characters in all literature – and David Cameron, in spite of what Ian Jack seemed  to be suggesting in yesterday’s Guardian –  Rat/Cameron.)

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