The place of gin in Orwell's 1984

Originally published at:


Put cloves in turps? Are you a monster? They would ruin the taste!


I’ve read very little Terry Pratchett (but intend to fix that some day). But the few I did read with my boys were about Tiffany Aching (and the MacMacFeegle). One of the amusing parts was the tendency of everyone to imbibe a bit o sheep liniment or turpentine. An obvious pseudonym for distilled spirits. Or was it?


One of the few permitted vices for party members, who are in the minority.

The other 85% of us get to enjoy, among other things, “prolefeed”:

There was even a whole sub-section—Pornosec, it was called in Newspeak—engaged in producing the lowest kind of pornography, which was sent out in sealed packets and which no Party member, other than those who worked on it, was permitted to look at.


“That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.” – George Orwell


And for the tinier group of senior party members, wine as well.

From the essay:

The power of gin is most striking. Oceania is, as Orwell writes, built upon a “creaking camaraderie oiled by gin.”

It’s worth noting that Orwell wasn’t the first or last creative Brit to consider gin a degenerative vice:


Welcome to bOiNGbOiNG, comrade!


da, tovarisch


Is that a screen capture of a scene from “Brazil”?


I’m thinking not.

Maybe you just need another gin!


gin is bad, one of my favorite things is going to fancy cocktail bars and ordering vodka martinis. suck it purists!

1 Like

Hey, if it’s good enough for James Bond …

1 Like

Gin = vodka + flavor.

Gin for victory!


It’s definitely from the John Hurt version of Nineteen Eighty-Four. At the right you can see part of the Big Brother image:


and the IngSoc logo:



Andrea Leadsom has petitioned for ‘Victory Gin’ to be re-labelled ‘Brexit Victory Gin’…


Interesting article.

Another thought on the “oily” character of Victory gin- An oily taste is a known characteristic in vodka distilled from potatoes. So the description is telling us that the gin is being produced from the cheapest starch they can lay their hands on, with a dash of artificial flavouring.


An amusing anecdote:

Everyone knows James Bond orders his vodka martinis shaken - not stirred. Normally, that’s a terrible idea. The ice breaks up during the shaking process and unpleasantly waters down your martini. That’s why the normal procedure calls for gentle stirring with a spoon.

There is one exception, though: When drinking cheap vodka made from potato alcohol (as opposed to grain), the texture of the drink is sort of… oily. In a bad way. But one way to counteract this is precisely shaking the cocktail vigorously - the tiny ice shards take away the oiliness, at least for a time. There is a catch though - you have to down it pretty fast, before the ice melts and makes matters even worse.

So what is now taken for a silly cliché is in fact a very good synecdoche of the character - a British heavy drinker who travels to the soviet bloc so often, he’s acquired a taste for their sauce and knows how to swim with it.


My dystopia has whiskey in it, always whiskey, always…

1 Like

Tis. But also a rather common accusation thrown at those considered backwards. In the US we accuse okies and hillbillies of drinking Turpentine. In the UK its Northerners, Scotts and the Irish.

The Irish claim this of the Scotts. And everyone claims it of the Welsh.

I don’t know that Orwell considered gin a degenerative vice. I always read it as a deliberate reference to the Gin Craze and its propaganda and the place of Gin in British culture. First the working poor’s drink, frightening and causative of all social ills. Later a refined gentleman’s drink. Provided to officers as their hooch ration while the enlisted and sailors got rum. Its associated enough with the working class to be used as a symbol by a Socialist government. But carries enough elitist connotations that those party members who aren’t allowed anything else can feel better than those below them. Its intensely British and widely familiar. So describing the particular way its been ruined can be counted on to have a certain effect on the reader.

You are drinking the wrong Gin.

Shaking a vodka martini is entirely appropriate. There’s a direct relationship to temperature and dilution level. That’s identical whether you are shaking or stirring. Shaking gets you to a given temperature faster. But also adds air. Which is textually important for certain ingredients. For clear liquor it can make it cloudy, which is a aesthetic issue only. The bigger down side to shaking is that its easier to over dilute than with stirring. At a certain point your drink can not be made any colder, it just gets more dilute. Which can rapidly ruin a drink.

Its not that the ice breaks up. It melts. As the ice melts your drink gets colder, but it also gets more dilute. Stirring the exact same thing happens (but slower).

Generally you do not shake clear liquor (because air/cloudy). And you do not shake anything you want to avoid over diluting or over chilling (like Gin which tastes real bland if too cold).

Vodka is a bit of the exception. Often times the colder the vodka is the better (its commonly served below freezing, which you can’t really do in a shaker). So shaking will get you very cold, much faster. Often colder than you can practically achieve with stirring. And Vodka doesn’t have much body at all. So it wont hold bubbles, or remain cloudy for long. So if you avoid over chilling its not really an issue. This is helped by the fact that most vodka “martini” drinkers request their drink sans vermouth these days (and “extra cold” an impossibility). Meaning it aint a martini. But a vodka up. Most of these people would probably enjoy a vodka on the rocks better, but they want to be seen saying and drinking “martini”.

Source: I spent entirely too long behind the bar making bomb ass martinis. And absolutely pathetic margaritas. (Also pull a mean beer)


fixed that for you

fixes another vodka martini

1 Like