Hardcover, 272 pages
Size: 211x148mm
Publication date: 1 Oct 2015
List price: £14.99
ISBN: 9781783961795
eBook ISBN: 9781783961801
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Shortlisted for the Fortnum & Mason Debut Drink Book of the Year Award 2016

A delicious history of the secret, exciting and often dangerous world of illicit spirits

For as long as spirits have existed, there has been someone doing something really naughty with them: selling gin through pipes in a London back alley; standing guard on a Cornish clifftop waiting for a smuggler’s signal; or dodging bombs and shrapnel running whisky in the Blitz. It is a history that is thrilling, utterly fascinating and uniquely British.

Packed full of historical recipes, from Milk Punch to a Wartime Martini, along with cocktails from contemporary bartenders, Rebellious Spirits is a treasure trove for the curious drinker.

 From the gin dispensed from a cat’s paw at the Puss and Mew shop which could have been the world’s first vending machine, to whole funeral cortèges staged just to move a coffin filled with whisky, the stories show off all the wonderful wit and ingenuity required to stay one drink ahead of the law. The accompanying recipes are just as intriguing: How did we drink gin before tonic? Was punch really made with curdled milk? Or breakfast served with brandy porridge, and gin mixed into hot ale? What did the past really taste like?


***** 5 Stars – "Many laugh out loud moments… I absolutely loved the recipes….It's such an interesting book that I am sure I will pick it up again for many years to come. It has certainly made drinking whisky and gin much more interesting… just the right amount of history and humour’"– The Book Magnet

Full of great stories about the sordid and often lethal business of illegal alcohol” – Henry Jeffreys, The Guardian Best Drink Books of 2015

“For boozy, literary-minded dreamers… a lively and engaging read” –

“Evok[es], with its tales of gin being piped in alleyways, a mood of nostalgic Blitz-era gentility” – Stephen Bayley, Spectator

"I’m forever fascinated by the underground, and the sub-cultural drinking habits of bad old Blighty are a rip-roaring read" - King Adz, author of The Urban Cookbook and Street Knowledge

“I've finally found a book about the history of spirits I can be wholeheartedly enthusiastic about. … I loved everything about this book; the enthusiasm it brings to its subject, the try this at home approach, it's humour, and the stories it brings to life. It really has a lot to recommend it. The alchemist sounds intriguing too - apparently one of her commissioned cocktails was for the British library - it had to evoke the flavour of old books, now that's something I'd like to try.” –

“Ruth Ball has written an interesting and fun book on Britain’s favourite subject – the demon drink, and I love it.” - AtticusFinch

“A damn fun read… I love the mix of historical facts with recipes and personal stories from the characters involved. And the characters we meet on the way are fascinating – as are the ingenious lengths they go to in order to conceal their illicit booze making from the authorities. To avoid giving away any spoilers, the best I can say is that you must read this book and learn that there are people out there who quite literally died so that you could enjoy a dram of whisky when you fancy one.” –- Madame J-Mo

“An engaging, witty and informative read for anyone interested in the colourful and exciting history of booze” –

"Alchemist and drinks genius Ruth Ball has written a thrilling history of people and events surrounding the intoxicating world of spirits" -- Lemonaste blog