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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 16:00 GMT
'Mothers ruin' leaves the basket
By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Online

Gin and tonics
A gin and tonic is no longer up-to-date malaria protection
Along with tonic, it is one half of the ideal summer drink, perhaps the ideal remedy to dull the pain of Tim Henman's annual exit from Wimbledon.

But gin no longer squares with the consumer zeitgeist, having been unceremoniously hauled out of the "shopping basket" that helps economists calculate inflation, and put back on the shelf.

The hundreds of items on the list have also been trimmed of other unfashionable items including frozen turkeys, increasingly giving way to smaller portions, and local newspapers, which have been suffering declining sales for decades.

The addition this year of CDs sold over the internet and digital cameras are indicators of big rises in sales, whereas the departure of relatively recent additions like mini-disc players and PC printers show how quickly technology moves.

Traditional items like football boots, fishing rods and acoustic guitars are in this year because of previous under-representation.

The continuing strength of the beauty products market is represented by the inclusion of a basic manicure in the basket.

We do see gin as something that your parents drink, a bit 70s - the British drinking public is fairly backward
Ben Reed
Cocktail expert
Over the years many of the departures have made absolute sense. Rabbit meat, mangles and lino are not items that have been flying out of the shops post-decimalisation.

But the gin and tonic has been jokingly referred to as a pillar of the British Empire, the quinine vital for protection against malaria.

Recently the drink lost its most noted ambassador, Sir Denis Thatcher, to whom were attributed many quotes on the subject, ranging from the possible to the outrageously apocryphal.

After his death in June last year, obituary writers fondly recalled the occasion when wife Margaret had raised an eyebrow at his ordering of a gin and tonic at 11am and elicited the response, "my dear, it is never too early for a gin and tonic".

Ben Reed, of IP Bartenders, a consultant to drinks manufacturers and author of Cool Cocktails, leapt to the defence of gin.

A Gin Cosmo
Some bartenders prefer vodka in their cocktails
"I put together loads of gin cocktails, I write about gin, I give demonstrations.

"We do see gin as something that your parents drink, a bit 70s. The British drinking public is fairly backward.

"If people say they don't like gin, I offer to mix them a Bramble. Its light flower notes work really well."

The cocktail expert said gin's image problems dated back to the era of Al Capone and bootlegged spirits.

'Old person's drink'

"During Prohibition, people were mixing drinks to hide the taste of the raw spirit, and that went through to the 1940s and 1950s when vodka was popular."

Graham Bateman, deputy director of the Gin and Vodka Association, said gin's omission was surprising given a 6% rise in sales over the last year.

The Bramble
Large measure of London dry gin
20ml of lemon juice
Dash of sugar syrup
Crushed ice
Drizzle of creme de mure
"Vodka is a younger person's drink and quite popular with the females because it mixes very easily.

"I find I like a gin and tonic before dinner. I find it very refreshing, particularly if you are going out for supper."

But among those happy to see gin branded unfashionable was Gilles Andreis, a bartender at noted celebrity haunt the Met Bar, and not a gin fan.

"I hate gin. I don't like the taste of it or the smell

"It is seen as an old person's drink. People drink it with tonic. That is never out of fashion.

"But for cocktails it is quite delicate. It could kill all the taste of everything, but vodka is quite neutral."

Bartender Ben Reed
Gin is not a drink for old ladies, its defenders insist
While the basket recognises changes in drinking habits, it also gives clues about the rise and rise of the manicure.

Melanie Goose, editor of Cosmopolitan Hair and Beauty, explained that even men were starting to think of a manicure being as normal as a haircut.

"A lot of shops have opened up where you can go in your lunch hour and have it done. It started in the States where women in places like New York never do their own nails, and get it done for $10.

"Now it's picked up here. Women are taking more and more interest in having nice hands.

"Years ago a woman might have it on her wedding day, or maybe once a year for a ball. Now people have it once a month or even once every two weeks.

"I love it. There is something very nice about someone massaging your hands. Lots of men are having manicures, not just guys who are really vain and spend three or four hours in front of the mirror.

"If you have got horrible bitten nails, people will look at you and think you don't take care of yourself. Certain impressions are made in the first 30 seconds, it gives you a little bit of an edge."

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