Or, The London Pissed:
The story of the Gin Craze properly begins with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which brought William III of Orange to the British throne. He brought with him a hatred of all things French -- he immediately banned the import of Gallic spirits, such as brandy -- and a warring political agenda that required funding. Meanwhile, William’s wealthy landowner friends in Parliament had surplus grain, not to mention an eye for the profit it could make them....
This led to a series of political machinations that would set the stage for gin’s stranglehold on the underprivileged. First, the Distilling Act of 1690 dissolved the production monopoly that had been held by the Worshipful Company of Distillers, thus allowing anyone to set up a still simply by posting a public notice and produce spirits without a license.
Then, in 1694, beer -- the “national beverage” -- was subjected to a heavy tax, making gin cheaper to drink. In 1720, one of Parliament’s annual Mutiny Acts stated that those who distilled spirits in their homes didn’t have to house soldiers, since soldiers and alcohol often did not create the best of situations. Soon, “distillers” of the home-grown sort abounded. Over time, the government would come to rely heavily on excises on distilled spirits for revenue.
The author puts this down to the simultaneous growth of an early 'consumer society'. More likely it was a down to the fact that people paid a bare subsistence to work until they collapsed substituted gin for food, to the point where this was perceived as a threat to economic productivity and national cohesion, at which juncture the forces of religion, law and morality intervened to deprive people of their gin without raising their wages. Hogarth was on to this with Beer Street.
Incidentally, I seem to recall that the cheapo pseudo brand "My Mum's" which was widespread in the north of England not so many years ago actually produced a "My Mum's Gin", though I may have been on tha vodka at the time so I can't swear to it.