We often say that history repeats itself and that we need to learn from it. Old, abandoned things are becoming a retro trend and one of them are the wine windows in Tuscany. And what does this have to do with the English cat?
Wine windows were erected in the 17th century in Tuscany and were called Buchette del Vino. These are small windows in the wall, facing the street with the intention of selling wine to customers without taxation, and later during the plague they also took advantage of this to have as few direct contacts as possible. They paid out a pallet for payment, where customers put coins. The coins were then disinfected with vinegar.
After the end of the plague, they began to abandon the wine windows. Soon fell into oblivion, most were even built up. Most of the preserved ones are in Florence, where this summer some caterers started offering glasses of wine, cocktails or even ice cream. One because of the corona virus and the other because of the revival of cultural heritage.
Meow for gin
In England, on the other hand, they had mostly wooden cats in the wall instead of windows. At the beginning of the 18th century, England, and especially London, was a paradise for drunks, and most of them drank gin. Water quality was poor in London at the time, and the English Parliament wanted to collect as much tax as possible, so they promoted distillation of gin, which led to a boom in the gin industry, and due to the large supply, the price was low.
The Gin Craze era has begun
It went so far that the London economy began to decline because no one could work anymore, they just drank and the Gin Act was born. With it, they limited the sale of gin, as the license to sell was a huge approx. £ 7,000 in today’s value. With the restriction, annual gin consumption fell from 18 million gallons to below 2 million (1 gallon is about 4 liters).
Of course, they quickly found a legal loophole in London. They placed a statue of a cat on the window overlooking the street.
If anyone wanted to buy gin, he walked up to the cat and asked her, “Kitten, do you have any gin?”. If the cat meowed, then illegal gin was available. The cat opened its mouth, where the pennies were placed, and then gin began to flow from under the cat’s paw.
Thus, no one saw the person who sold the gin, the intruders could not report the unknown person, and the police also had no right to enter the house.
The Italian wine window and the English cat served the illegal sale of alcohol in a unique way, while allowing contactless sales and consequently reducing the possibility of infections due to poor hygiene or illness of buyers for sellers.
The cat became so popular that it became a symbol for gin. At the same time we can say that the English cat is the first example of an automatic drinking machine in England 🙂