For much of the 20th Century, England’s romantic mist was actually a not-so-romantic brew of coal smoke and fog — the word “smog” was coined to describe it. This week in 1952, the worst smog ever descended upon London, killing at least four thousand people… and providing the inspiration for this week’s cocktail.
The History Lesson
The British invented crumpets, the Beatles… and smog! The word was coined in 1905 to describe the clouds of coal smoke and fog shrouding UK cities. And on December 5th, 1952, the Brits also gave us the worst *single example of smog pollution ever. A cold fog blew into London that day, hit a high-pressure system, and got trapped over the city. The smoggy air sat there for days.
And millions of Londoners made it worse — the weather was so cold they all fired up their coal-burning heaters. The stew of soot and fog got so thick in some places? People couldn’t see their own feet. Soon the pollution stretched hundreds of miles. They called it “The Big Smoke”
Planes were grounded. Trains stopped running — and so did ambulances. Which was kind of an issue for folks who already had breathing ailments. At least 4,000 of them eventually died — maybe more like 12 thousand. Londoners knew it was getting bad when undertakers started running low on coffins.
Afterwards, England passed a bunch of clean air laws. But, just ten years later, another Great Smog hit England. That one claimed around 700 lives.
The 52 Gin Fizz
Recipe as invented by Martin Ball, bartend at MatchBar in London’s Clerkenwell district:
In a shaker, add:
– 2.5 oz. Beefeater gin
– Dash of passionfruit juice, aka “Dash of Pash”
– Sweet-and-sour syrup – 3/4 oz. lemon juice and 3/4 oz. sugar
– 1/2 egg white for “cloudy” effect
– 1 barspoon of Islay whiskey for a “smoky” finish
Shake violently (to get egg white frothy) and strain into highball glass over ice.