Wednesday, June 08, 2022


Selling It: It's a Wonderful, Wonderful Feeling!


Gin has long been a spirit that could benefit from some positive press. In the 18th century, England practically became a nation of raving alcoholics because of its unregulated cheapness, prompting William Hogarth's famed print "Gin Lane". Then, during the raj, Brits in India needed to take the infamously bitter quinine to stave off malaria, and it was found that the only drink in which it could be sufficiently masked was in rotgut gin, for which they eventually acquired a masochistic fondness. 

So coming into the 20th century, especially outside England, gin was saddled with some baggage. The liquor might well have been practically ignored had it not been for the gin martini, that most famous of cosmopolitan cocktails, which came into fashion in the 1920s. If you wanted to appear sophisticated, no other cocktail carried with it the high-end man-of-the-world panache of the martini. 

American gin distillers like Kinsey Distilling Corporation knew that people want to drink martinis, but that the strong and bitter taste of gin tends to weed out the weak-willed. So their advertising tells us that Kinsey offers "a genial gin, smooth, delightful and delicious."

Kinsey's newspaper ad campaign "It's a Wonderful, Wonderful Feeling", which debuted in November 1944, sought to reassure the public that they could reap all the social benefits of drinking martinis but without the pain of so doing if they would opt to make them with Kinsey Gin. In order to reinforce this concept of diffident sophistication, they made a brilliant choice in recruiting William Steig to add cartoons to the ads. 

Steig was the perfect choice because he was well-known for his cartoons in The New Yorker (there's the sophisticated angle), but among the alumni of that magazine he could be considered one of the more accessible and approachable (there's the genial angle). Exactly the virtues Kinsey was looking to mirror in their booze.

Evidently the ad campaign was a real winner, because it continued appearing in papers regularly with new episodes until April 1947, a tremendously long run. 

Kinsey Gin is apparently still available today, but the name has been sold and resold to various companies, so it may bear no resemblance to the spirit offered in the 1940s.


Was it Briggs or Webster who had characters celebrate small victories by singing "Ain't it a grand and glorious feeling"? In any case, the rhythm of the headline brought that to mind; suspect the advertising writers were purposely echoing what was likely a still-remembered catchphrase.
That was Briggs.
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