Of a late Monsignor, the Most Catholics of Gins, and the Stele of Thermopylae

I saw a re-tweet from the head of the Latin Mass Society, Joseph Shaw, announcing yesterday as the anniversary of the death of the famous Msgr. Alfred Gilbey.

I met him once, at the Travellers’ in London.  He died in 1998 and a great Traditional Requiem was celebrated for him at the Brompton Oratory.

Gilbey was of an interesting family, whose influence may reach into your home.

From 1962

His grandfather, Alfred, was the founder of Gilbey’s London Gin. Another member of the family, Guy Hugh, invented the apparatus that carbonates water, which has evolved into the SodaStream company.

When I was recently with some clerical friends in Detroit, before a great Supper For The Promotion Of Clericalism, our pre-prandials included Martinis made with that “most Catholic of gins”, Gilbey’s.  They were properly made, with the technique of scenting the chilled glass with a rinse of vermouth, then poured out, and the addition of your pre-chilled gin and, for me, a twist.

There has been a ridiculous explosion of new gins.   Some of them are eccentric.   Some are wonderful in themselves, but perhaps not always the very best choice.

One might be tempted to turn one’s nose up at the notion of Gilbey’s humble, straight-forward dry London gin.  That would be a mistake.  On that evening, with that company, I enjoyed one of the best Martinis I’ve had in a long time.

Circling back to Msgr. Gilbey, he was chaplain at Cambridge for decades.  When there was a threat that the house might be sold, he responded, “Over my dead body.”

They backed down.

This is something of the spirit we need right now.

Over my dead body.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. bremersm says:

    What a fantastic article for a great man and a sometimes overshadowed spirit; gin not the Monsignor.

    I recently picked up a book about one of the most Italian cocktails; the Negroni. I used Beefeaters London Dry and it was quite the tasty drink. I will need to search out Gibbey’s for the next time I make this drink.

  2. acardnal says:

    If I remember correctly, Iranian convert to Catholicism Sohrab Ahmari in his book “From Fire by Water” recommended Msgr. Gilbey’s book, “We Believe: A Simple Commentary on the Catechism of Christian Doctrine” , 1983, as influential in his conversion.

    Perhaps a martini or a gin and tonic tonight in his honor.

  3. Rich Leonardi says:

    Another reason to choose Gilbey’s is that, relative to other gins, especially the new “crafty” ones, it is fairly cheap.

    Msgr. Gilbey’s commentary on the Penny Catechism, “We Believe,” is rightly considered a classic.


  4. PostCatholic says:

    Hendrick’s in Scotland (a lovely martini gin but not all-purpose like Gilbey’s, which I think is great choice for a G+T) sells alcohol-gas fueled electricity to a consortium the British Catholic dioceses. It’s a green energy thing. Here’s a link: https://aleteia.org/2021/04/28/english-and-welsh-catholic-bishops-turn-to-gin-for-green-energy/

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