Watch: How one York shop is staying safe – thanks to five cats and the world’s first vending machine

Chin chin! York Gin’s Jo Hird in front of the Puss & Mew with Susannah Baines serving
3 Jul 2020 @ 1.23 pm
| Business

Want a taste of history – with a bit of a kick?

Then head over to the York Gin shop after it reopens tomorrow (Saturday) and sample the merchandise.

When they were trying to work out a safe way to let people try out their five gins, staff hit upon the obvious answer – redesign an illegal 18th century vending machine!

Shaped like a cat, the Puss & Mew machine appeared on the side of a London house as a way to evade the Gin Act of 1736 (which tried stop the people drinking too much).

A drinker would ask if the ‘puss’ had any gin. If it ‘mewed’, they put a coin in its mouth – and the person inside the house would pour some gin that flowed from a pipe in its paw, which went down the drinker’s throat.

The York Gin shop on Pavement has created its own version from Perspex. If a shopper wants to try a gin, the assistant pours it down a tube through a hole in the Perspex and into the customer’s disposable cup.

This means both customers and staff can socially distance while discussing the gins.

Flash of inspiration

Eight out of ten cats prefer it

The original machine was attached to the outside of a London house occupied by a chancer called Dudley Bradstreet. He was evading the act that charged £50 for a licence to sell gin.

The Puss & Mew is described as the world’s first vending machine.

York Gin co-founder Emma Godivala said: “We’ve always loved the story of the Puss & Mew – gin has lots of cat legends, and our logo has a cat on it too.

“When we were trying to work out how to serve samples to customers in a safe environment, the idea of a screen and a tube appeared in a flash of inspiration – a modern-day Puss & Mew.

“The only difference is that customers don’t have to pay for a sample of gin. And what we’re doing is perfectly legal! We’re 100% sure our gin is way better too.”

The Puss & Mew has been created by York company PurePallets.