The Puss & Mew

Appalachian Puss & Mew Machine (c) House Of Applejay

Gin & Ingenious Invention in 18th Century London

The 18th century in London was marked by an unparalleled obsession with gin, sparking a societal crisis often referred to as the “Gin Craze.” To tackle this issue, the British Parliament enacted the Gin Act of 1736, imposing strict regulations and taxes on gin production and distribution.

However, as history often proves, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Captain Dudley Bradstreet, an enterprising individual, devised an ingenious solution to exploit a critical loophole in the law. This inventive solution became known as the “Puss and Mew” or “Bradstreet’s Cat,” marking the birth of the first vending machine in history.

The Loophole in the Gin Act

In response to the social turmoil caused by the Gin Craze, the Gin Act of 1736 was enacted. This legislation introduced stringent regulations on gin sales. It imposed high licensing fees, limited the quantity of gin that could be sold, and aimed to clamp down on unregulated gin production. The primary objective was to reduce the availability of cheap and often adulterated gin that was causing widespread problems in London.

One crucial loophole in the Gin Act of 1736 proved to be its Achilles’ heel. The law prohibited the police from entering private buildings or gin shops without credible information or informers who could identify the sellers of illicit gin. This presented an opportunity for enterprising individuals like Captain Dudley Bradstreet to circumvent the restrictions while still offering gin to customers.


Captain Dudley Bradstreet

Bradstreet, a shrewd entrepreneur of his time, had a lawyer friend who played a pivotal role in the inception of the Puss and Mew machine. Together, they hatched a clever plan to exploit the law’s loophole and provide gin to the masses without fear of legal consequences.


The Invention of the Puss and Mew Machine

The Puss and Mew machine, also known as Bradstreet’s Cat, was born out of this inventive collaboration. To operate the machine, a customer would approach a wooden cat mounted on the outside wall of a building that masqueraded as an ordinary residence. The customer would then discreetly whisper, “Puss, do you have Gin?” If the cat responded with a meow, it signaled that gin was available. The customer would then insert coins into the cat’s mouth. Through a concealed pipe at the cat’s paw, a shot of gin would flow into the customer’s mouth. This ingenious mechanism allowed patrons to enjoy their gin discreetly while thwarting the Gin Act’s restrictions.


The Brilliance of the Puss and Mew

The brilliance of the Puss and Mew machine lay in its ability to keep the gin sellers’ identities hidden. Since the police informers couldn’t identify the seller, these early vending machines effectively bypassed the law. The cat acted as both bartender and secret keeper, allowing Londoners to satisfy their thirst for gin while remaining within the bounds of the law.

The Puss and Mew machine, a testament to human ingenuity and the resilience of entrepreneurial spirit, emerged as an iconic symbol of London’s battle against the Gin Craze and the restrictive Gin Act of 1736. Captain Dudley Bradstreet’s clever invention not only satisfied the city’s thirst for gin but also evaded legal scrutiny, thanks to a clever exploitation of a legal loophole. This fascinating historical episode remains a vivid example of how innovation and creativity can flourish even in the face of the most challenging circumstances.


The Appalachian Puss & Mew Machine

The artwork is the first of its kind in the US and prominently featured as a highlight of the House Of Applejay Craft distillery tour in East Ellijay, Georgia. This experience is thoughtfully complemented by the presence of House Of Applejay’s Modern American rendition of Old Tom Gin, an exquisite creation boasting the distinctive characteristics of their unique Old-Style Juniper Liqueur. Visitors have the opportunity to appreciate both the visual artistry and the refined flavors of this exceptional spirit, creating a multi-sensory journey through the world of craft distillation.

The Distilling Culture


Embark on a global journey, and you’ll find that cultures possess tales that harken back to their ancient beginnings of distillation, brewing, and winemaking.

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