A GIN shop in York has redesigned an illegal 18th century vending machine to keep its customers safe from coronavirus.

The Puss & Mew vending machine, in the shape of a cat, first 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 during the ‘Gin Craze’.

A drinker asked 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 Perspex version is designed to let customers sample any of their five gins in a safe environment. The company - whose motto is ‘History in the tasting’ - says it’s legal.

A shop assistant pours the gin down a tube through a hole in the Perspex glass and into the customer’s disposable cup. This means both customers and staff can socially distance while discussing the gins.

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 per cent sure our gin is way better too.”

The Puss & Mew has been created by York company PurePallets who have inscribed the Perspex with the York Gin cat logos and created the holes for the gin to be poured.