G&T’s on the High Seas: The Gin Revolution in Cruise
Gin has a place in maritime history as a cure-all for Navy Officers. Believed to be a cure for scurvy, and able to prevent malaria, Navy-strength gin (57% ABV or stronger) rations were only abolished as recently as 1970. Nowadays, gin is a massively popular beverage, with UK-based distilleries at the head of the renaissance – in 2019, UK gin exports grew to £612 million, more than double that of 2010. Always sure to be at the head of the hospitality game, the cruise industry has picked up on the popularity of gin, expanding their offerings in a number of ways. Take a look below…
P&O Iona – the first gin distillery at sea
Originally due to launch with Ionafest in May 2020 (delayed due to COVID-19), P&O Iona was set to sail from Southampton with 5200 guests and 1800 crew to destinations in Northern and Western Europe. Amongst her 14 restaurants and 19 bars and cafes, Iona will be the first cruise ship with an onboard gin distillery. To develop the concept, P&O teamed up with Salcombe Distilling Company (SDCo), a gin company with a maritime history. SDCo’s namesake is a small town in South-West England famous for its past shipyard industry.
As well as being responsible for installing the first distillery at sea, SDCo will also develop a unique gin that will be distilled, bottled, and labelled on board Iona. Speaking to Inside Food and Drink at the time of the announcement last year, co-founder of SDCo Angus Lugsdin said:
Salcombe will also be creating a masterclass experience for guests in a similar vein to their Gin School, developing the experience around the concept of making the sea the star.
Cunard Gin & Fizz
Located in the middle of Cunard Queen Victoria is the Midships Lounge, where the cruise passenger can find Gin & Fizz, a stylish bar almost solely dedicated to gin. Gin & Fizz’s menu features 40 varieties of gin and 13 tonics. Among these is the strongest gin to be found at sea, Pickering’s Navy Strength, coming in at 57.1% ABV, and the 3 Queens Gins. Named for Cunard’s three ‘Queen’ ships and distilled by Pickering’s in Edinburgh, the gins feature botanicals themed to each ships destinations. This manifests as: ‘A Hint of the Mediterranean’ for Queen Victoria, flavoured with blood orange, lemon myrtle, and olive leaf; ‘A Hint of the Americas’ for Queen Mary 2, infused with apple, cinnamon, and cherry accompanied by pine and raspberry leaf; and ‘A Hint of the Orient’ for Queen Elizabeth, with notes of lotus root, star anise, kaffir lime leaf, and cardamom.
Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2 – the largest gin selection at sea
The Collins Bar on Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2, named for the famous Tom Collins gin cocktail, is ‘the perfect backdrop for the perfect drink’. A 2018 Facebook post from Hapag-Lloyd boasts the largest collection of gin at sea, with 45 different gins and ‘140 ways to have a gin and tonic’. The most popular combination on Europa 2, according to Hapag-Lloyd, is the Monkey 47 gin with Fentimans tonic. The Monkey 47 is made with 47 botanicals, including cranberries local to Germany’s Black Forest, while the Fentimans is an English tonic brewed with herbal infusions and lemongrass extract.
As part of the onboard experience, guests partake in free gin tastings, where they learn about the origins and ingredients of five or six different gins.