Mahon Gin: How Xoriguer Teaches the History of Menorca

By Abi King | Food

May 04

Love Spain photos- Menorca

Menorca threw several surprises my way last week. Wild flowers, for one, with fields flush with poppies, violets and periwinkles all dancing like hippies in the sun. There were bronze age settlements for another, and olive oil-soaked cheese, cured lovingly by hand and made from milk gathered freshly that morning.

With Spain, I’d expected tortilla and wine, sunshine and fiestas. And for that, the island did not disappoint.

But most of all, Menorca surprised me with gin.

It wasn’t just that I hadn’t expected shots of the clear stuff to appear in Spain (unlike cerveza, rioja and fino sherry, for example.)

Nor was it discovering the word “ginlet,” a thimbleful of the neat gin that kickstarts Menorcan men the old fashioned way.

No, it was a combination of the island’s pride and the swimming spiral trip down the rabbit hole of history that truly took me by surprise.

For one, who knew that gin was invented by the Dutch?(And since I had no idea who had invented it, why should any answer surprise me?)

You may be interested in 7 Unusual Things To Do in Menorca

The History of Gin in Britain

Gin spread to Britain through William and Mary of Orange and apparently British soldiers sipped it on the eve of battle at Antwerp, leading to the phrase  “dutch courage.”

In tropical regions, colonial Brits found that the “tonic” for malaria (bitter quinine with carbonated water) tasted far better with a hefty splash of gin.

Meanwhile, back in Blighty, gin became the drink of the poor, due to strange tax laws leading to “gin joints” and “mother’s ruin” as the phrases we know today. Heck, there were even riots when the government attempted to reign in the gin.

Mahon Harbour in Menorca from @insidetravellab

But what has all of that to do with the Balearic island of Menorca?

As the proud owner of the largest natural harbour in Europe, Menorca made a great base. And the British Naval Fleet moved in…

Boat in Mahon

…bringing with them the habit of gin.

Recommended reading: 27 Ways Food and Travel Go Together (Not just for “Foodies”)

The History of Gin in Menorca

Lord Nelson’s long since gone but, as is often the case with these curious tales of forced cultural exchange, the culture remains.

Menorca, unlike much of the rest of Spain, prides itself on gin.

But, of course, it’s gin with a Menorcan twist.

Menorcan Gin Distillery

Xoriguer Gin Distillery, Menorca

The Xoriguer gin distillery overlooks the edge of the harbour that brought the drink to its shores. It showcases bronze pipes that reach up and around and down in the distillery process and offers juniper berries you can hold in your hand (it’s those berries that give the drink both its name and flavour.)

And at the end, after tasting the infamous Mahon Xoriguer gin, you can find new flavours – ranging from chocolate to peppermint to turpentine.

And if you close your eyes (under the influence of said gin) I’ll swear you can taste the flavour of history.

[box]Pomada: an island drink made from Menorcan gin and cloudy lemonade[/box]

Gin Sorbet in Menorca

Even the sorbet comes flavoured with gin here…At the highly recommended El Trebol restaurant nearby

Disclosure – I travelled to Menorca as part of a project between iAmbassador and Visit Menorca. As ever, as always, I’m free to write what I like – and drink however much gin I like too. As ever, as always. Hic!


* Now it’s even easier than ever to to get to Menorca with EasyJet’s new London Southend to Mahon Menorca route



About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more.

  • De'Jav says:

    Never knew that Menorca was known for its Gin. The cloudy lemonade looks like it can be refreshing on a hot day.

  • Claire Robinson says:

    You had me at Gin. Now Menorca is on my hit list. Thanks Abi, I love your writing :)

    • Abi says:

      Mwaha! And thank you ;-) Menorca was a beautiful surprise – highly recommended.

  • >