What shall we do with the drunken sailor?

Yo Ho, Ho! (and a bottle of gin)

Did you know that Royal Navy officers received a daily ration of gin until as recently as 1970? In fact, the Royal Navy’s worldwide reach is partly responsible for gin becoming a global drink.  As early as the 18th century, gin became associated with beneficial medical properties, offering cures for a variety of illnesses.  At that time, it became mandatory for Royal Navy vessels to set sail with specific quantities of medicinal gin on board.

Gin commissioning kits

In fact, from the 18th century onwards, all newly commissioned Royal Navy ships received something called a “Gin Commissioning Kit”. This was basically a wooden box. But, open the lid and inside, you would find two bottles of “Navy Strength” gin and accompanying glasses.  This gin tradition lasted for more than 200 years and only ended around 50 years ago.

The invention of the Gimlet

Gin was also used to ward off diseases such as scurvy, which was generally caused by a lack of vitamin C on long sea voyages. To counter this disease, the Royal Navy prescribed lemons as a cure.  After a few years they moved to limes, sourced from the Caribbean. This eventually led to the creation of one of the classic gin cocktails, the Gimlet.

So, thank you Sir Thomas Desmond Gimlette, Royal Navy surgeon, for creating a medicinal drink. Gin to “fortify” and Roses Lime Cordial to “immunise” – a combination that has stood the test of time. 

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