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  • Writer's pictureSarah

Craft Gin Cruise on the Thames on a sunny Saturday

We absolutely loved the Craft Beer Cruise on the Thames that we sailed on in July, so it was without hesitation that we accepted the invitation to try the Craft Gin Cruise which is run by the same passionate group of people.

One of the gin stations.  Man behind a table with 3 different bottles of gin in front of him
One of the gin stations. We particularly liked the Colonsay gin

The cruise is set up with four gin stations, each with 2 or 3 gins and garnishes and tonics. We were given a sheet with tasting notes which explained the botanicals in the gins, and suggested the perfect serves. i.e. which tonic and which garnish to pair with each particular gin.

Old and new London - these were once spice warehouses, the 'Gherkin' is in the background
Old and new London - these were once spice warehouses

We also had the pleasure of Simon, a gin expert, coming to chat about all things gin. I hadn't realised that the UK makes 1700 gins. The US is the next most diverse producer with 700.

Hogath's 'Gin Lane' from an exhibition at Tate Britain
Hogath's 'Gin Lane' from an exhibition at Tate Britain

Simon discussed with us whether Hogarth's famous painting of 'Gin Lane' was a moral judgment on the working classes by the rich, and whether many botanicals were actually used in home-made 'bath tub' gin. That was one to ponder as we passed the old spice warehouses (which are now very expensive flats) in Wapping.

Our favourite story from Simon was how 'Old Tom' gin got it's name. This slightly sweeter style of gin purportedly got its name from wooden plaques shaped like a black cat (an "Old Tom") mounted on the outside wall of some pubs. The British government tried to stem the flow of gin with prohibitive taxes and licensing, which drove the scene underground. Under the cat's paw sign were a slot to put money in, and a lead tube. Simon said that punters would meow under the sign, put their money in the slot and from the tube would come a shot of gin, poured by the bartender inside the pub - the first vending machine?

Ben, the distiller of Campfire gins was also on board showcasing his range of gins. After sampling each of them (don't judge us!) with Ben passionately explaining how he makes each of them, we both purchased a bottle of the cask aged gin. This gin is matured in American oak barrels previously used for Bourbon, and has a wonderful depth of flavour as a result.

This was an incredibly friendly and fun trip, we chatted to lots of other happy (merry) cruisers and everyone said that they'd recommend it to their friends.

Where does The Craft Gin Cruise go from?

Lambeth Pier, close to Lambeth Place and Lambeth Bridge (we walked from Waterloo Station, but there are also a couple of buses that go from Waterloo). Our trip returned to Westminster as the tide was too high for the boat to get under Westminster Bridge and onto Lambeth. How far the cruise goes along the river depends on the tides, we got as far as Deptford to the East, passing the historic sites and pubs mentioned in our previous post.

Above: The Prospect of Whitby, The Captain Kidd, Lambeth Palace

How long does it last?

2 and a half hours

How much does it cost?

£44 per person

What does that include?

The price includes 4 gins, unlimited mixers and garnishes, and your glass to take home. The gins are from different craft distillers each cruise. Your wristband is marked is each time you are served a gin. You can purchase additional wrist bands on board - we saw a group of four do this between them, so that they could have one additional drink each.

Is there food available?

There are curated cheese boards from Neal's Yard, and charcuterie plates from Crown & Queue Meats, and some lovely looking sausage rolls from Langham Foods.

When is it on?

It takes place every Saturday from mid-May to mid-October. There are 2 cruises each day, the first departs at 12.30 p.m. and the second at 3.30 p.m. The Craft Gin Cruise is the earlier departure followed by the Craft Beer Cruise on the second sailing.

Are there other types of cruise available?

Yes, there are Craft Beer, and Craft Cider cruises.

How do I book?

Via the Website



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