Out of the 3 largest Balearic Islands, Ibiza and Mallorca have gained themselves reputations as international party destinations over the last few decades. Famous DJs and hundreds of European youths swarm to areas such as San Antonio and Magaluf every summer for copious amounts of alcohol and crazy all night parties. Little sibling Menorca, on the other hand, is much more well known as a quieter family destination, with its beautiful clear beaches, hiking routes and historic towns. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a few drinks there too.
On my recent trip, I think I was just as taken back as most about Menorca’s secret alcohol scene. With its charming wineries, port-side gin distilleries and cliff-face bars, Menorca is definitely not a place to come on a detox!
As a Mediterranean Island, wine production has been a significant part of Menorcan history. Records show that wine was being produced as far back as the 13th-century, and in 1231 King James I was presented with a bottle of Menorcan wine by the Moors that were occupying the island at that time. Wine production saw a particular period of growth in the 18th-century when British ships would stock up with wine from the Port of Mahon during the British occupation of Menorca. Unfortunately, in the 19th-century, a disease spread across the island attacking the vines and consequently wiping out the entire industry for many years. It is only in the last 25 years that commercial wine production has once again picked up in Menorca, and in 2002 local wines were awarded the quality ensured geographical denomination of ‘Vi de la Terra Illa de Menorca’.
Not too dissimilar to the 18th-century influx of Brits snatching up all of the wine in sight, Menorca is still a great holiday destination for wine lovers. Whether you’re sunbathing by a hotel pool, sitting in the evening sun at a bar on Mahon harbour or enjoying dinner in one of the islands beautiful wineries, any trip to Menorca would be incomplete without trying a glass… or ten!
Bodegas Binifadet is a beautiful winery in Sant Lluis on the East of the Island. Here you can enjoy some local cuisine and wine on the enchanting terrace, watching over the vines as the sun sets. The food menu is carefully designed so that all of the dishes either compliment the wine, especially the local cheeses and meats, or is cooked using the wine, such as the Chardonnay sauce, wine-jams and wine-based ice-creams. You can also go on a tour of the winery to learn more about the local production process.
Binifadet is a charming little spot to enjoy a romantic al fresco dinner away from the hustle and bustle of the larger towns and tourist spots.
Gin was first invented by the Dutch but quickly became popular with the Brits during the time of British colonisation. During the 18th-century, British ships used the Port of Mahon as a base and consequently introduced gin to the island. Since then it has become a somewhat iconic part of the island’s culture. It is even claimed that some residents start their day with a thimble of gin to get them going!
Xoriguer Gin Distillery
At Xoriguer Gin Distillery, which overlooks the harbour which brought the spirit to the island’s shores, you can taste the distinctively aromatic Menorcan gin whilst learning more about the distilling process. You can also sample some of the other local spirits such as coffee, chocolate and banana liqueurs. Just make sure you’ve lined your stomach with a big meal beforehand or you may leave a little worse for wear after your 9th shot!
Cova d’en Xoroi
Hidden in a cave on the South coast of Menorca is what may well be one of the coolest bars on the planet!
Set in the cliff face overlooking the ocean, Cova d’en Xoroi has several extravagant outdoor terraces to watch the sunset from, whilst inside the chic bar later transforms into a nightclub with live DJs and a central dancefloor. If there’s one place to enjoy some gin in Menorca this has to be it! We were recommended the Pomada by the bar staff – a popular Menorcan drink made by mixing local gin with cloudy lemonade. Very refreshing in the warm evening sun.
The dramatic setting, cool vibe and spectacular views out across the Mediterranean makes this unique bar one to add to the bucket list.
In case you were wondering, this is the legend behind the cave and its name…
Xoroi, a man from an unknown past, came from the sea, nobody knows how, perhaps the sole survivor from some shipwreck, and found refuge in the cave.
Then, the surrounding houses in the countryside were often robbed. From one of these houses, a young woman about to be married disappeared.The months and the years went by…
Nothing more was known of the missing girl.One day in the winter, the island was blanketed by unexpected snow. In the snow tell tale footprints appeared.
Armed men following the imprints went down into the Cave. There, in the cavern, they found a man, a woman and three sons, the fruit of their love.
Xoroi, on seeing himself sorrounded and powerless, threw himself into the sea followed by his eldest son.The sea that had brought him, closed over them both, guarding the mistery of his life.
Inconsolable, the woman and her two sons were taken to Alaior where they carried on with the rest of their lives, they and their descendents after them.