On Her Majesty’s Yacht

Now that we’re firmly into the new year, it seems that not much has changed from the last where the intriguing lifestyle of the royals is concerned. Not even the striking and demonstrations here in Paris seem to distract us much from the unsparing (get it?) publicity efforts of Meghan and Harry.

Last year saw the queen’s passing, and some of us slogged through the cringe-worthy Netflix mini-series Harry & Meghan. And the attention-grabbing couple hasn’t slowed down: Harry’s book Spare has topped best-seller lists. In January alone, the New York Times featured sixteen articles about the royals. Sixteen!

The crown

Among the plethora of royal ogling viewing opportunities available in the past months was the latest season of The Crown, which I finally sat down to watch. The season’s first episode plunged me back in time to the day I was invited onto Her Majesty’s Yacht Brittania. It all started back in college, when I got roped into becoming a French major.
Dark and Stormy and Her Majesty's Yacht Brittania
It was a little like the origin story of the Parisian restaurant Le Sergent Recruteur: an army sergeant would get young guys drunk in his local watering hole on the Ile Saint Louis. After so many drinks, those boys couldn’t see straight, and the wily sergeant would put a pen in their hand so they would sign on the dotted line. The guys would wake up the next day with a blinding hangover only to discover they’d been punked: unwittingly recruited into the armed forces.

(Nowadays, Le Sergent Recruteur is one of my favorite Michelin-starred restaurants, where I took these pictures, and where the kind bartender recently made me a Dark and Stormy.)

Dark and Stormy and Her Majesty's Yacht Brittania

Hi! I’m Allison, and I’m an Edutainer working in French food, culture, history, and art. If you’re a gastro-curious traveler or learner, I’m here to show you the A to Z of French food and culture!

Dark and Stormy and Her Majesty's Yacht Brittania
Dark and Stormy and Her Majesty's Yacht Brittania
Dark and Stormy and Her Majesty's Yacht Brittania

French West Indies

In my case, getting punked was a lot more fun, and almost as educational as the army. I remember the day our professeur asked us in class, “Who would be interested in a new study abroad program in the French West Indies?”

I was so excited I raised both hands! But when I did, I sold my soul to the diable: in exchange for going on the program I had to declare French as my major. I’m guessing there are worse deals.

There were eight of us on the flight bound for Fort-de-France, Martinique. For 4 months we each lived with a local family, and my hosts were fervent gourmands. Dinners at home were downright royal: over several courses each evening, I learned to eat typically continental specialties like gratinéed ham with endives or lentil salad, as well as Martinican dishes such as succulent conch stew or flambéed bananas, heady with rum.
Dark and Stormy and Her Majesty's Yacht Brittania

Very white men

On weekends, the other girls and I would go on island outings to places like Les Trois Ilets, a yacht-lover’s bay at the south end of the island. We’d hit the beach, roll out our towels, and – in what I like to call the good old bad old days – we’d douse ourselves in oil and “lay out” for hours.
We’d always punctuate our tanning time with swims. Once, while floating out a little farther from shore than was probably safe, my friend and I were accosted by three very white men, who greeted us in the best received pronunciation I’d ever heard. They politely sputtered, “Do you speak English?” This was truly a first: being hit on while swimming! But what did I have to lose? We were literally in over our heads.
Dark and Stormy and Her Majesty's Yacht Brittania

The royal yacht

The attempt at an offshore pick-up was brave indeed. We decided to continue the conversation on shore: I learned that Richard, Kevin, and Aubrey were professional sailors, on the royal family’s private yacht, the Brittania. And would we care to come aboard for a tour later that afternoon? We most certainly would!


Before boarding, our young imaginations ran wild (and a little scared), but the yachtsmen were perfect gentleman. They showed us not to the queen’s private quarters, but to the sailors’ lounge, which was comfortable and full of intriguing royal family photos. I remember quite distinctly thinking that I’d love to meet Prince Edward…. Prince William and Harry were boys then!

Dark and Stormy, without the heels

The best part of our visit? The sailors served (and re-served) us their favorite drink: Dark and Stormy. The drink is named for the ginger beer that swirls through the glass, and it’s infused with pulpy lime juice. Despite the name, it’s cheery and piquant with ginger.

Just one tip based on personal experience with drinking cocktails on a yacht: avoid the combination of Dark and Stormy, 3-inch heels, and a steep gangplank!

Dark and Stormy

“Dark ‘n Stormy” is a cocktail trademarked by Gosling, the company which established its rum-producing business in Bermuda in 1806. In the late 19th century, as rumor would have it, an English-style ginger beer bottling plant opened in Bermuda exclusively for Royal Navy members’ consumption.

This is a recipe in two parts, which is simplified quite easily by buying ginger beer, now available in most supermarkets. It used to be that Old Jamaica was the most widely-available brand of ginger beer, but here in Paris it’s now easy to find French brands like Gingeur or La French SVP.

If you want to experiment instead of using commercial ginger beer, try this recipe for a tingly “ginger potion” which comes highly recommended by a singer friend of mine who makes it and then and drinks it on its own before gigs to soothe and prime her throat.

for the cocktail:

  • plenty of ice cubes
  • zest and juice from ½ lime, separated (or to taste; less if using ginger potion recipe below)
  • 9 ounces (270 ml) ginger potion OR commercially available ginger beer
  • 3 healthy dashes Angostura bitters (optional)
  • 3 ounces (90 ml) amber, dark, or black rum
  • lime wheels or wedges for decor and metal or bamboo straws

for the ginger potion:

  • 3 tablespoons peeled, grated ginger root (approx. one 4-inch piece)
  • zest and juice from ½ lime
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • ¼ cup (about 60 g) raw cane sugar (also sold as turbinado or demerara sugar)
  • 1-inch piece of vanilla bean
  • 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
  • 1 cup (240 ml) soda water, club soda, or sparkling water

special equipment: a clean jar or other wide-mouthed container which can be closed tightly

how to make it:

  1. A day before you want to make the cocktail, make the ginger potion. Put the grated ginger root into the jar. Add the lime zest and juice, cloves, cardamom pods, and sugar.
  2. Using a knife or scissors, split the vanilla bean lengthwise on one side. Open it up, and scrape all the sticky vanilla seeds into the jar. Some of the vanilla will stick to your fingers, so try to get as much of that into the jar. Then throw in the cleaned-out vanilla bean with the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Add the boiling water, let cool slightly, and then close the jar. Let the potion cool in a sunny place if possible, shaking the jar occasionally to mix the ingredients. When cool, transfer the jar to the refrigerator and let the ingredients macerate overnight.
  4. The following day, strain the ginger potion into a pitcher with a top and keep refrigerated. When you’re ready to serve it, add the sparkling, soda, or tonic water.
  5. To mix the cocktail, fill a highball glass to the top with ice cubes. (And if you want to nerd out on ice, check out 52 Martinis’ home hacks and tips for better cocktail ice here.)
  6. Pour in the lime juice (reserve the zest), the ginger potion or beer, and the bitters if using them.
  7. Finally, pour the rum over the other ingredients carefully, to make a layered effect. Some of the rum will seep down into the other ingredients, creating a swirled effect not unlike storm clouds… Voilà, the name of the drink!
  8. Decorate with a sprinkling of the lime zest, lime wheels or wedges for decor and metal or bamboo straws (read here to find out why single-use plastics are being systematically phased out in France since 2021). Bonne dégustation!

for 2 cocktails; ginger potion recipe makes 2 cups (about 470 ml)

Dark and Stormy and Her Majesty's Yacht Brittania
Dark and Stormy and Her Majesty's Yacht Brittania
Dark and Stormy and Her Majesty's Yacht Brittania
Dark and Stormy and Her Majesty's Yacht Brittania