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A Toast To The Good Life
Posted by Lori Ross - Viewed 79521 times

A Toast To The Good life - Story and Photography by Lori Ross

At 8:30 in the morning, after our bumpy arrival over the finish line outside St. George’s, Bermuda, we anchored our little 30-foot Beneteau inside the protection of St. George’s Harbor, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Jim and I had just sailed from Annapolis, Maryland, in the Bermuda Race – 700 miles of every kind of weather you can imagine -- and we were exhausted, proud, and ecstatic, all at the same time. Just then, a lively group of sailors zipped around the harbor to welcome us and the other arriving boats, and handed us cups of a rich, sweet sparkling mix. Jim and I drank it down like champs. This was 20 years ago, my first taste of a Dark and Stormy (2 oz. Gosling’s Dark Rum, 6 oz. ginger beer, with a twist of lime) and one of the most memorable moments in our boating life! 

As longtime sailors, Jim and I always enjoyed celebratory drinks after long, hot racing days on the Chesapeake. Usually we relaxed at anchor with an icy beer, or a Mt. Gay Rum with tonic and lime at the after-race party. And once we started cruising on sailboats, some of our most pleasant memories are of “movable” cocktail parties, where we rafted up with friends’ boats in protected harbors at the end of the day, and all climbed from boat to boat for nibbles and nips!

Stocking and storing a bar on a sailboat was always a challenge though. On our first Bermuda race, I stowed wine wrapped in towels in the bilge to keep it cool and protect the bottles from breaking. This worked well for a couple of days, until we hit rough weather and got drenched below. Later, after we arrived in Bermuda and I went into my cache, I discovered that all the labels had come off the wine bottles, leaving all my imagined food and wine pairings in chaos. 

Now Jim and I cruise under power, and a whole new world of entertaining has opened up to us. We have plenty of secure stowage for wines, real glasses, napkins, hors d’oeuvres, and mixers; a roomy fridge; a microwave and full oven to heat savory appetizers; an ice maker that keeps the cubes coming; and enough power for real appliances such as the blender, making frozen exotic concoctions such as pina coladas, margaritas, rum runners, vodka lemonade, and daiquiris part of our party repertoire. 


Start with ingredients or basic drinks and, if space permits, bring additional selections. Regular and light beers, as well as non-alcoholic beers, should be part of your inventory, supplemented by local or imported beers for fun. Keep a nice selection of inexpensive and moderately priced wines aboard (I don’t bother trying to keep better vintage wines for fear of sedimentation, breakage and temperature changes). Look for fresh, fruity reds and whites from California, , , , , , and southern . We also stock one bottle each of these spirits: gin, vodka, rum, Scotch, tequila, whiskey (bourbon or Irish), dry vermouth, sweet vermouth, Triple Sec. For garnishes, I keep olives, cocktail onions, and maraschino cherries aboard, as well as the following:

  • Still Mixers: 1 case bottled water, 1 large bottle or can each of lemon, lime, tomato, cranberry, grapefruit, and orange juice
  • Sparkling mixers: 1 case each – tonic, seltzer, a mix of regular and diet cola, a mix of 7Up/Sprite and ginger ale
  • Fresh Fruit: lemons, limes (and possibly oranges, berries, mango, pineapple, and bananas in season for blender drinks)
  • Canned Fruit: pineapple, coconut cream
  • Dry or bottled mixes if space permits: margarita, pina colada, sour mix (or see how to make your own below), bitters
  • Double-duty ingredients from the galley, Tabasco , Worcestershire sauce, and horseradish

 With the bar stocked as I’ve described, you can make a wide variety of drinks, including:

1.  Martinis and Manhattans: Vodka or gin martini or Gibson (2.5 oz. spirits with optional ½ oz. vermouth, garnished with olives, onions or citrus); Gimlet (2 oz. spirit with ½ oz. Rose’s lime juice and lime garnish); Cosmopolitan (3 oz. spirits with dash of lime, cranberry, and
triple sec ); Perfect Manhattan (2 oz. whiskey with ¼  oz. each of dry and sweet vermouth); Rob Roy (2 oz. scotch replaces whiskey)


A well-stocked bar, easy to maintain on a typical modern power cruiser,
allows cruisers and their guests to enjoy their favorite drinks in attractive,
appealing presentations


Ahhh, the flavors of a pina colada. Mount Gay rum is our favorite,
owing, perhaps to it’s tropical origins in . Coconut milk
from a can provides authentic refreshing flavor. As for the pineapple,
canned is suitable (and easy to store), but fresh is even tastier.

2.  Tiki drinks: Create a festive atmosphere of island breezes for your next onboard get-together by making a pitcher of one of the following -- pina colada, daiquiri, margarita, cosmo, sangria, or frozen fruit punch. Here are some sample recipes: Daiquiri (2 oz. rum, 1 oz. lime juice, 1 tsp. sugar on ice); Frozen Daiquiri (to the previous recipe, add one cup of ice and a little water in blender, or vary taste by adding ½ cup fresh strawberries, peaches, banana, or pineapple). Margarita (1.5 oz. tequila, ½ oz. Triple Sec, ½ oz. lime juice, 3 oz. sour mix on ice with lime garnish and salt on rim of glass). Frozen Margarita (to previous recipe, add one cup of ice in blender, ½ oz. of Grand Marnier or Blue Curacao, or ½ cup of fresh berries). 

3.  Vodka, Gin or Rum Lemonades: In a tall glass filled with 2 parts lemon or lime juice to 1-1/2 part sugar, pour 2 oz. vodka or gin. For a frozen version, add to one cup of ice in blender. Make pink, blue or red lemonade by adding ½ cup strawberries, blueberries or ½ oz. cranberry juice.

4.  Fruit Drinks: In addition to vodka, gin, rum, or whiskey in a tall glass filled with fruit juice(s) on ice, and fruit garnishes, try one of
these festive refreshments: Madras (vodka with equal parts cranberry and OJ); Sea Breeze (vodka with equal parts cranberry and 
grapefruit juice); Screwdriver (vodka or rum and OJ);  Polo (gin with OJ and lemon or grapefruit juice). 

5.  Non-Alcoholic Drinks: Always offer guests non-alcohol versions of any drinks you’re serving, and present them with all the same flourish and fun garnishes. This works especially well with the fruit drinks, bloodies, frozen lemonades, daiquiris, margaritas, and sours.   

6.  Wine Spritzers: When it’s really hot outside, and a cold refreshment is just what’ll fill the bill, offer a cold non-alcoholic beverage first, to whet the whistle. Or, instead of a glass of wine, offer an ice-cold white wine and seltzer (half and half) served in a wine glass. Your guests will drink less alcohol, and feel less tired as the evening rocks along.

Should you have space or inclination, the following dessert wines and liqueurs, alone or mixed with cream or coffee, are lovely endings to a long day on the water: Amaretto, Frangelica or other liqueurs; Bailey's or other cream liqueurs; brandy or cognac; fruit liqueurs (melon, raspberry, cherry, peach, banana, coconut); ice wine or sauternes; Madeira, port or sherry.


Cocktails before dinner should stimulate the appetite, not spoil it, so serve refreshments that are light rather than anything sweet or cream based. Time dinner so that you have enough leisure to enjoy some light nibbles -- nuts, cheese straws, canapés or cheese – and one round of cocktails.

A cocktail party with heavier hors d’oeuvres offers the opportunity to expand bar offerings to creamy, sweet or more complicated drinks without fear of ruining the appetite for a large meal to follow. At such an onboard soiree, offer a wider range of foods  – charcuterie; cheese and fruit platters; seafood; breads and sweets (see “Hors D’Oeuvres” column  in the April 2004 issue of PassageMaker Magazine). Also, be sure to offer bottled water for guests to enjoy between cocktails throughout the evening.

I prefer glassware to plastic – even on the boat. Nothing expensive, but I always like wine glasses with a thin lip, a large bowl that tapers at the top and a stem just long enough to prevent your hand from touching the bowl and changing the temperature of the wine.  For highball glasses, I like weighted bases and a fine lip. However, since we only have space for eight wine glasses and eight mixed tall and short glasses on Seaworthy, I do carry clear plastic disposable cups for use when glasses run out. 

Supplies and bar tools that we keep aboard include: lightweight plastic and wooden trays in neutral colors; attractive paper napkins; plastic serving ware; corkscrews; bottle/can openers; paring knife and small cutting board for garnishes; corks/keepers for open wine bottles; small paper plates, coasters and fancy toothpicks; drink decorations (flamingo stirrers, paper umbrellas, glass olive picks); stainless-steel shaker with strainer; and a blender or food processor for frozen drinks.

Tucking Your Stock Safely Away

Happily, power cruising boats offer lots of safe storage space for bottles and cans. I’ve had great success storing bottled beer, juices and spirits for months in hot climates on the boat.  However, soda and wine need a little more care in storage.  Canned soda exposed to significant heat tends to lose flavor and “fizziness” – sometimes the cans develop small holes and the soda evaporates.  In addition, diet soda with aspartame or NutraSweet loses its sweetness when exposed to temperatures above 90 degrees (whether in cans, plastic or glass containers). 


Wine must also be protected from excessive heat or it can “pop its cork” and make a terrible mess. Wine will survive when stored at temperatures between 40 and 85 degrees fahrenheit. However, stowing wine aboard for many months at a time is unwise.  Last year, we left our Grand Banks 42 in Miami for the winter and discovered that some wines we stored in a dry bilge in the master stateroom were still fine after 3 months -- no loss in flavor or clarity. They were a mix of whites and reds, wrapped in plastic bags then rolled in towels and stored horizontally to keep the cork moist. The temperature was between 75-85 degrees most days but the wines’ position under the waterline in the bilge kept them about 10 degrees cooler. These were young and inexpensive wines from ... and , rather than older, more delicate fine wines.

 Raising A Glass, Together

Moderation in all things is a virtue, and of course this is true with alcohol on boats. So don’t over serve your guests; be generous, but don’t make the drinks too strong; and don’t drink and drive. Most boaters think of collisions as the greatest threat when drinking on the water, in fact, passenger falls on-board or overboard and missteps at the dock or getting into the dinghy, are a much greater threat when drinking afloat.  For more information, go to

Remember, the joy of cocktails – whether simple or fancy --  is usually not in the drink itself; moreover, it’s in the company you keep -- your family, your friends, and the new friends you make on a cruise. Basking in the rays of the setting sun with friends and loved ones at the end of a day on the water, and sharing good conversation, is one of the highlights of the cruising lifestyle. Enjoy those moments in good health, and as they toast in , “Banzai!” -- may you live a thousand years!


 A variety of refreshing beverages can play a starring role in
onboard entertaining.

Pina Colada Night: Combine 2 oz. light rum; 2 T. cream of coconut; ½ cup fresh or canned pineapple or strawberries, or chopped kiwi fruit; place in blender with ½ cup ice and a little water and blend until smooth.

Bloody Bar: Host a “Bloody Bar” with all the ingredients for Bloody Marys, Bloody Josephines (scotch), Bloody Marias (tequila), Bloody Mariselas (light rum), Bloody Mollys (Irish Whiskey) and Virgin Marys. Basic Bloody Mary: 2 oz. vodka; 4-6 oz. Bloody Mary Mix, Spicy Tomato Juice or Tomato Juice; 1 tsp. horseradish; 3 dashes each of Tabasco or other hot sauce; dash of Worcestershire; dash of celery salt; fresh cracked pepper; squeeze of lime; garnish with celery stalk, spring onion, fresh herbs, cucumber or lemon slice.

Sangria Rosso or Sangria Blanca Party: Mix up a batch of white or red sangria by combining two bottles of white or red wine (or white or red cranberry juice for non-alcohol versions); 3 oz. Triple Sec; 2 oz. brandy; ½ cup orange juice; ¼ cup lemon juice; ¼ cup sugar; 2 oz. water; stir until sugar dissolves; add slices of orange, lemon, lime, apple, kiwi and strawberries (add seltzer to make it a sangria spritzer).


My greatest fear with wine on the boat is breakage when we’re underway in rough weather. I prefer plastic bottles of soda, water and juice, keep cans and bottles in their original cardboard containers, and stow them under the settee where we have two huge empty bins. (Note: if you’re buying cartons outside the , never bring the cartons onboard your boat; they might carry roaches). I store bottles of spirits and wines we’ll drink in the next several days in our main-salon bar, which has wooden dividers to keep bottles and glasses from touching while underway. I place the remaining wine tightly packed in the bilge (putting each bottle into a sock works well). Two years ago, on our return trip from the Chesapeake Bay Grand Banks rendezvous in October, the weather was so rough that we lost the swim platform off the stern. However, we didn’t lose any spirits – all was secure below.

Proper stowage and care techniques mean
you and your guests can enjoy favorite wines
from your home port. You don’t have to settle
for whatever is available where and when you
shop for provisions!

Sours and Spritzers: Vodka, gin, whiskey, rum sours (2 oz. spirits in tall glass filled with sour mix ice and dash of lime, lemon or OJ, with a citrus garnish); Spritzers (2 oz. spirits in tall glass filled with seltzer water, juice of ½ lime, with citrus garnish); Collins (2 oz spirits in tall glass filled with sour mix, and splash of seltzer, with orange and cherry garnish). To make your own sour mix, use 2 parts lemon or lime juice, 2 parts water and 1 part sugar and stir well until sugar dissolves.

A Toast To The Good Life  - Story and Photography by Lori Ross

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