Classic Sundowners

Whether soft or hard or shaken or stirred, these refreshing libations will lift your spirits no matter where you are in the world. From "People and Food" in our August 2008 issue

January 27, 2009

cruising libations 368

This cocktail collection will enlighten any cockpit party. David Norton

When I think of enjoying sun­downers aboard Ithaka, our Shearwater 39, some of my favorite memories are of the evenings when, after a long day of projects, exploring, or fishing with other cruisers, my husband, Douglas, and I would make special cocktails, such as cosmopolitans or martinis, to share with our friends. Here are some of our favorite libations, inspired both by fellow sailors and by some of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been.

Margarita McGee: This drink puts everyone in a party mood and reminds Douglas and me of two people we love, Tom and Lee McGee on Schatze, with whom we enjoyed celebrating Dia de los Muertos, Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday. For each drink, mix 2 ounces tequila, 1 ounce triple sec, and .5 ounce of lime juice. A winning variation by Pete Tatro on Lady Linda, a pretty red cruising tug that traveled with Ithaka on the Intracoastal Waterway in North Carolina, substitutes raspberry-flavored Chambord for the orange-flavored triple sec for delicious results.

Karma’s Inspiration: At the secluded Isla de Providencia, Colombia, Karl Patek, on the Austrian-registered Karma, made this Italian cocktail for us every evening for a week while our two boats were anchored together and he and Douglas worked on Karma’s damaged mainsail. Quarter a lime and place in a glass. With a mortar and pestle or similar device, squeeze down on the lime wedge until pulpy. Leave the lime in the glass, add a teaspoon of sugar, a shot of white rum, ice if you have it, and stir.


Sand Dollar’s Spicy Tomato Juice: Lisa Johnson on Sand Dollar made a tasty discovery after we’d spent several hot hours rehabbing and resewing some old sails for dugouts used by Panama’s Kuna Indians. She used tomato paste, which is usually available everywhere in Latin America, including the teeniest out-of-the-way markets, and made extraordinary Bloody Marys. Pour one small can of tomato paste into a 1-gallon bottle; fill the bottle with water. Add horseradish, celery salt, garlic powder, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce-and any other spices that inspire you-to taste. Chill. Shake before serving. Enjoy a glass as is, or with a splash of vodka.

Jactar’s Spearmint Mojito: Betty and Tom Gibbon on Jactar, with whom we explored the Galapagos Islands, were the inspiration for this one. Easy sugar-water syrup forms the basis of the drink. We’d bought a tiny bottle of spearmint oil before leaving the United States, and it worked out great for this elegant cocktail. Boil 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add 10 drops spearmint oil. Stir and let cool. A bottle of this syrup lasts indefinitely in the fridge, but when cocktail hour rolls around, mix 2 ounces white rum, .5 ounce fresh lime juice, and .5 ounce spearmint syrup per drink. Serve over ice, if available; otherwise keep the ingredients in the fridge so the drink can be served cold.

Cartagena Limeade: Every day in Cartagena, Colombia, when Douglas and I were walking around town doing errands and a cool drink was required, we looked for a street vendor making limonadas. We’d buy a couple of glasses for a few pesos and stand there drinking them down. Then on our way back to Ithaka at the end of the day, we’d stop at Club Nautico, the hangout for cruising sailors, sit for a few minutes to check out the scene, then order fresh limonadas. Making limeade Cartagena style-on board or at home-always brings back sweet memories of that fabulous city and that precious time. To make one large glass of limeade, cut one good-size lime in half or in quarters and toss into either a blender or food processor. Add enough water and sugar to taste. Blend; then pour mixture through a colander into a glass of ice.


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