Of Cocktails and Kayak Trips

by Nancy Soares on December 23, 2013

Editor’s note: We at the Tsunami Rangers website hope that you and yours have a very Merry Christmas! And a Whoopee, er, that’s Happy New Year!

Tsunami Rangers and friends gather round the fire to enjoy cocktails on retreat

Tsunami Rangers and friends gather round the fire to enjoy cocktails on retreat

There may be teetotalling sea kayakers out there but I don’t know any. Booze and the sea just go together. Yo ho ho! and a bottle of rum! In the spirit of the holidays, I’d like to discuss cocktails, specifically the kind you take on a kayak expedition.

My cocktail of choice, the martini, won’t do for expeditions because of the ice factor. Don’t even suggest a warm *choke* martini. On the other hand, tequila in Baja seems obvious because it’s cheap and readily available and you could conceivably make Margaritas. A warm Margarita wouldn’t be as nasty as a warm martini, and tequila is always A Good Thing.

No, actually, I DON'T have a drinking problem...

No, actually, I DON’T have a drinking problem…

For expeditions my choice is Scotch. Whiskey can be drunk straight or with a dab of water. Oban is my favorite but at $80 a bottle not economical. Inexpensive choices would be Haig & Haig Pinch and Chevas; for Irish, Bushmill’s. Wine is good, especially red. Tsunami Ranger Scott Becklund brought a nice Kendall Jackson Pinot Noir on the 2012 retreat.

Master wilderness chef TR Scott Becklund keeps and eye on his halibut

Master wilderness chef TR Scott Becklund keeps an eye on his halibut

Rum of course was the go to alcohol for sailors and pirates in times past. I know Fat Paddler likes his Zacapa, as do I. Rum straight is good if it’s quality stuff. I don’t think many kayakers go for rum drinks when they’re kayaking, though. Again, the issue of ice and mixers. I have tried canned Pina Coladas and call me a purist but I thought they were pretty disgusting.

So what else have we got? I asked the Rangers to tell me about their favorite alcohol to bring on retreats and expeditions.

John Lull: Well, for a multi-day trip, it’s hard to beat the versatility of a fine brandy or cognac. It can go in your afternoon coffee or straight out of the bottle around the campfire at night. And a little goes a long way, so one good-sized bottle can do. My other favorite would be top-quality tequila, which is a great aperitif or just fine for sipping and drinking anytime. A fabulous port is excellent for dessert. And of course a good bottle of red wine goes well with the late-afternoon hors d’oeuvres (aka ‘whore’s ovaries’) or at dinner time. But wine is really best on a single-day or one-night trip because you can’t take enough to last on a longer camping trip. Best of all would be a chilled Ketel One martini, but unfortunately that’s pretty hard to arrange on a camping trip unless you’re in the arctic, so that’s out. Most important of all is to always take the ‘top shelf’ booze; none of that rot-gut stuff for me.

Maker's Mark is also a good choice

Maker’s Mark is also a good choice

Steve King: On kayak retreats I always bring tequila; it is warming, and it’s a stimulant (unlike other alcohol).  I like anejo Fortaleza, one of the best in the world! No need for mixers or salt or nada. Also a bottle called “8” – very, very good.

On my first Tsunami retreat I brought a bottle of Cuervo reserva de la familia anejo, a very great bottle. We pulled it out as soon as we landed on the beach, passed it around and drained it in about 15 minutes! Several people then had naps in the sun!

TR's Steve King and Michael Powers enjoy their cocktails after a long day kayaking

TR’s Steve King and Michael Powers enjoy their cocktails after a long day kayaking

Deb Volturno: Most preferred by me is a fine sipping tequila! Choices are unlimited though, and have included fine sipping whiskey, scotch, rum, brandy, calvados, grappa, and port. Weather can be helpful in determining the best choice of spirits. Cold arctic circle temperatures in Norway beg for something very different from a steamy Mediterranean day at sea.   

TR Deb Volturno and Paula Renouf - only the best for these kayakers!

TR Deb Volturno and Paula Renouf – only the best for these kayakers!

Don Kiesling: That would be Scotch. I like it because it has very powerful flavors – in addition to powerful alcohol – and with the taste buds being enhanced while camping, it’s really mind blowing. Also, typically only about half of the folks on a retreat want to share the Scotch, meaning there’s more for those of us who do enjoy it!

TR Don Kiesling negotiates a suckhole on the Mendo coast. A jigger of Scotch will go down well after this!

TR Don Kiesling negotiates a suckhole on the Mendo coast. A jigger of Scotch will go down well after this!

Scott Becklund: When on dive and kayaking trips I love to bring good brandy in my flask. It feels right for most days and doesn’t get in the way of drinking wine with dinner. Although I am particularly fond of hot buttered rum. Our good friend Larry would bring a Thermos or two to the beach for any surf, play or dive day. Yum! I’m off to go mix a Vodka Pellegrino with lime right now. 

Flask are good!

Flasks are good!

Eric Soares: Eric was partial to Scotch on both land and sea. Being part Portagee, he also loved port. He often brought a bottle on retreats. Fonseca was one of his favorites because that is the name of his Azorean relatives. Eric was proud of his Portuguese heritage.

Classic. Commander Soares on retreat.

Commander Soares on retreat. Classic.

Misha Dynnikov: Lastly I’d like to mention Misha’s Mead. Eric devoted a short section of his book Confessions of a Wave Warrior to Misha’s Mead – it was that special. Briefly, Misha’s mead was a home-made potion called schizandra. Misha showed up on one of the retreats swimming in from the surf naked carrying only a 2-gallon jar of this stuff. Everyone drank the mead. Apparently it was somewhat hallucinogenic and everyone went a little crazy. The following is a quote from Eric’s book: “An hour later I was sneaking around like Dracula, Gordon was chasing Jim around the beach with a paddle, Michael fell backward off a log with his splayed legs dangling in the air and Misha puked his mead into the sea”. ‘Nuff said.

 What’s your favorite kayak cocktail? Spread the good cheer!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Tony Moore December 23, 2013 at 10:15 am

Hi Nancy,
Well, now you know one (a teetotalling kayaker, that is). Not for any “moral” or “ethical” reasons, I just hate the taste of alcohol. I may take a sip of champagne (to me the least offensive-tasting brew) at a wedding, and I do like wine in cooking (of course, all the alcohol evaporates off, leaving just the flavor), but my drink of choice is diet soda (I know, VERY unsophisticated). But I know what I like and don’t like, and I would never do something just to be popular. I also don’t drink coffee or tea, for the same reason, just don’t like the taste (but I do like the aroma of coffee and tea). Well, Happy Holidays to all of you out on the west coast, and enjoy your chosen brew! I’ll be enjoying mine (diet Coke) out here!


Nancy Soares December 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Hahaha! Or should I say hohoho!? I knew if there were any teetotalling kayakers out there this post might bring them out of the woodwork. I would not call diet soda unsophisticated – have you ever checked out the ingredients? I don’t know what any of that stuff even is, and I figure alcohol is pretty ordinary by comparison. FYI my choice for soda is Mexican coke since it’s made with real sugar. As John Lull would say, non of that rot-gut stuff for me… But life is short and as the yogis say we were meant to enjoy this world, so pick your poison and bottoms up!


Fat Paddler December 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Haha, and a very merry Xmas to you too Nancy!

My poison of choice is indeed rum… It’s the drink of the sea, it was the very first currency in Australia, in fact we even had a Rum Rebellion (the closest we’ve come to civil war) when rum rations were cut for the military. Zacapa is indeed my rum of choice but very expensive here, so for trips I’ll often substitute a good spiced rum like Sailor Jerry or perhaps even some Mt Gay.

I also like a good red wine – a spicy Shiraz, or a ballsy Cabernet Sauvignon, even a nice Aussie or Kiwi Pinot. Anything with a bit of body.

Lastly, and this has become a Team Fat Paddler Commando Camping tradition, is honey-spiced mead. You drink it hot, spiced with cloves, cinnamon and orange peel, and is a great communal drink when heated in bulk over the fire. Yum!!


Tony Moore December 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Drat!!! You’re right, FP, rum has always been associated with the sea…and pirates. Wish I could like it, “Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of diet Coke” just doesn’t cut it!


Fat Paddler December 24, 2013 at 5:57 am

Fortunately you can get away with rum AND diet coke (just!)


Nancy Soares December 24, 2013 at 9:52 am

As I understand it, Coke had cocaine in it way back in the day (thus the name “Coke”) and it was a nice little pick-me-up. So it still has a smack of the libertine about it. Empty calories? Check! Addictive? Can be! Rots your gut? Check again! It’s pretty nasty stuff when you think about it.

FYI I remember drinking Bacardi 151 and coke – it was our drink of choice in high school. Ugh!


Fat Paddler January 6, 2014 at 5:18 am

In Australia we have our own rum, Bundaberg (locally known as Bundy). It’s absolutely terrible in the grand scheme of rums, but it’s our rum, and we love it.

Apart from being served in spirit bottles, it’s also sold pre-packaged in cans with coke. In fact a Bundy and Coke is almost a national drink here, and when you get it pre-mixed in a can, it’s known as a “Black Rat”.

Whilst I love a good sipping rum like Zacapa, I’m going to admit that my general drink is still a Black Rat. It’s easy, and it’s Aussie, and truth be known, I’ve been known to take a few cheeky ones away with me on paddling camp-outs!


Nancy Soares January 6, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Someday I will come to Australia and I will be introduced to the “Black Rat”. I’ve never had a bucket list, but if I did, that would be on it. FP, I’ve always thought of you as a beer drinker, with Zacapa for special occasions. Now I know the truth. This is truly Something New. I thank you (I think) 😉 I bet even Anthony Bourdain doesn’t know of this elixir.


PeterD December 24, 2013 at 10:49 am

I agree with John Lull when he talks about drinks where a little goes a long way, and how wine requires too much volume to bring enough for a whole trip. Added benefit – the stronger stuff also doesn’t go bad as an opened but unfinished beer or wine would. My normal go-to is port. Put a couple of bottles worth in a Mylar bag like what comes with boxed wines.

There was some talk on the Bay Area Sea Kayakers’ email list about a beer concentrate as a potential for expeditions, but I can’t imagine it could be any good.


Nancy Soares December 24, 2013 at 11:53 am

I like the idea of Mylar bags – lots less weight. I would love to hear from someone who has tried the beer concentrate. Who knew?


Vince Dalrymple December 26, 2013 at 12:50 pm

For over-nighters with cool water temps (mid-60s down), a couple of heavy ales such as Rogue Dead Guy really do the trick – no real refrigeration needed. A big 1.5L Merlot such as Barefoot will easily handle a summer’s weekend. And, not being of Scotch drinker (or straight whiskey), my go to of choice on those cold stormy trips would be a bottle of Japanese sake. I know the 1.8L bottle adds considerable heft to the gear load, but a water-chilled Junmai will warm you right up, put you to sleep for the night with no hangover, and last for the duration of a week long trip. Lastly, hot rodding a cup of camp coffee with a shot or two of Capt. Morgans is a fantastic way to spend a down day stuck on the beach watching frigid surf pound away at the rocks. Happy Holidays to all from the East Coast! 🙂


Nancy Soares December 27, 2013 at 10:59 am

Hey, Vince, thanks so much for your comment. Rogue Dead Guy got a big laugh from me, living in the Rogue Valley as I do. I’ll have to try to dig some up…LOL Actually, I’m a Pilsner/lager type of gal – ales are too heavy for me but you’re right that they don’t require refrigeration and that’s a plus. Glad you mentioned sake too. I do like sake hot or cold but never considered it for an expedition or camping trip, an omission I may remedy in 2014 – I can see it serving in all seasons. Thanks again for reading and commenting!


Moulton Avery January 10, 2014 at 3:21 pm

I’ll put in the disclaimer: We don’t drink and paddle. It’s for a f t e r the paddle. OK, got that over with.

I’m a sucker for Merlot or Malbec, but as noted above, you need a LOT of that juice to quench a bunch of rogue paddlers. On the high-octane side, I prefer the high quality stuff, and it’s hard to beat a righteous sippin’ Tequila. In a pinch, though, I’ll fall back on Sterno squeeze-filtered through an old sock. That’s called a LiverBuster isn’t it Vince?


Nancy Soares January 10, 2014 at 8:14 pm



Vince January 11, 2014 at 11:47 am

Moulton, ya have to be able to 1) wake up the next morning (Sterno?!?) and 2) feel like paddling (strained through an old sock?) without removing several layers of gelcoat from your cockpit deck over the course of the next day. 😉 Your LiverBuster reminds me of some of the horror stories I’ve heard about sub-grade commie Vodka. Yeah, it’ll knock the chill, not to mention your socks, off, but it’ll kill ya dead right quick!


Moulton Avery January 11, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Just kidding about the Sterno, Vince – an old joke; I suspect it would kill you quickly. But you have to love it for the Ewwwww factor;)


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