Interview by Kate Calamusa / Photos Courtesy of Nick Mautone
NWY: Many of us love to entertain on our vessels, especially during the beautiful summer months. What are some of your best tips for hosting on board successfully?
NM: Entertaining on a boat is both fun and challenging at the same time. But it’s also not that different from entertaining at home where it’s smart to have everything prepped and ready to go before your guests arrive; for boating, you just need to adapt that strategy to a more mobile mindset. I like to think of it as the “K.I.S. strategy”: keep it simple. For example, for me as a cocktail guy, I like to pre-batch a really great punch, using fresh summery flavors like berries or lavender, but keep it non-alcoholic so that anyone not imbibing, like the captain, can enjoy a refreshing sipper. Then, for those who would like a cocktail, you just have to add a splash or two of liquor to the mixture to finish their drink.
Packing up from home is also crucial. I often freeze water bottles ahead of time to act as big ice cubes that don’t melt as quickly as the pre-bagged ice. It’s also smart to pack insulated silicone cups with tops to avoid spills. When it comes to food, I like to adopt the bento-box mindset, giving guests a variety of tastes and flavors. I’ll often use those boxes to pre-pack lunches with four to six dishes and sides so I don’t have to pull out an array of dishes while underway, but just pass out the boxes. Plus, you can personalize each one to your guest’s tastes, a nice touch.
I like to take this same personal approach with dips. (I’m a dip guy, for sure!) I’ll just keep those handy smaller plastic containers from when I order takeout, then repurpose them as individual dip containers; no need for sharing or worrying about double-dipping! Plus, if I pack these smaller containers in a chest with the frozen water bottles, they tend to stay cooler than a big batch in a bowl. Finally, when you are setting a table, my favorite trick is to bring along some silicone shelf liners. I’ll buy a roll of it, when I can just unroll it and set out a buffet on top; that way the dishes stay put with any bumps, plus anything can become a table that way, like the top of a cooler.
NWY: Say your slipmate hops aboard for a drink at the dock; what ideas do you have for a quick and easy summer cocktail that can be prepared on the fly?
NM: I always think it’s nice to have a more natural bottled iced tea stocked onboard, like a peach or apricot, that can easily be mixed with a clear liquor like vodka. I’m also a huge love of kombucha and always have some around; people don’t often realize what an awesome mixer for drinks it is! One of my favorites is a lemon-ginger kombucha. All you need to do is add a little tequila and you have a fun drink. Or you can make a spin on a gin and tonic, using the kombucha in lieu of the tonic. It’s refreshing and fizzy, and feels festive and exotic, but couldn’t be easier.
NWY: What tips do you have about stocking a bar on board versus one at home?
NM: I think first up, determine what you and your loved ones most like to drink; there’s no need to stock everything under the sun, just what you know you like and bring that aboard. You can’t go wrong with base spirits; for us, we always have Grey Goose vodka and Woodinville Whiskey bourbon. I also recommend looking for the smaller half bottles of the “accent” liqueurs. You won’t go through a whole bottle of them on a cruise, so it’s a waste of space to stock a big bottle of, say absinthe, for example. Sodas like a bitter lemon or a ginger ale, are great mixers, but the large bottles take up a ton of space and go flat so quickly that I always buy the soft pack of individual sodas instead and rubber band them together so they don’t clank around in the cooler. One of my absolute favorite add-ins is Liquor 43 from Spain. It is crafted from 43 herbs and spices, drinks like a vanilla, and adds a secret punch to just about anything; that’s worth stocking a full bottle. Also extremely versatile are the new sloe gins that have popped onto the scene. They are infused with sloe berry flavor and at 70-80 proof, they are great mixers. Stock some tonic and enjoy sloe G&Ts all summer long; they are super refreshing.
NWY: What cocktail most says “Northwest summer” to you?
NM: Something with huckleberries, for sure! We have huckleberries back East, but when I moved out to Seattle a few years ago, I just became obsessed with the tart-sweet ones here. My favorite “non-recipe” recipe is to take a pint or two of washed huckleberries, put them in a Ball jar, and then sprinkle them with sugar and a dash of orange juice. You can just throw it in the fridge and let it steep for a bit. Then, put a spoonful of the berries in a shaker bottle, add a little Mezcal, vodka, or gin, then some ice. Give it a good shake and you have the makings of the perfect summer cocktail.
About the Expert: Nick Mautone is an author, mixologist, and former restaurateur who has managed some of the most iconic restaurants in the U.S., including Gramercy Tavern where he was a partner with Danny Meyer and Tom Colicchio. The author of four cocktail books, Mautone’s fifth book about his experiences in the bar and restaurant industry is slated to be released in late 2023. A former New Yorker and former boat owner, Mautone is now based in Seattle and says he is dreaming of the day when he purchases another vessel so that he can once again entertain guests onboard. Find out more at: mautone-enterprises.com.