Ship Ahoy: Teddy Nixon and the Art of Shipboard Drinking -August 2019

by: Kevin Stanton

Sailors have been drinking at sea since boats could float. The British served their sailors a dram of rum, the Dutch Navy provided gin, and the French, to no one’s surprise, served their sailors wine. If you think about it, it’s kind of the first “shift drink.” If Club Car bar manager Teddy Nixon was captaining a ship he might be serving vermouth or maybe a white port and tonic.

I recently hung out on the docks with Nixon and talked about the beach-town ethos, rum and drinking on boats.

Nantucket Today:

You grew up in Falmouth, and before moving here you were down in Charleston, s.C. you must be pretty in tune with the whole beach-town ethos.

Teddy Nixon:

“I guess you could say that. I mean two of the places I bartended at in Falmouth you could pull your boat right up to. it’s kind of the easiest place to work on a bar because everyone is on vacation. if you aren’t having a good time at my bar it’s probably not because of me.”

Nantucket Today:

How did you get into bartending?

Teddy Nixon:

“I started bartending as a summer job. it wasn’t until I moved to Charleston that I realized bartending could be more than that. apparently in the eyes of some, if you don’t have an office job, you don’t have a ‘real’ job.”

Nantucket Today:

I heard rumor you were kind of a big deal in Charleston?

Teddy Nixon:

“I don’t know about that. Charleston opened the door for me getting into craftcocktail competitions. in 2015 eater (a dining and drink web-magazine) named me Charleston bartender of the year. in 2016 thrillist (a food, drink and travel website) did as well.

When I lived in Charleston I was fortunate enough to work with some great people. the last place I worked at was called bar mash. We kind of described it as if a dive bar and a fancy cocktail bar had a baby. there was a need for a place like that. there wasn’t really a bar where you could get a solid classic cocktail without feeling stuffy. I remember one day the bar team was arguing about the correct way to cap the bitters bottles and I thought to myself, ‘man, if this is what we are fighting about, we are going to do some special things’.”

Nantucket Today:

restaurants are a team sport. how important is it to have a chef and back-ofthe-house team that you can collaborate with? does it make it easier to pair cocktails with the food?

Teddy Nixon:

“I love having a chef you can collaborate with. at the Club Car, mayumi (hattori’s) food is so clean and refreshing but full of bold flavors. she is the only chef I have worked with that truly cares about the quality of the food you are eating. she isn’t just trying to turn and burn tables. having someone like that to bounce flavor-profile ideas off of is huge. We have a za’atar crusted fish on the menu. I wasn’t that familiar with za’atar but I worked with chef and now I have a za’atar spiced cocktail on the menu.”

Nantucket Today:

Jimmy buffett has a song called “boat drinks.” in your opinion, what is the most ideal “boat drink”?

Teddy Nixon:

“If you are going to be out on the water all day, you need something refreshing, but you also want to make things easy on yourself. you don’t want to be muddling herbs. you want a nice txakolina (a slightly effervescent basque wine) or Vinho Verde (Portuguese wine). I like to call those boat wines. I used to really be into super-hoppy i.P.a’s and sours, but the last thing you want to be drinking in the heat is something that’s 10 percent abV (alcohol by volume). you want something light and crisp, like a dry cider. Cisco brewers has a really cool oyster gose (a low abV german salted wheat beer) right now. it has a little salinity from the oysters. it’s like 4 percent and super-crisp.”

Nantucket Today:

Do you have any cocktails that fit that description on the menu at the Club Car?

Teddy Nixon:

“We have a drink called summer Camp on our menu right now. We use montenegro’s select aperitivo, pamplemousse (French grapefruit liqueur), Crémant (sparkling wine) and soda water. I call it summer Camp because it looks like red kool-aid, and every day here is like being at summer camp. it goes really well with our aperitivo service.”

Nantucket Today:

What is aperitivo service?

Teddy Nixon:

“Aperitivo service is something that we are doing between 3 and 5:30 p.m. at the bar. there aren’t a lot of places to grab a good midday snack. We offer a chef’s choice meat and cheese board, and a couple smaller items from our menu. For $25 you get four meats and two cheeses. aperitivo hours are big in places like italy, spain and Portugal. We have been creating drinks that lend themselves well to day drinking.”

Nantucket Today:

a dark and stormy is a really popular cocktail during the summertime. is ordering one a cop-out?

Teddy Nixon:

“I don’t think so. I see where you are going with that but it’s a popular drink for a reason. if it’s made right, it’s delicious. I don’t discriminate against cocktails. I like to drink like i’m on vacation. Piña Coladas, mudslides, you name it.”

Nantucket Today:

What is your favorite rum drink?

Teddy Nixon:

“A classic daiquiri. No matter where youareorwhattimeofthedayitis,a daiquiri is always a good call. I like to drink seasonal but a daiquiri transcends all seasons. i’m always down for one.”

Nantucket Today:

I feel like there are a lot of people who might have had a little too much Captain morgan in college and have sworn off rum. What would you say to someone who doesn’t like rum?

Teddy Nixon:

“Rum can be super-harsh and abrasive, or very soft and clean. i’m lucky because I get to try all different types for work. People decide they don’t like something based on the one time they had it. you could taste four different rums back to back and taste something different in each. Which makes using it in cocktails that much more fun.”

Classic Daiquiri

Nantucket Today:

Do you have a favorite rum or rum producer?

Teddy Nixon:

“Plantation rum (by maison Ferrand) is probably my favorite producer. I think it’s really cool that they are in the Cognac region of France and they are producing some of the best rum, and the price point isn’t bad either, although smith & Cross is my favorite spirit. it has that over-ripe banana and old-school Jamaican pot-still taste. unlike whiskey, the production of rum is an open battlefield. there aren’t a lot of rules and regulations. Whether it comes from sugar-cane distillate or molasses it’s very versatile and there are so many flavor profiles across the board.”

Kevin Stanton is an artist and graduate of MassArt, living and working on Nantucket. A bartender in Boston before he moved back to the island, he writes the “Drink” column for Nantucket Today.






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