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Key West Sandbar Trip

5 Killer Cocktails for the Key West Sandbar

“Excuse me, son. I’m going to need you to put down that White Claw.”

Uh-oh, the Cocktail Police are here. The Drink Po-Po. Dudley Mountain Dew-right and his Sippin’ Posse. He saunters up. 

“Need to see your license and registration.” He hitches his thumbs under his thick leather belt and juts out his belly. “And your shaker.”

“My, uh, shaker, officer?” I ask nervously.

“Yes. And I sure hope it’s a Boston Shaker. Can’t stand those tiny lids on those fru-fru, new-fangled ones.”

I shift uncomfortably. All I’ve got is a soft Yeti full of carbonated canned drinks, but he already knows that. There’s going to be trouble.

He eyes me carefully over his mirrored aviators. “There’s going to be trouble, in’d there?” His hand moves toward his hip. “A heap of it, I bet.”

You can only push your luck so long before you get caught, too. To stay out of trouble, get the guy/girl, and save the world, only a real cocktail will do. Here are five easy-to-fix, non-equipment-intensive examples perfect for a day out on the boat. So whether you’re on a Key West sandbar charter or a sunset cruise, bring the good stuff. The Cocktail Police are on patrol. 

5 Boat Drinks for the Key West Sandbar

Let’s clear up a few misconceptions about cocktails. 

For one, I don’t care who you are or where you are; nobody looks cooler than somebody shaking a cocktail shaker. You absolutely do not need to buy a shaker, but if you did, you would look better, classier, friendlier…dare I say, sexier? No one ever looked good popping open a canned beverage; it’s just not a good look. But I digress. 

Here’s the point: You don’t need to go all-out to make a stellar cocktail that is better than anything from a can. All you need are fresh ingredients and decent liquor. If it’s already mixed in a huge plastic bottle, give it a pass! If you can replace sugar or nasty high-fructose corn syrup with more alcohol or something fresh, you absolutely should do that.

Boating Marg

If you haven’t picked it up yet, I’m not a fan of pre-made mixes. Many people reach for them straight away when they hear the word margarita. Ugh.

This marg is quick and easy, and the results are refreshing and delicious. It is absolutely a top pick for a sunny day at the sandbar.

Let’s talk about tequila. There are many types, but to be drinkable, it must say “100 percent agave” on the bottle. The brand isn’t nearly as important as getting the pure stuff. I enjoy this recipe with either blanco (silver/clear) or reposado (gold). 


  • Salt the rim of a lowball glass, if desired. Not at all necessary, but classy.
  • Add lots of ice, and squeeze the juice from half a lime. A real lime. That grew on a tree. A Key Lime could be fun, too.
  • Add a shot (or two…) of your favorite tequila, but only use 100 percent Agave tequila. You don’t even know what’s in that other stuff.
  • Top off with a splash of Sprite or Sprite Zero. 


That’s it! Sip and enjoy. 

Classic Daiquiri on a Boat

Ok, we’ve established some fundamentals of a drinkable drink here: fresh citrus that did not come from a plastic bottle and a multi-purpose soda. Let’s apply the same procedure to a Cuban classic: the daiquiri.

Whoa, calm down and put that blender away. The original daiquiri looked and tasted nothing like the sugar bombs served out of whirling diabetes machines in want-to-be beach bars. Proper daiquiris are served over the rocks and are simply lime, soda, and good rum. With that in mind, try this:


  • Lots of ice in a lowball and the juice of half a real lime.
  • A shot or two of nice silver rum. Gold is okay, too, but dark is too…well, dark.
  • Top with a splash of Sprite. 


If you’re not into the Sprite, here’s an alternate method.


  • In a lowball, muddle a slice of lime with a teaspoon of raw sugar. Demerara or Turbinado is very nice. 
  • Add the juice of half the lime. A whole lime if it’s one of those defective, no-juice grocery store limes.
  • Add a shot or two of your rum.
  • Top with plain club soda. 


A mojito is a classic daiquiri with fresh muddled mint. There are few better cocktails on the planet. The mint adds a step or two, but if you’ve got access, you absolutely should go for it. Here are the steps.


  • In a highball glass, muddle a handful of fresh mint leaves with Demerara or Turbinado sugar. You don’t need a fancy tool. A spoon will do. 
  • Add the juice of half or a whole lime, depending on how juicy it is. 
  • Top with lots of ice.
  • Pour in a shot of your rum. It’s probably best to stick to silver rum for this one, but the world’s your oyster, and you’re the one drinking it.
  • Top with a splash of either Sprite or club soda.

Dark and Stormy

While you don’t want your Key West boat trip to be dark and stormy, it’s acceptable for your drink to be. Some say drinking a Dark and Stormy ensures that sunny skies and warm breezes will come your way. Ok, no one has ever said that until now, but that doesn’t make it any less true.


  • In a lowball with lots of ice, squeeze in a wedge of lime.
  • Add one or more shots of good-quality dark rum. Goslings is proper for the drink, but others like Myers work well, too.
  • Top with a splash of good-quality ginger beer. You can use ginger ale if necessary, but the results are significantly degraded.

Cheap 'n Easy Pina Colada


This drink and its variations could be called many things, but the idea is simple—pineapple and coconut belong together, like Bonnie and Clyde, peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, Key Lime Pie and merengue…you get the idea. 

You can assemble this in a shaker and give it a toss, which makes the pineapple juice foam up in a cool way. But, lacking a shaker, just mix it in a glass and start drinking! Here are the basic ingredients.


  • A shot or two of good coconut rum.
  • A splash or two of pineapple juice. 
  • A squeeze of lime. 

Bonus Drink for the Florida Keys: Classic Rum Runner

They say that the Run Rummer was invented at the Holiday Isle Tiki Bar in Islamorada, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some version of the Keys’ home-grown cocktail. 

But, having said that, the Rum Runner is basically a derivative of the rum punch/planter’s punch/Bahama Mama sort of cocktail that you can find on many islands in this part of the world. It’s hard to mess it up once you have a few key ingredients—as long as you avoid sugary mixes, that is.

To make these drinks “properly,” you usually need a bar full of liqueurs—blackberry, banana, huckleberry, gooseberry, pomegranate (or grenadine), etc. I applaud anyone who carries all of that in the Yeti cooler on the back of their boat. But to keep it simple, here’s a way to make something similar and still quite tasty. 


  • In a highball glass, squeeze in half a lime over lots of ice.
  • Add in one shot of silver rum and one shot of dark rum. If you have coconut rum, you could replace the silver rum with that. You should absolutely do that if you can.
  • Throw in some pineapple juice and a little orange juice, too, if you have it. Those fresh supermarket cartons of Dole Pineapple Orange are convenient here.
  • Top with a tiny splash of something strong and red, like a cranberry cocktail, pomegranate juice, the sauce from a jar of real Luxardo Maraschino cherries, or (as a last resort, if you’re in a real pinch) grenadine syrup.

Bottoms Up at the Key West Sandbar

Cheers at the Key West Sandbar

“Good to see you again, officer.”

“Can’t say the same, son. You still drinking those White Claws?” He looks as grumpy as ever.

I smile knowingly. “Sir, I’d like to offer you a drink.” I pop open my Yeti, frantically filling a highball with ice. He’s peering over my shoulder, and I swallow the lump in my throat. “Just, ah, just a moment. Here you go; I think you’ll like this.”

I hand him the glass. He holds it to the sun, the already thick condensation shining rainbows onto his mirrored sunglasses. “Is that fresh mint I see?”

I nod my head enthusiastically, “Yes. Yes, it certainly is.” 

“Thank you kindly, son. You may move along.”


Here’s to another happy ending brought to you by the Cocktail Police: To Shake a Serve. 

Now you know what to drink out there, are you ready to hit the sandbar? Or, maybe cruise into the Key West sunset on a private boat excursion? Call Captain Zak and book your trip today! 


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