At Coveside Restaurant and Marina in Christmas Cove, it’s all hands-on deck for the Dark ’n’ Stormy
Coveside Restaurant and Marina is perched near the end of the South Bristol peninsula, a 20-minute drive from Damariscotta along a route lined with old farmhouses, barns, and fields dotted with apple trees. On Rutherford Island, part of the town of South Bristol, the seasonal restaurant looks out over the picturesque harbor of Christmas Cove, so named because Captain John Smith sought refuge there in December 1614, according to local lore. Come summer, Coveside, managed by Alex and Rachel Nevens, is a mecca for boaters, who cruise into the protected harbor just inside the mouth of the Damariscotta River hoping to find an open spot at the restaurant’s docks, or to snag a mooring for a night. In the cozy bar, layers of yacht club burgees from all over the world, many weathered by sun and years, hang from the walls and rafters. There, in the wood-paneled dining room or on the wraparound deck, the drink in most hands will be a Dark ’n’ Stormy, the favorite and storied cocktail of sailors everywhere.
Legend has it that the drink, invented in Bermuda, got its name from an old sailor who compared its color to storm clouds on a day no captain worth his salt would set sail. A simple yet potent mix of dark, richly flavored Gosling’s Black Seal rum and ginger beer garnished with lime, the Dark ’n’ Stormy is a vigorously defended trademark of the Bermudian rum distillery founded by the descendants of James Gosling, a British ship captain who came ashore on the island in 1806. It was created sometime after World War I, when Bermuda-based sailors discovered that the ginger beer made by the Royal Naval Officers Club (supposedly to combat seasickness) was much improved by a good splash of Black Seal rum.
At Coveside, the drink is made the trademarked way with Gosling’s Black Seal rum. Like all of the restaurant’s cocktails, it’s mixed in a mason jar, and it has a stout wedge of lime perched on the rim. “Gosling’s has said they are shocked at the amount of Black Seal rum we go through,” says Lynette McGowan, who has tended bar at Coveside for 15 seasons. This summer, new chef Nick Krunkkala’s bar snack menu includes the ideal accompaniment: Dark ’n’ Stormy duck wings, which are braised in butter until tender and bathed in a sauce based on the cocktail. The pairing is sure to be popular at Coveside’s Sunday afternoon deck parties, when live music and an outdoor bar draw a lively crowd. “We get locals, boaters, and the Christmas Cove summer community, and it’s cool to see everyone interacting,” says McGowan. “It’s a short season, and we’ve got to have all the good times we can while it lasts.”