behind the bar: nancy neil’s drunken seaman

Whenever we task a talented photographer with putting together a drink for our Behind the Bar column, we always wait with great anticipation for whatever photographic genius he or she concocts. This month was no exception and California-based photographer Nancy Neil managed to raise the bar as she pulled this entire shoot off with nothing but candlelight. That’s right, good old fashioned, Little House on the Prairie-style candlelight: “The candlelight was very wintry and warm . . . like November and the drink!” So a HUGE “thank you” to Nancy for her delicious recipe and awesome photographs. — Ryan + Alissa

CLICK HERE for the full recipe after the jump!

The name of my drink is a “drunken seaman.” My husband is a lobster fisherman here off the Channel Islands in California and I thought it would be fun to celebrate the first month of lobster season with a ‘sea’ inspired drink . . . and a good excuse to eat my hubby’s catch! My girlfriend, Ashley Helvey, an amazing artist and stylist, helped me style the shoot! Then we all enjoyed a swell lobster risotto dinner I whipped up! P.S. The handsome model is Scotty Power — my husband’s sea and surf partner — with my awesome sidekick Aussie Pup.


  • 2 oz Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
  • healthy splash of Peychaud’s Bitters
  • old-fashioned brewed root beer
  • splash of raw simple syrup
  • a really cool vintage lobster-shaped bottle opener ;)
  • orange zest

Add a healthy splash of Peychaud’s bitters over ice in a tall glass, pour in rum, add a splash of simple syrup and top off with root beer. Give a good stir and then garnish with an orange zest. Enjoy!

Nancy Neil is a California-based photographer. She lives in Santa Barbara on an 80-acre ranch with her husband, their son, ten chickens and her trusty Australian Shepard. Nancy has a wide range of work and many clients all over the world. She has shot portraits and/or campaigns for established designers such as Monique Lhuillier, Jerome C. Rousseau, Stewart+Brown, Smoke and Mirrors and Petunia Picklebottom. (Monique Lhuillier has a private home gallery with over 50 portraits taken by Nancy.) Her editorial and portrait photography has been published in Vogue, Architectural Digest, and Anthem Magazine, among others. Nancy keeps life interesting and maintains inspiration by being diverse in her work, capturing everything from weddings to showing bodies of work in galleries and museums around the country. Her wedding stories have been featured on, and her home has appeared here on Design*Sponge. She has three websites, 13 pairs of roller skates and has been working on a series titled “bed” for the last two years. Here is her blog.

[Portrait by: Brenda Ernst]

  1. I love this! The photography is beyond wonderful!

  2. Jim Smart says:

    Looks wonderful. Really.



  3. jenni o says:

    OK, the drink looks wonderful, but the photographs are beyond amazing. Any tips for how to use a DSLR to shoot candlelight (beyond the use of a tripod)?

  4. jenni o says:

    shoot photos *with* candlelight, not candles themselves. duh.

  5. I love the photography as much as I love Nancy. Such a beautiful family!

  6. MZA says:

    jenni o,
    I’d say set your camera to one of it’s highest ISO settings, and shoot in apeture priority mode & set your lens to the largest f-stop (smallest number).
    oh, and use lots of candles.

  7. Nancy Neil says:

    MZA is rizza (right) :) xxoo! we used 4 tall candles and stuck one scented votivo candle in the glass cup thingy behind the Sailor Jerrys so you could see the betty on the inside of the back of the label;) xxoo

  8. the purcells says:

    love the images, love the sound of the cocktail and love the santa barbara connection – great post as always!

  9. Annelies says:

    Can’t wait to try this. Lately I’ve been enjoying Sailor Jerry’s with Canada Dry’s Golden Cockerel Ginger Beer.

  10. Gramma says:

    That’s the cutest baby around. Mom and dad aren’t too bad either. XOX, mom

  11. tracy schmidt says:

    Beautiful couple, beautiful baby, beautiful photos! Thanks for including me :)

  12. The photographs are beyond gorgeous.. The recipe.. I have to check out for sure.. :-)

  13. Jane Schott says:

    Really marvelous post!

  14. Nicoletta says:

    Amazing compositions! I love these intimate grainy photos!!!

  15. Tinabobina99 says:

    Great post. 2 questions: 1. Does anyone know where you can get Peychaud’s Bitters in Oregon. I looked when prompted by another drink recipe but wasn’t successful. 2. So when do we get the recipe for the lobster risotto? BTW, PERFECT photo shoot — so moody, so romantic. Thanks!

  16. Nuuuunceee!! Great post lady! Always loved your style. ;) Sorry I missed you when you were in Chicago. Hope you had a great time!! xoxo

  17. wow! great photos! thanks for sharing them. they are like feasts for the eyes!

  18. Terrific post with dreamy photographs. This put me in the perfect mid-November mood. Thanks!

  19. Melissa says:

    I finally made this drink tonight and it’s goooood

  20. DeNai Jones says:

    Speechless! So inspirational with such a sense of calm. Truly beautiful.


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.