"Hold My Beer!" Drink Holder Options Explained
August 22, 2022 5 min read
Floatation, propulsion, sunscreen, drink holders. That’s as close as you can get to a list of universal concerns for boaters, though the order varies according to how long it has been since the last canned beverage slid off the gunwale and into the drink.
More, or Less, Drink Holders
Simply put, drink holders may be the most useful accessory-level feature a boat can have. The constant motion of a boat on the water equates to constant spillage without some way to keep open beverages upright and contained. Having a place for the drinks of everyone aboard is a good part of running a tight ship. Spilled drinks lead to messy decks. Somebody will inevitably track through a spilled soda and track it all over the deck.
Drink holders also help reduce litter — fewer wild-blown half-empties disappearing from your deck. And you really don’t want cold 12-ouncers crashing into your deck or gelcoat or spilling on your carpet.
What can be done about this existential problem?
If your boat has too few drink holders, or none at all, the decision to add some well-placed holders is an easy one. Figuring out which kind of drink holder will work for you is the hard part. There are a lot of options.
Having a place for the drinks of everyone aboard is a good part of running a tight ship.
Obvious Options First
For small boats, simple, portable solutions may be enough, but even then someone might be a long reach from their drink. That’s a mild inconvenience until a fish is on. Then the drink is on the bench seat and headed for the bilge.
What you want to do is incorporate drink holders that work with the way you use your boat: a drink holder near the front pedestal seat on a bass boat works like peanut butter and jelly, but a fly line-grabbing drink holder anywhere near the casting deck of a flats boat will drive you to drinking.
YETI Cooler Drink Holders
If spilled drinks are a problem, that means a cooler is onboard, and the cooler can solve the problem. For a no-holes-drilled option, look at cooler-mount products like the YETI Side Mounted 3 Cup Beverage Caddy, which utilizes the tie-down slot on the side of the cooler as a mounting point, while integrating its own tie-down slot so that you can still secure the cooler.
Toadfish Can Coolers
Another quick and easy way to address a lack of drink holders is investing in a few Toadfish Can Coolers to keep on board. These not only keep your drinks ice cold but also use innovative technology to “stick” to any smooth surface, giving you a drink holder wherever you need one at the moment. They can be lifted straight up, but won’t tip. The only catch is that they don’t stick to nonskid, EVA foam decking or Starboard. A flat, slick surface like smooth gelcoat, aluminum or acrylic is required.
TackleWeb Drink Holders
A third minimalist approach is adding stick-on drink holders, like those made by TackleWebs. These are mounted with adhesive-backed Velcro, meaning you can stow them when they aren’t needed, leaving nothing but the mounting strip. You can also locate several mounting strips around the boat and stick the drink holder wherever it’s needed.
Skinny can energy drinks and seltzers, tippy tall boys, water bottles, pop cans, travel mugs, 128-ounce Mega Gulps — there’s a lot of stuff that could come aboard and need to not get spilled. What kind of containers do you want to accommodate? If you own a fishing boat and like to roll early, where is your coffee riding and what’s it riding in? Is your boatload of wakeboarders plowing through bottled water all day long?
What you’re drinking is what you’re holding, so you’ll want holders that fit your drinks. Fortunately, you can buy a boat drink holder to fit almost anything, from standard 12-ounce cans to 30-ounce tumblers. If you already have drink holders, inserts are available to convert them to securely hold skinny cans, vacuum-insulated tumblers, and even stemmed wine glasses.
Fortunately, you can buy a boat drink holder to fit almost anything
If you are using temporary mounts but find yourself settling on ideal placements, you could then get out the drill. Because it will be fixed mounts — screwed, bolted or set-in — that are going to do the best job of keeping things place. Anything screwed to the boat is going to hold its payload most reliably.
There are a range of styles of permanently installed drink holders, including:
- Surface mounts holders,
- Vertical Surface Mount Drink Holders, and
- Flush mount holders
Surface Mount Drink Holders
Surface mount drink holders like this elegantly simple design are a bit more obtrusive than flush mount but don’t require space below for installation and don’t collect water that needs to be drained away.
As an added bonus, if you decide to remove or reposition a surface-mount drink holder in a year or two, it will leave only a few screw holes, not a 4-inch cutout.
Flush mount holders are very nice if you have gunwale space and adequate room below for the installation.
Available in both stainless steel and plastic and in a number of depths and diameters, drop-in drink holders are clean and slick. The tradeoff is that they require cutting big holes in your boat. You’d better be very sure where you want them before you start the installation.
Vertical Surface Mount Drink Holders
Sometimes there just isn’t a horizontal surface where you need a drink holder. In that case, you have a few choices for drink holders that attach to vertical surfaces. Folding cup holders are unobtrusive when closed, which makes them easy to install in a variety of locations on your boat. Any 5” x 5” patch of bulkhead or horizontal surface is a potential mounting spot.
They’re a great choice for flats boats, given that they have both a fishing setting and a drinking setting.
Fixed vertical drink holders made of King Starboard for tumblers or cans hold drinks more securely than folding plastic holders, but mounting options are more limited since they protrude several inches from the bulkhead and don’t fold flat.
Flush Mount Drink Holders
Flush mount holders are very nice if you have gunwale space and adequate room below for the install. Available in both stainless steel and plastic and in a number of depths and diameters, drop-in drink holders are clean and slick. The tradeoff is that they require cutting big holes in your boat. You’d better be very sure where you want them before you start the installation.
Additionally, rainwater, spray, condensation or spilled beer that collects in flush-mount holders will either puddle in the bottom or drain through onto whatever is underneath. Draining onto the deck or into the bilge isn’t a problem, but drink holders mounted on the console or above batteries or machinery have to be drained through a hose to somewhere safe.
A relatively recent innovation is the combination of flush mount drink holders with flush mount rod holders for maximum utility.
Some of us can be a bit squeamish about drilling into or cutting all that beautifully finished fiberglass. If you’re looking to avoid that kind of commitment but want something more substantial than cooler-mounted or stick-on cupholders, suction cups are for you. You may just want to have a couple drink holders stowed until needed, then pull them out and stick them wherever you want.
Suction Cup Mount Drink Holders
Suction-mount accessories are the classic “your mileage may vary” situation. Some people find suction mount caddies and tool trays stick just fine, other people … well, less so.
But not all suction mounts are equal. Simple rubber suction cups are unlikely to perform well in a vertical mount on a boat; there’s just too much load and motion for press-on’s to hold a vacuum. If you are going for suction mounts, then invest in a good vacuum mount accessory, like those built on a base such as a SeaSucker vacuum mount, which are rated to hold up to 210 pounds, like this two-cup holder that adds a Ram mount to make for versatile mounting options.
Generally, suction mounts are more reliable on horizontal surfaces than vertical ones. For non-permanent installations on decks and other flat-ish surfaces, a three-cup holder like this one may be perfect. Multi-feature models combine drink and tool storage.
Suction mounts are more reliable on horizontal surfaces than vertical ones.
Rail Mount Drink Holders
Rail mounts are a more secure temporary mount method, and rail-mount drink holders typically adapt to an available handrail or grab bar at any orientation. BoatOutfitters’ RoboCup Clamp On Portable Cup Holder uses a spring-loaded clamp to stay in place, with no threaded clamp to back out and come loose on the water.