Let’s be honest. Flying coach class has lost some—okay, all—of its charm. If the airlines are determined to make us miserable, then it’s up to us, the flying public, to take matters of comfort into our own hands.
Enter the in-flight cocktail. Creating your own mixed drinks on the plane requires a bit of preplanning and paying close attention to TSA’s 3-1-1 rule, but it’s well worth the effort. Start by purchasing jars and bottles that are less than three ounces (you can find them at Amazon). Next, deconstruct your favorite cocktail recipe and make sure you have all the components you need. For the main spirit, you can either purchase onboard or pack your favorite mini bottles in your carry-on.
Here are 10 of the best and easiest cocktails to mix on the plane. One note to remember: These cocktails are made in-flight and therefore may cut a few corners or veer from the traditional techniques in small but crucial ways. They will, however, be far superior to anything you can actually purchase on the plane. Each of the recipes below will make one cocktail. Cheers!
It may be old fashioned, but this cocktail is always in style. The garnishes are optional–some people prefer the drink just as it is–but I always opt for snacks with my alcohol, especially on a long flight.
At Home: Pour Angostura bitters into a small dropper bottle. Pack sugar cubes in a small plastic container. Add orange slices to a zipped-top bag. Store cocktail cherries in a small plastic container. Pack a muddler or spoon.
In-Flight: Purchase a mini-bottle of bourbon (or pack your preferred brand before take-off). Ask for two glasses; one with ice. In the empty glass, add two dashes of bitters to a sugar cube. Add a dash of plain water from the melting ice, if needed. Muddle the sugar cube until dissolved. Add ice and the whiskey. Garnish with a slice of orange and a cocktail cherry.
Hello, vacation–even when you’re sitting in coach class. This may seem like a little bit of work, but you’ve got a little time on your hands. If this is your drink of choice, and you don’t want to attempt two glasses for shaking, you can always invest in a mini shaker for easier mixing.
At Home: Pour sea salt (infused or otherwise) into a small plastic container. Fill a one ounce jar with fresh lime juice. Fill another one ounce jar with Cointreau or purchase a mini-bottle. Slice lime wedges and store in a zip-top bag.
In-Flight: Purchase a mini-bottle of Tequila. Ask the flight attendant for two glasses; one with ice. Pour the tequila, lime juice, and one ounce Cointreau into one glass and place the other glass over it. Seal the two glasses and carefully shake back and forth a few times. Take a lime wedge and rub the rim of the empty glass. Pour some of the salt into the lid of the plastic container and place the lime-rubbed rim into the salt to get it to stick. Carefully pour the tequila mixture (ice and all) into the glass.
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This classic cocktail screams sophistication–even in a plastic cup. The drink is all about personal taste, and a great deal depends on the amount of vermouth. I like to just coat the glass, but adjust it to your own tastes. Just like with the margarita, you may want a mini shaker if this becomes your traveling-cocktail companion.
At Home: Pour 1/2 ounce dry vermouth in a small jar. Add stuffed green olives and pickled onions, if desired, to a small plastic container. Pack a bar or julep strainer, if you have one handy. To make a Dirty Martini, simply pack 1/4 ounce olive juice in a small jar at home and add this at the same time as the gin or vodka.
In-Flight: Purchase a mini-bottle of gin or vodka (or pack your favorite spirit before take-off). Ask for two glasses (one with ice). Pour the vermouth into the empty glass and swirl it to coat the inside. Pour the vermouth back into its jar. Add the gin or vodka. Seal the two glasses and carefully shake back and forth a few times. Strain the liquid into the empty glass, and garnish with olive and/or onions.
You may have to skip the chilled copper mug this cocktail is typically served in, but one sip on a crowded flight and you probably won’t care.
At Home: Make a ginger simple syrup by boiling one cup granulated sugar and one cup water with one tablespoon chopped fresh ginger. After the sugar dissolves, remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain and let cool. Pour 1 1/2 ounces of the ginger simple syrup in a small jar–save the rest for at-home cocktails or hot tea. Squeeze on ounce fresh lime juice into a small jar. Slice lime wedges and store in a zip-top bag. Pack a few piece of candied ginger in a small plastic container, if desired.
In-Flight: Purchase a mini-bottle of vodka and ask for a club soda. Add the vodka, lime juice, ginger simple syrup, and club soda to a glass with ice. Stir and garnish with a lime wedge or candied ginger.
This is what I think of as my escape drink. It always makes me feel like I’m someplace tropical, even in tight quarters on a crowded plane.
At Home: Make a simple syrup by boiling one cup granulated sugar and one cup water together. After the sugar dissolves, remove from heat and let cool. Pour 1 1/2 ounce simple syrup in a small jar–save the rest for at home cocktails. Squeeze two ounces fresh lime juice into a small jar. Cut lime wedges and store in a zip-top bag.
In-Flight: Purchase a mini-bottle of white rum and ask for a glass with ice. Pour the rum, simple syrup, and lime juice over the ice. Stir well. Squeeze a lime wedge and imagine you’re on a beach somewhere.
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What’s more refreshing than a mojito? This bright and easy-to-mix cocktail will make even the longest of travel delays, err, days fly by.
At Home: Squeeze two ounces fresh lime juice (more if you like it tart) into a small bottle. Add two teaspoons sugar to a small jar. Store eight washed mint leaves in a zip-top bag. Pack a muddler or spoon and straw.
In-Flight: Purchase a mini-bottle of white rum. Ask for club soda and two glasses; one with ice. In the empty glass, muddle the sugar, mint, and lime juice until the mint is properly bruised and the sugar has somewhat dissolved. Add the ice and rum to the glass and top with club soda. Enjoy with a straw, if desired.
What better drink to sip while on your way to the Big Apple? Or anywhere, really?
At Home: Add 3/4 ounce sweet red vermouth to a small bottle. Pour Angostura bitters in a dropper bottle (see Old Fashioned for example). Store cocktail cherries in a small plastic container. Pack a bar or julep spoon (optional).
In-Flight: Purchase a mini-bottle of Canadian whiskey (or pack your preferred brand before take-off). Ask for a glass with ice and a straw. Pour the whiskey, a dash or two of bitters, and the red vermouth over the ice. Stir well with the straw. Garnish with a cherry (or two). Alternatively you can ask for a second glass and strain the chilled liquid into it before garnishing with a cherry.
This is an all-time favorite, as the bitterness has the tendency to calm the nerves and soothe stomachs. If you want to skip the extras, make a Campari Spritzer instead (two ounces of Campari from home and a club soda from the flight attendant).
At Home: In two small jars, add one ounce of Campari and one ounce Red Vermouth. If you’re feeling extra-fancy, you can peel an orange in large strips and keep in a zip-top bag until you need a little citrus.
In-Flight: Buy a mini-bottle of gin. Get a glass of ice. Pour the Campari, red vermouth, and gin into the glass and stir well. Squeeze and add the orange peel, if desired.
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Boozy breakfast in a glass. Morning flights become that much brighter with the help of this classic brunch cocktail. You can tailor it anyway you like by switching up the base spices.
At Home: In a two-ounce jar, combine one tablespoon horseradish, 1/2 teaspoon celery salt, one teaspoon Worcestershire, one teaspoon lemon juice, one teaspoon pickle juice (optional), a dash of hot sauce, pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Taste an adjust, as needed. Chop stalks of celery and wedge of lemon and place in a zip-top bag or a small plastic container. Bring any extra garnishes you might like, such as green olives or pickled veggies.
In-Flight: Purchase a mini-bottle of vodka and a can of tomato juice. In a glass over ice, stir together the horseradish paste, vodka, and tomato juice with a celery stalk. Add a squeeze of lemon. For an alternative drink, swap the vodka for a beer and enjoy what some affectionately refer to as a “Red Eye” (hopefully you’re not on one as you drink this).
Coffee and liquor? A very good morning to you, too! Traditionally this drink would be served with fresh cream, possibly whipped, so it sits on top of the coffee. Consider this one of the sacrifices we must make to drink our spiked coffee in the clouds.
At Home: Pack one teaspoon brown sugar (more if you have a sweet tooth) in a zip-top bag.
In-Flight: Order a cup of coffee with several creamers. Purchase a mini-bottle of Irish whiskey. Add the brown sugar and whiskey to the coffee and stir until the sugar begins to dissolve. Slowly pour in the creamer.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 11 New Air Routes That Promis Cheap Flights in 2018
- Should Airlines Get Rid of Reclining Seats? This One Is
- 8 Airplane Food Options You’ll Actually Want to Eat
(Photo: Kate H Knapp)
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.