On cocktails... and other cool things

drinking at 10,000+ feet

The Cocktail Spy took a bit of a hiatus while traveling over the last couple months. (I still work when I travel, so something had to give.)

I had a few long flights while I was away. Some were supposed to be, but others weren’t—like my 11 hour journey from New York to Miami.

Regardless, when you’re on a plane for a long time, it’s time for a drink!  

Though there are exceptions, you’re not supposed to drink your own alcohol on a flight. So you’re largely working with what the plane offers in terms of booze...

But you can still get by with that just fine. Here are some tips for enjoying a cocktail(s) while en route to your destination.

if you enjoy a good cocktail enough to plan ahead of time

Prep non-alcoholic ingredients in advance. This requires you to think ahead, but if you want a good quality cocktail, it's the way to go. These are easy to make or buy and will give you more drinking options onboard.

Do you drink cocktails that need simple syrup? Boil a one-to-one mix of sugar and water, or a two-to-one mix of sugar and water for rich simple syrup. If you’re in a hurry, buy a bottle at the store.

Sour mix goes well with several of the spirits you'll find on the plane, including whiskey, gin, rum, tequila, vodka…

Make a mix of 1 part each water, sugar, lemon juice, and lime juice. If you’re in a bind, use just lemon juice and simple syrup. Or if you have all kinds of time and want to create your own fresh sour mix, combine the juice of 8 lemons, 2 limes, and an orange.

Grab a couple bottles that are 3 ounces – that’s more than enough simple syrup, and it should give you enough sour mix for 2-3 cocktails depending on what you make. Keep these in the fridge until you leave for the airport.

If you really want to elevate your cocktail, bring some non-alcoholic bitters with you. These small bottles will add flavor and complexity to your drink, and they’ll sail through security.

Also, stash a few sweeteners and garnishes in your carry-on. Bring a baggie of olives, lemon and lime wedges, sugar, and honey packets.

at the airport

No time to shop for those sweeteners and garnishes? You can probably snag them from an airport bar or restaurant if you ask nicely.

Also, pick up a mixer at the airport before the flight. There are tons of mixers past security that will go well with your alcohol of choice. Coconut water, cold brew coffee, and flavored juices, teas, and sodas…

Lots of choices mean lots more options for what you can do with those tiny bottles on the plane.

Speaking of tiny bottles…

In the air

Consider the liqueurs. A lot of flights offer liqueurs like Bailey’s, Kahlua, and amaretto, expanding your drink options. Combine Kahlua with vodka and milk or cream for a White Russian. Or make a Godfather (Scotch and amaretto).

Whatever you decide to drink, ask the flight attendant for stirrers and utensils as needed. Be friendly and polite. And don't overdo it. The last thing you want is to be the drunk passenger.

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