The airplane cocktail: Keeping passengers sane for decades.
While some travelers may choose to take their sobriety into their own hands by sneaking small bottles of liquor and mixers onto the plane, we advise against any activities that might delay your passage through security. Besides, why risk getting chastised by security or flight attendants when many airlines offer enough free beverage options that you can mix your own cocktails from ingredients that are readily available to you on most flights?
Take Qatar Air, for example. Not only does the airline offer plenty of complimentary beverages, but its flight attendants do so with a smile: For seven years in a row, the airline’s cabin crew has been voted “Best in the Middle East.”
Or consider Emirates, which offers a range of complimentary spirits, beers, and hot and cold beverages (even in economy class). Or give Turkish Airlines a try—you’ll be able to pair your self-made cocktails with items from the airline’s restaurant-worthy world cuisine.
Need convincing? Here are 14 recipes for cocktails that you can mix yourself using nothing but airplane freebies and staple liquors, beers, and wines. Happy sipping.
1. Bloody Mary
This brunch-time classic is a favorite of frequent fliers. At its simplest, all this cocktail requires is a cup filled with ice, vodka, and tomato juice. Spice things up a bit by snagging a packet of pepper and/or hot sauce from an airport restaurant (Panda Express is a good bet) and adding the packets to your drink post-takeoff.
2. Gin and Tonic
This classic summertime cocktail makes for simple anytime drinking in the air. Just ask for a complementary tonic water and pour it and some gin over ice. Since most airplane bottles of gin top out at around 2 ounces, you can pour the whole thing into your cup before topping things off with the tonic water. Bonus points if a flight attendant is able to provide you with a lime wedge.
3. Irish Coffee
While a traditional Irish coffee would include fresh cream, coffee creamers make an adequate substitute when you’re thousands of feet above the ground. Order a cup of coffee and ask for several creamers; add some Irish whiskey to the coffee, then stir in the creamers in order to finish off this twist on an old classic.
4. Juan Collins
This is one of the fanciest recipes on the list (but it’s still pretty simple). Before mixing, ask for a few lemon or lime wedges, some club soda, and a packet of sugar. Squeeze the lemon or lime wedges into the cup, sprinkle in half the packet of sugar, pour in tequila, and top the whole thing off with some club soda.
While you likely won’t be able to find all of the add-ins typical of a margarita on board a plane, you can make a modified version quite simply by mixing tequila with orange juice and Sprite.
The brunch staple is just as good high up in the air. For a cheerful pick-me-up, just mix your desired amount of champagne with orange juice.
7. Moscow Mule
If you’re lucky, the airline will have ginger beer on hand so you can make a classic Moscow Mule (mix vodka with ginger beer and a splash of lime juice, which you can garnish from a few lime wedges). If the flight attendants don’t have ginger beer on hand, then ginger ale will make for an adequate proxy.
This recipe may not pack quite as much flavor complexity as a perfect sangria, but it’ll certainly do in a pinch. Mix a red wine of your choice with orange and cranberry juices over ice, then sit back and enjoy.
Pour as much vodka as you’d like over some ice, then top off the cup with orange juice. Bada bing, bada boom: It’s one of the easiest cocktails on the list.
Not a liquor drinker? No problem. Give this “cocktail”—which uses beer in place of liquor—a try. Order a lager or wheat beer and use it to fill up an airline cup about halfway. Then mix in ginger ale and a splash of lemonade or pineapple juice to top it all off.
11. Whiskey Ginger (or Whiskey Coke)
This one’s easy. Simply mix a whiskey of your choice with ginger ale. (Bourbon and ginger ale works just as well.) Not a fan of ginger ale? Then swap in Coke in order to make a Whiskey-Coke.
12. White Russian
A few tweaks to the classic White Russian recipe will create a drink that’s almost as good as the real thing. Over ice, mix vodka and Kahlua (or whatever coffee liqueur is on hand; Bailey’s will also do in a pinch). Pour in half & half to taste.
13. Wine Cocktail
Prefer wine to whiskey? No problem. This recipe is a tad more complicated than some of the others on this list, but it’s tasty enough that the effort is worth it. Choose a red or white wine, then mix it with orange curacao or triple sec (think Grand Marnier or Cointreau), leaving some space between the top of the liquid and the edge of the glass. Fill that space with a splash of soda. Next, use a spoon to press wedges of lime, lemon, or orange and add the juice to the glass. (If this step feels too labor-intensive, feel free to skip it.)
14. Wine Spritzer
Don’t have access to orange curacao or triple sec? Modify the above recipe even further by simply mixing wine with some soda (Sprite or even club soda should work well).
Here’s hoping these cocktails help you get through any flight with ease. Whichever recipe(s) you choose, just remember to sip responsibly—drunkenness does not do a jet-lagged body good.