A Frequent Flier's Guide to Mixing Your Own Cocktails on a Plane

Yahoo TravelAugust 20, 2014
plane cocktail
plane cocktail

You can’t BYOB on a plane, but you can bring mixing ingredients. (Photo: Underwood Archives / Getty Images)

By Christopher Osburn

Be it for work, leisure, or reconnecting with family, people travel great distances by plane every day of the year. And while long check-in lines, missed connections, and delayed flights can bring quick headaches and an overall bad attitude, when you do finally get settled into your seat, it’s nice to relax and unwind with a refreshing cocktail. But how do you get the same great concoction from a flight attendant slinging 50 drinks a minute 35,000 feet up as you do from your home bar? Simple. Make it yourself.

But hold on: You might assume you can just bring a few hotel-sized mini bottles of alcohol with you for the trip so long as they meet the 3.4-ounce container size as deemed by the FAA, but it’s still a federal crime to crack open your own alcohol mid-flight, and carries a hefty fine if you’re caught and cited. According to Kathy Casey, host of Liquid Kitchen, your best bet is to start your cocktail with the spirits offered onboard and get creative with rest.

Related: The 5 Kinds of Drunks Flight Attendants Can’t Stand on the Plane

First, pick your drink and bring along the best ingredients from home. “It depends on what your cocktail of choice is,” adds Iain McCallum, Global Master of Malts for Morrison Bowmore Distillers. “Bourbon, a splash of ginger ale, and a touch of cranberry are pretty refreshing with a squeeze of lemon.” For international flights, most airlines carry Campari. “So you can do a delicious drink mixing that with gin or vodka, and a splash of grapefruit and orange.”

plane cocktail
plane cocktail

You might need to bring your own shaker for an in-flight martini. (Photo: Thinkstock)

And although the spirit you are going to use for your cocktails needs to be purchased in the air, you can still bring along a small bottle of non-alcoholic bitters to make yourself a “pre-mix,” as well as a lemon or lime that can be cut with a plastic knife once you’re on board. “Squeeze the wedges and drop them into a cup, mix with a sugar packet and some sparkling water to make a citrusy fizzy base you can add liquor to," McCallum said.

Now for tools: Ask the flight attendant for an empty cup, an extra cup of ice for mixing your own cocktail, and plenty of extra napkins. You should also ask for a stir stick or spoon for the perfect drink, or if you’re really committed, toss a special stirring spoon and a small plastic cocktail shaker away in your bag.

Related: A Gentleman’s Guide to Drinking Well in Las Vegas 

plane cocktail
plane cocktail

Help the flight attendant out and let her know exactly what ingredients you need. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Always be specific when you’re asking for ingredients. Say things like ”I would like a cup with a splash of cranberry and a splash of orange juice, a cup of ice, a bottle of gin, and a can of soda, please.” Flight attendants are busy, so ask for everything you need the first time. 

And if there’s a kind gentleman or a classy lady nearby, be prepared to make two. 


With everything in hand, here are a few quick cocktail recipes to enjoy on your next flight:

Bloody Mary: Bring a packet of pepper, some hot sauce. Order a vodka and tomato juice with ice.

Old Fashioned: Bring a mini bottle of non-alcoholic bitters, a sugar packet, and orange slice. Order a whiskey with ice.

Negroni: Bring an orange slice. Order a Campari, a gin, a cup of ice, and a cranberry, grapefruit, or orange juice. 

Michelada: Bring a lime, worschester sauce, hot sauce, and salt. Order a beer, Mexican if available.

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