BartenderHQ is on tour this week in Tenerife, so let’s talk about drinking well when you fly. Though spirits can be limited, there are some easy hacks to enhance your mile high drinking experience. So here’s our guide to in flight cocktails and drinking like you’re in first class.

Just to be clear this is not about sneaking your own booze aboard to avoid buying drinks on the plane, that’s what Tipsy Bartender is for. Unless you’re planning to bring a watermelon on board to stuff all your miniature spirits in, there won’t be much crossover here.

Typical in flight bar


Airline trollies will generally cover most of the bases in terms of spirits. Expect a vodka, rum, gin, American and scotch whisk(e)y and brandy on most flights. Tequila is often absent as they’re trying to avoid people getting too drunk and it sadly still has a reputation as a party shot. That said, given the rest of the range, it would probably be a cheap diffuser made mixto anyway.

On our flight, the options were:

  • Smirnoff Vodka
  • Bacardi White Rum
  • Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey
  • Bells Scotch Whisky
  • Three Barrels VSOP Brandy

There were also two other Gins as this was a flight from the UK to a Spanish Island, Hendricks and Whitley Neill Rhubarb and Ginger.

For mixers, we had light tonic, ginger ale, tomato juice and lemonade (lemon soda for our American friends!). There was also the usual orange juice, cola and the like available, as well as ice.

So we have a pretty decent base to work with for in flight cocktails, but we want to enhance these into something a bit more special.

In flight cocktails

What is practical to bring aboard?

We want to keep this as light and compact as possible, as so many travellers are going carry on baggage only these days and we don’t want to reduce space and weight for what you actually need.

Also we have to bear in mind that you can’t bring liquids over 100ml (a little over 3oz) into the cabin, unless they were bought in the airport. On international flights, you may be restricted on fresh produce.

I think it’s safest to mainly avoid anything perishable and spring for bitters and syrups where we can to modify flavours.

And let’s be honest, the guy next to you doesn’t want you shaking drinks in his ear, so let’s keep it stirred!

Ready to go products

The bitter truth cocktail travellers set

The Bitter Truth Cocktail Traveller’s Set

These travel bottles weigh in at just 20ml each which is plenty to get you through any trip, and of course you don’t have to take the full set with you. You get a nice range of bitters including:

  • Aromatic Bitters
  • Orange Bitters
  • Celery Bitters
  • Creole Bitters
  • Jerry Thomas Own Decanter Bitters

These will cover most of the bases in terms of bitters, though few cocktails can be made without anything else.

If you’re looking to fly with other Bitters, it’s pretty easy to find some small pipette bottles on ebay, which you can fill with whatever you like. If you love a really dry martini for example, one of these with vermouth would work great.

Dropper bottle

Cloudy lemonade

If you can find it in the airport, a bottle of cloudy lemonade is a great choice. It’s not a million miles away from a sweet & sour mix that would have graced every bar a few years ago. Okay, it’s not perfect, but we’re making do here!

Other airport mixers

You could also look out for a spicy ginger beer in the airport, letting you make a buck or mule on board, but remember we found ginger ale as an on board option too.

Coffee shops

If you need simple syrup for your in flight cocktail creation, head to the coffee shop. If you’re having a coffee I doubt many baristas would refuse you a to go espresso cup of hot water on the side. Grab some sugars (or low-cal sweetness for the health conscious) and stir them in. It’ll be nicely cooled by the time you board.

Feeling fancy? Buy a shot of flavoured syrup from the barista to go and make a caramel old fashioned on board!

Coffee Syrups

So what in flight cocktails can we make?

Vodka

  • Screwdriver (Vodka, orange juice)
  • Moscow mule (Vodka, Ginger Beer, Aromatic Bitters)
  • Vodka Collins (Vodka, cloudy lemonade, maybe some orange bitters)

Rum

  • Rum Sour (very close to a daiquiri – using the cloudy lemonade)
  • Cuba Libre (Rum, cola, orange bitters in place of lime)
  • Rum Buck (Rum, ginger ale or beer, Bitters of choice)

Gin

  • Gin & Tonic – great chance to try out the different bitters.
  • Gin Buck (way better than people realise, Gin, Ginger ale, orange bitters)

Whiskey

  • Old Fashioned (Whiskey, aromatic bitters, simple syrup (or flavoured))
  • John Collins (Whiskey, cloudy lemonade, orange bitters)
  • Whiskey Sour (as above with a little angostura)

Brandy

  • Sidecar (lemonade and orange bitters)

These are just a few ideas, do you have any travel hacks for making decent drinks on the go? We’d love to hear and add them to the list!

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