Being away from a quality bar -- whether a cocktailian boîte or your own home -- doesn't mean you can't have a well-crafted drink. For instance, most airlines will sell you a miniature liquor bottle and a mixer, and it's not hard at all to enjoy a rum and Coke, a gin and tonic, a Bloody Mary, a whiskey and soda, et cetera. But what if you want to move beyond the highball kingdom? It's not too hard to make yourself a good drink while aloft, provided you do a little prep.
I brought along a small kit with lemon wedges, Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, an orange wheel, some homemade cocktail cherries, and an orange twist. I packed the citrus in individual zip-type plastic bags (pill-size and snack-size) and put the liquids in 12ml bottles from Muji. (The 1/8 oz. Tabasco bottles would work here, as would any kind of small vial-type bottle. I was just trying to keep everything below the 3oz. TSA limit.) This kit let me easily throw together a Tom Collins, an Old-Fashioned, and a Manhattan -- just cadge cups, ice, seltzer, and sugar from your friendly flight attendant (mine was greatly intrigued when she saw me shaking up the Tom Collins) and you're all set. A coffee cup set in a beverage cup made a pretty decent imitation of a Boston shaker, chopsticks from the airport Panda Express franchise did double duty as a muddler and a stirring spoon, and you can strain using two cups (Careful of the turbulence, now.)
You don't have to limit yourself to these three drinks, of course; Rob Roys and Whiskey Sours are easy with this particular kit as well. Substitute in some dry vermouth for sweet, and maybe add some orange bitters, and you can do Algonquins and Martinis. Orange bitters will also work in a Rob Roy. Bring along some lime wedges, and make Cuba Libres, Daiquiris, Gimlets, Moscow Mules, et cetera.
The key is not to think of it as an airplane; think of it as a very exclusive cocktail lounge that moves at 600 miles an hour, has its very own pair of designated drivers up front, and whose bouncers make you take off your shoes.
(Many thanks to Bari Dulberg for the camera work and to Damon Dyer for the conversation that suggested this topic.)