You’ve just boarded a plane. Maybe you’re off on that trip you have always wanted to take to Bali—or maybe you’re on your way back home from that horrible business trip with Ashton from marketing. Whatever it is you just want to sit back and relax, but there are few things on a plane that allow us to actually relax. The seats aren’t comfortable (I’m talking economy class because that’s where we the 99 percenters are), the in-flight movies are usually crap (some airlines are getting better content), we must sit next to people we never would and must be cordial at all times (“No I didn’t know your cousin’s kid is in the movie business too. Kevin O’Malley? Sorry I don’t know him. Can I email him and talk with him?” No!), and don’t get me started on the food. So how is it we are to relax on this oh-so-relaxing flight next to Marge from Tulsa who brought salmon packed in Ziploc bags, watching some Nicolas Sparks movie, eating sweet and sour beef? On a six hour and change flight? Alcohol!
Behold the beverage cart, that cumbersome bull in a china shop of wondrous beverages that seems to move at a snail’s pace! The usuals of booze are there—gin, vodka, whiskey, scotch, beer, and wine—but the caliber of these choices has not always been the best. Don’t get me wrong: Every now and then Jack Daniels is good or I’ll be happy with a screwdriver. But with all the wonderful and amazing cocktail choices out there now ordering a drink on a plane feels like surrender. As in “I’m stuck on this plane and I will take whatever I find remotely palatable to manufacture a buzz.” Now airlines are getting into the cocktail game. You can now order a Trader Vics® Mai Tai or Moscow Mule by Crafthouse Cocktails on select airlines and flights. But what do you do when you want a classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned? Well, W+P Design, a food and drink design company, and Punch, that wonderful journalistic force of booze and booze life, have brought the craft cocktail to new heights (30,000 feet to be exact) with the Carry-On Cocktail Kit.
So here I am seated in my window seat next to my lovely wife. There is no in-flight entertainment other than what we brought. We are flying from Boise to Los Angeles. The flight is just under three hours so there is no food, but they still have a beverage service. I learn that United has just started carrying Buffalo Trace bourbon and I just happen to have my Carry-On Cocktail Kit with me. Feeling good, I ask for a mini-bottle of Buffalo Trace and am immediately told they do not have it. However, after peering deep into the cart and pointing it out to them, I hear some excuses, witness my credit card being swiped, and then I’m off and muddling.
The kit comes with everything you need for two drinks. There is a small bottle of bitters, two packets of sugar, a spoon/muddler, a linen coaster, and a recipe card, all encased in a small tin with very specific directions. When ordering your alcohol you are to ask for two cups: one empty and one with ice. I start by pouring the bitters, bourbon, and one packet of sugar into the empty cup, which is intended to be used as a vessel for muddling and stirring. Using the muddler I crush up the sugar, stirring every so often. This process takes the longest because they use a very raw sugar. Maybe it is the anticipation but it seems like a full eight minutes (I’m still kicking myself for not timing it). Once that process is done I just pour the concoction into the cup with ice, stir for 15 seconds and enjoy. And enjoy I did.
The Old Fashioned is a very easy cocktail but somehow it seems to get messed up just as easily with a splash of soda, muddled orange, muddled cherry, or both. This Old Fashioned is the real Old Fashioned, however, and if it could it would stand up (that’s an Eminem reference for you older folks out there). I will say that this drink is all about the bourbon you use and as I previously stated United thankfully now carries Buffalo Trace—so this was a really good cocktail! I had to hold back on making a second one because I wanted to save it for the next flight.
So what do I think of the Carry-On Cocktail Kit? I like it. The drink turned out great. Is it worth $24? You heard me: I said $24! I found it at amazon.com new for $20 and used (why would I buy a used repackaged drink kit?) for $12, but—this may come as a surprise—I don’t think it’s worth it. Any simple DIYer could whip up one of these kits much more cheaply. Mine was a gift, however, so that part of it didn’t bother me. In addition to the Old Fashioned they also sell a Carry-On Cocktail Gin and Tonic Kit and a Moscow Mule version. These are probably great as well but I’d rather just make my own kit. If you aren’t into the DIY ritual then get the kit but know that each serving starts out at $12—roughly what a cocktail costs in any major metropolitan city—and that’s before you buy the booze from the airline. Fair warning!
All in all, I enjoyed my drink but I would advise against buying the kit. Maybe ask for it for Christmas or your birthday and then reuse the tin. Either way, enjoy your booze responsibly be it on the ground or at 30,000 feet in the air.