Traveling but don't want to pay airport or train station prices for a cocktail? Believe it or not, you can make impressive drinks yourself with nothing more than the mini bottles of liquor sold on planes and trains and a few scavenged ingredients. They may not taste perfect, but the fun is in the journey, after all.
A few years ago, this challenge would have been more difficult than it is today. With the demand for better booze in all forms, more brands are releasing mini bottles. Companies have produced kits designed to help anyone make classic cocktails on the go, and you can even get travel-sized bitters (Angostura makes tiny 1/8 oz. bottles).
Mini bottles have their benefits, says Jared Schubert, co-founder of bartender summer retreat Camp Runamok, and it may even be worth it to bring your own. They can be a great way to strike up a conversation with your neighbor on a plane or train. Schubert is a pro, and he recommends bringing three bottles: one that’s recognizable to share with your seat mate, one mid-priced mini to enjoy for yourself, and one cheap bottle you won't regret giving away. “When in doubt, always bring vodka. It’s odorless, tasteless, flavorless, and no one complains about vodka breath.”
Hit The Lab
Unlock your inner MacGyver and you'll be able to mix a tasty cocktail in most situations. “None of these drinks will taste exactly like the cocktails you’re used to,” says Schubert. “All of them are almost drinks. They’re almost good. It’s like what we’d do in the apocalypse.”
To gather ingredients for these cocktails, steal lemon or lime wedges from around the soda fountain. “I’m notorious for taking plastic bags with me to the airport and stealing the fruit from where you get the make-your-own iced tea stations,” says Schubert.
One of the easiest cocktails to fake is a Rum Sour. In preparation, steal a sugar packet and three wedges of lemon. Pour a mini bottle of rum over the other ingredients and stir before adding ice.
If you're working with a mini bottle of gin or whiskey, you can create a makeshift Bee’s Knees or Gold Rush, respectively, says Steva Casey, bar manager at Saturn in Birmingham. You'll need to scavenge honey packets, so good luck. If that's a success, pour the honey packet into a glass and squeeze a couple lemons over top before adding your liquor.
For people who want more spirit-forward cocktails, an Almost Mint Julep may be more your style. “Find an Altoid, a packet of sugar, and a tiny bottle of whiskey. Crush the Altoid up and pour the sugar over it with ice,” says Schubert. “It tastes nothing like a Mint Julep, but it’ll do the trick if you close your eyes and pretend.”
Tequila fans aren’t out of luck. In fact, a Batanga can be made pretty much anywhere, provided you have a mini of tequila, some stolen lime wedges, and a Coke, says Alan Kennedy, national brand ambassador for Trianon Tequila. Pour the bottle of tequila into the glass, and squeeze a couple lime wedges on top. Stir with a knife, and garnish with another piece of lime.
Craving a Moscow Mule? Sidle over to the candy store to buy some candied ginger. But avoid the ginger Altoids, says Schubert. “They’re too dry. Muddle the candied ginger and lime together. Add vodka and soda water, and you have an Almost Mule.”
If none of these seem worth the hassle or you have to run to make your flight, one other option is open: shots. Remember to drink and travel responsibly.