5 Numbing Cocktails for Long Flights

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Anyone can order wine or beer on a long flight, but those who prefer cocktails have to be a little more creative. Most U.S. airlines have limited spirit, liqueur and mixer selections, so if you want mixers like vermouth or bitters, you’re out of luck. Chances are you also didn’t pack your cocktail shaker in your carry-on luggage, so any cocktail you make will have to be built in a glass and stirred to mix. Even with these limitations, however, there are several delicious cocktails you can mix from the comfort of your airplane seat.

5 Bloody Mary

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Ask for: vodka, bloody mary mix. Serve with ice. If you’re on an early morning flight, you’d probably like a refreshing pick-me-up more than a dessert drink. Fortunately, most U.S. airlines offer complimentary, premade bloody mary mix for this classic alcoholic brunch cocktail and hangover cure. Just add vodka! If the airline you’re flying with doesn’t have bloody mary mix, you can order tomato juice and orange juice in its place for what’s known as a screw mary.

4 G&T

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Ask for: gin, tonic water, a lime or lemon wedge. Serve with ice. The G&T, short for gin and tonic, is the quintessential American muckity-muck cocktail. But there are more reasons to nurse a G&T on long flights than just looking like you should be in first class: tonic water contains quinine, a medicine that’s a muscle relaxant and a disease-preventing prophylactic. Muscles cramping up from being wedged into a too-tiny seat for too long? Worried you might catch that cold the guy across the aisle has? A G&T might be just the cure. If you’re not a gin fan, you can substitute vodka to make a vodka and tonic, or whiskey for a leprechaun.

3 Brass Monkey

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Ask for: rum, vodka, orange juice. Serve with ice. Brass Monkey was one of the first premixed cocktails you could buy in the 1970s and ’80s, but it’s simple to make it yourself. A slight twist on the normal screwdriver, this cocktail packs more of a punch with the addition of rum. It should appeal to people who like Long Island iced teas. It’s not a classy cocktail—any drink with monkey in the name tends to be a little, let’s say, earthy-tasting—but you’ll get more for your money out of it than you will with the previous two cocktails.

2 B-52

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Ask for: Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua, Amaretto. Serve without ice. There’s something that’s just right about drinking a cocktail named after an airplane on an airplane. The B-52 cocktail is usually served as a shot glass of layered liqueurs. Since layering is probably going to be more trouble than it’s worth on an airplane, just pour the liqueurs gently, one at a time, down the side of your cup—but if you’re dead set on layering, you can always use the back of a spoon. Then knock it back and enjoy a snack.

1 Godfather

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Ask for: Amaretto, Scotch whisky. Serve with or without ice. This cocktail only has a very thin connection to the movie that shares its name, but you’ll still feel like a gangster drinking it. Usually served as an after-dinner drink, the godfather has a nice balance of sweetness from the amaretto and smokiness from the Scotch. Because it’s so strong, you’ll want to work your way through one or several of these slowly, perfect for pacing yourself through a long flight. If you use vodka instead of Scotch, it’s a godmother; use brandy in place of Scotch and it’s a French connection.

Tasha Brandstatter is an art historian and writer. She is a contributor to Book Riot, Food Riot, a media critic with the Pueblo PULP, and a regular contributor to History Colorado. She has a M.A. in art history.

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