9 Best Drinks Served Above 30,000 Feet

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Southwest Airlines’ Summer Shandy

Aside from noise-canceling headphones, a neck pillow and maybe an Ambien, there’s no greater necessity for air travel than a good drink. But if that conjures images of ho-hum beer and mini bottles of mass-market wine and spirits, think again. A handful of airlines are stepping up their boozy offerings, which includes bottled (and well-balanced) cocktails, craft brews, local liquor and even Champagne. Forget the airport bars—these are nine of the best ways to imbibe from 30,000 feet in the sky.

1. Calimocho (Virgin America)

With a nod to Basque culture, Virgin America serves up the Calimocho (also spelled Kalimotxo), the sweet chilled cocktail made with equal parts red wine and Coca-Cola, served on the rocks with a splash of lemon for $8. Developed in a partnership with Morgans Hotel Group in 2013, it’s an homage to Spain and California, highlighting the wine and fresh fruit around Virgin America’s hometown.

2. Crafthouse Cocktails Moscow Mule (United Airlines)

If you can’t find a bartender on board, the next best thing might be to order a Crafthouse Cocktail, the premium bottled cocktail collection created by renowned mixologist Charles Joly. Since October 2015, you can find the signature Moscow Mule on United-operated North and Central America flights. The classic drink is produced with small-batch vodka, ginger beer, California lime juice and real cane sugar. Passengers can purchase a 200-milliliter bottle (enough for two cocktails) for $13.

3. Champagne (Air France)

As the only airline to offer complimentary Champagne on board long-haul international flights to all passengers in all cabins, Air France consults with world-class sommelier Paulo Basso on the airline’s wine list. His expertise is evident: More than 1.5 million bottles of wine and more than 800,000 bottles of Champagne are served on board Air France flights and currently listed are Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs (2005), Palmer & Co Champagne Brut Millésimé (2008) and Devaux Grande Réserve Brut.

4. Signature Appleton Estate Rum Cocktails (Caribbean Airlines)

What better way to compliment Caribbean fare (like jerk chicken and seafood creole) served on board a Caribbean Airlines flight than a well-aged 21-year-old Jamaican rum? Jamaica’s Appleton Estate rum, served neat or mixed with fruit punch or pineapple ginger, is rich with oak, nutmeg and exotic spices, and when it’s complimentary, it might be worth making it a double.

5. RefreshMint (JetBlue)  

On JetBlue’s premium first-class service, Mint, all flyers are offered a complimentary signature cocktail, the RefreshMint, a honey-infused limeade made with fresh mint and served with or without vodka. It was created by New York City restaurant Saxon + Parole, which also consulted on the airline’s tapas-style seasonal menu.

6. Ginger Sunrise (Alaska Airlines)

Alaska Airlines’ food and beverage team uses the best of the Pacific Northwest when curating its onboard offerings, which include beer from Juneau’s Alaskan Brewing Company and wine from iconic winery Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington state. The airline partnered with local Seattle craft distiller Sun Liquor to provide the vodka, rum and gin, which is used in the Ginger Sunrise, Alaska Airline’s take on the Gin Buck, available for $7.

7. Genever (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines)

Talk about first-class perks: Since the 1950s, KLM has been presenting every World Business Class passenger with a mini Dutch house filled with Dutch gin, a.k.a. genever. Customers were pleased (natch), and the Delft houses soon became collector’s items, with a new edition coming out annually to this day. While wine, Champagne and local brew Heineken are served gratis on board KLM in all cabins, lucky intercontinental travelers can imbibe Dutch gin straight out of mini houses.

8. Jack and Joe (Delta Air Lines)

A sweet and smooth combination of Baileys Irish Cream, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey whiskey and coffee, the aptly named Jack and Joe was the winning invention of an Atlanta-based Delta flight attendant. Available on all Delta flights for $10, the cocktail can be served warm or on the rocks.

9. Summer Shandy (Southwest Airlines)

It may be a favorite summertime brew, but there’s never a wrong time of year for a Shandy. Fortunately, Southwest Airlines rotates its selection of Leinenkugel’s beer on a seasonal basis. In warmer months, starting now, the Summer Shandy is served for a wallet-friendly price of $5. Come fall, Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest will be on board, and for winter, look for the Cranberry Ginger Shandy.

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