Between temperatures that fluctuate from freezing to sweltering, the war for limited legroom, and the cacophony of crying children and the stressed-out parents trying to soothe them, the chaos of crowded flights demands a good cocktail to take the edge off. Unfortunately, unless you’re one of the few who are able to shell out thousands for a ticket that grants you access to an in-flight bar, you’re relegated to the selection of mini bottles on hand in the aircraft’s beverage cart.

I know what you might be thinking: “Can’t I just buy a few nippers at Duty Free and bring my own mini bottles on board?” Unfortunately, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits the consumption of any alcohol on board that was not served by the airline, which means you’re stuck choosing from whatever is available in the air.

Luckily, most U.S. carriers have you covered with a collection of gin, vodka, rum, and whiskey available for purchase. Plus, with a vast selection of non-alcoholic beverages available for free, it’s relatively easy to shake or stir up your favorite cocktail. Be careful of turbulence, though — you’d hate for your tipple to topple over into the lap of your seat neighbor. Talk about an awkward flight.

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Here are 14 cocktails you can DIY on your next flight, ranging in difficulty from “enough for the toddler in 19F to assist with” to “the process starts while still in the airport.”



The Mimosa is one of the most straightforward cocktails you can make yourself while onboard. When the beverage cart rolls around during drinks service, simply request a glass of sparkling wine and a cup of orange juice, then pour the O.J. into your glass of sparkling. Though it may not be served out of a Champagne flute, in-flight Mimosas are simple, effective, and definitely delicious.


The Screwdriver can be considered the hard liquor sibling of the Mimosa, and making one for yourself while in-flight has never been easier. Request a glass of orange juice on ice and a mini bottle of vodka, pour the liquor into the juice, stir gently, and enjoy.

Gin and Tonic

With just two simple ingredients, the Gin & Tonic is another classic cocktail that’s easy to whip up at 30,000 feet. Ask for a tonic water on ice, a bottle of gin, and a lemon or lime from your flight attendant. If you’re lucky, they’ll offer you real citrus, but a True Citrus packet will do the trick just fine. When all ingredients are in your possession, just add the gin to the tonic, squeeze or pour in your citrus of choice, and get drinking.

Irish Coffee

If you prefer your cocktail to have a caffeinated edge, especially if you’re on a red-eye, you’re in luck: Making an Irish Coffee mid-flight is as easy as one, two, three. When your friendly flight attendant reaches your seat, request a cup of hot coffee with a bit of room, cream, sugar, and a bottle of whiskey. (Most airlines don’t have Irish whiskey on board, but any whiskey will do the trick in a bind.) Next, add half a packet of sugar and the whiskey into your coffee, and stir thoroughly until combined. If you prefer your coffee black, you’re welcome to stop here, but if you like your caffeine light and sweet, top your cup off with cream.

Bonus: If you want to booze things up a bit more, try swapping out regular cream for Baileys Irish Cream, which is available on United, American, and JetBlue flights.

Hot Toddy

Plane cabins can get a little chilly at cruising altitude, and what better way to warm up than with a Hot Toddy? Turns out making your own while on board is fairly simple, as most planes come equipped with hot water, lemon, and honey for beverage service to satisfy tea drinkers. To booze things up, order all three ingredients along with a nipper of whiskey. Pour the spirit into the hot water, then add the lemon and honey for a bit of acidity and sweetness. If you’re flying Delta, be sure to specify that you want Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey — the airline is the only U.S. carrier to offer the honey whiskey, and the expression elevates the classic honey notes of the Hot Toddy.


Originating in Spain in the 1920, the Kalimotxo is an eccentric yet delicious cocktail that’s just as easily enjoyed at sea level as it is at 30,000 feet. The drink contains equal parts red wine and Coca-Cola, so be sure to request both from your flight attendant and pour over ice.

Cuba Libre

Though often associated with a plain Rum and Coke, the Cuba Libre is its own distinct cocktail, and it’s the perfect DIY libation for your next journey. You’ll need a can of Coca-Cola, a mini bottle of rum, and two limes (or one packet of True Lime) from the beverage cart. Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, simply pour your rum into your Coke with ice, add your lime juice, and sip.


While Sangria is typically made with fresh fruit, turbulent flights mean that desperate times call for desperate measures. For a produce-free version, combine red or white wine with orange juice and cranberry juice and pour over ice. To add a bit of effervescence, be sure to request a bit of club soda.

Bonus: If you want to jazz up your in-flight Sangria even further, grab some fruit from a vendor in your terminal and pop a few berries in your beverage.

Bloody Mary

Luckily for Bloody Mary lovers, making one on board has never been easier: Major U.S. airlines like United, American, Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue all carry Mr. & Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix. Delta flyers have it especially easy, as flight attendants will mix up a Bloody Mary for thirsty travelers for them. But if you’re on your own, just mix together some vodka and the Bloody mix and pour it over ice. If vodka isn’t your spirit of choice, or if you’re choosing to refrain from drinking spirits at all, consider combining a light beer — preferably a cerveza if your plane has it — with your Bloody Mary mix for a delightful Michelada.

Bonus: Mr. & Mrs. T Bloody Mary mix has subtle yet non-overhwhelming spice. For those who love their Bloodies extra spicy, consider nipping some hot sauce from your terminal to add to your libation onboard.


Tom Collins

The Tom Collins is a relatively easy cocktail to make, but the added step of making your own simple syrup before you take off bumps this cocktail up a class. To make your own simple, stop at your terminal’s coffee shop prior to boarding and request a cup of hot water and an extra empty cup. At the condiments station, combine equal parts sugar and water in the empty cup and stir until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture develops a syrup-like consistency. Then, during beverage service, ask for club soda, gin, and a bit of lemon juice. In a cup with ice, combine the gin, club soda, lemon juice, and a bit of simple syrup. Stir and imbibe!


Similar to the Tom Collins, making a Daiquiri mid-flight means pre-making some simple syrup in your terminal before boarding. Once you’re on the flight, be sure to ask for two cups (one with ice and one without,) some white rum, and limes. Combine the rum, a splash of premade simple syrup, and juice from two lime wedges or one packet of True Lime into your cup with ice. Toss the contents back and forth from cup to cup until thoroughly combined.

French 75

A DIY French 75 may not be as posh as one served in swanky cocktail bars, but it’s certainly still worth your while. Make some simple syrup at the terminal, then request a cup of ice, an empty cup, gin, sparkling wine (Champagne, if they have it) and lemon during beverage service. Combine one ounce of gin, approximately three-quarter ounce of lemon juice, and about an ounce of simple syrup in your cup with ice before tossing back and forth. Once combined, top with your sparkling wine and voilà!



This one requires some at-home prep before you even leave for the airport. Pack about 10 mint leaves in your carry-on, make simple syrup in your terminal, and once you’re on the flight, request rum, limes, club soda, and two cups (one empty and one with ice). Then, add the mint, rum, about three-quarter ounce of simple syrup, and a bit of lime juice to your cup with ice before tossing back and forth between both cups to mix. While this Mojito may not be as minty fresh as one that’s been muddled by a bartender on the ground, the cocktail is still just as refreshing, making it perfect to enjoy on stuffy airplanes.

Espresso Martini

Never, I repeat, never should Baileys be used to make an Espresso Martini while you have both feet on solid ground. But as is the case with Sangria, desperate times call for desperate measures. Making a mid-flight Espresso Martini actually starts at the airport, specifically in the Starbucks line: While in your terminal, be sure to snag a double shot of espresso. Once you’re in the air, request two cups (one with ice and one without) as well as vodka and Baileys. Combine your espresso, vodka, and Baileys in your cup with ice before gently tossing the concoction into the empty cup, repeating the process until well-combined. It may not hit the same as an Espresso Martini on the ground, but it will surely wake you up before you disembark at your destination.