For Frequent Flyers: 3 Cocktails That Retain Their Flavour Even At High Altitudes

Thanks to fierce competition among carriers, airline cuisine has got fancier with the input of celebrity chefs and tie-ups with five-star hotels. Think Joel Robuchon’s contribution to Air France food, or Regent Singapore to All Nippon Airways. So, when Virgin Atlantic and Emirates announced their fancy new bars, cocktails were clearly the next order of business. Unlike food, which tends to lose flavour up in the air, certain cocktails surprisingly hold their own against the high-altitude effect on sensory perceptions.

The trick is knowing which drinks to prepare. Says Joost Heymeijer, senior vice-president of catering for Emirates: “On-board an aircraft, mixologists are subjected to time constraints and limited choice of spirits (due to lack of space).” Herbs and flowers lose their freshness in a mere half an hour, and liqueurs and syrups have to be decanted into mandatory 100ml bottles.

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Think cocktails with a strong spirit base (vodka proves popular up in the air) and a tinge of salt. Here are three to knock back.

Bloody Mary from Emirates


Tomato juice is one of the most frequently ordered beverage in the air, so it makes sense that the Bloody Mary would be a top pick. The strong, clean profile of the vodka complements the umami taste of the tomatoes. “Mixologists should keep the preferences of every passenger in mind – a spiced Bloody Mary is different for every person, so the amount of Worcestershire sauce to add will vary,” says Heymeijer.

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Collins from Korean Air


A generous dash of lemon juice gives the Collins cocktail a tartness that lingers on the palate. Using vodka in place of the usual (and often milder) gin also ups its flavour profile.

Singapore Sling from Singapore Airlines (of course)


The familiar herbal notes of Benedictine Dom in the Singapore Sling give an extra edge to the mix of gin, cointreau and grenadine syrup. The use of lime and pineapple also gives the cocktail a good amount of acidity to counter diminishing taste.

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