We constantly hear that airlines are striving to upgrade their wine offerings. This may be true in Business or First Class, but Coach is another story. Despite all the public relations noise, you’re still likely to be handed a 187ml bottle of one of the Unmentionables (Glen Ellen, FishEye, etc.).
When it comes to cocktails, however, airlines are trying to outdo each other with a vengeance. As usual, the foreign carriers are particularly creative. Singapore Airlines pays homage to the Raffles Hotel with its Singapore Sling, a blend of gin, cherry brandy, Grenadine, bitters and pineapple juice—essentially a Mai Tai made with gin instead of rum. Cathay Pacific offers The Cloud Nine, a mix of Cointreau, sprite and vodka.
If you want a real Mai Tai, United offers them (along with other Trader Vic’s drinks) on flights to Hawaii and other Pacific destinations. Virgin America has teamed up with Le Tourment Vert, a San-Francisco based Absinthe producer, to offer a variety of inflight potions; as of yet, no one has cut off their ear at 30,000 feet. Continental is rolling out Mojitos, pomegranate martinis and Red Bull energy cocktails for a hefty $9 apiece.
Surprisingly, Delta has been in the lead of the inflight cocktail revolution. They began selling Mojitos in 2006, and have rotated their selections regularly since then. Their current feature is the Five O’Clock Somewhere, which contains rum, orange juice and cranberry-apple juice. On the ground, the Delta Sky Clubs are promoting The Summer Breeze, a concoction of tequila, Blookdy Mary mix, salt, pepper and Tabasco in honor of the TV hit Mad Men.
The point of all this, of course, is added revenue. Designer cocktails on board cost $7-9, compared to the standard $5 for a miniature of your favorite booze. Balanced against the added profit is the extra time it takes to produce these drinks. Watch a flight attendant shake one of these things for the person in front of you while you wait to order your Diet Sprite, and you’ll see what I mean.
If the airlines need to make money, and they desperately do, why not offer a premium tier of wines by the glass? There are many of us who would gladly pay $15 for a glass of Premier Cru Chablis, and all the flight attendant would need to do is pour it out of a bottle.