Top Shelf, Mile High: Your Cheat Sheet to the Best In-Flight Drinks Available

Top Shelf, Mile High: Your Cheat Sheet to the Best In-Flight Drinks Available

Here's how to book flights around the best wine, beer, and spirits offerings in the sky.

By Elizabeth Seward
You don't have to visit a Top Chef alum's restaurant or one of Lisa Vanderpump's Los Angeles establishments to access an impressive drink list: If you do the research ahead of time, you can book the flights with wine, beer, and spirits offerings as good as any joint on land. To prepare you for your next flight booking, we've assembled this cheat sheet, by category, to some of the finest and most inspired drinks in the sky — no matter what cabin you're in.

1. Wine

If respectable wine is what you’re after, you can breathe easy because it is out there. Like everything else on this list, it just depends on the airline and the route. 
For professionally curated wine lists with something bound to please, take a look at Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, American Airlines, and Etihad Airways. According to Conde Nast Traveler, these are the airlines currently at the top of their wine game. Emirates stands out for its exquisite collection and Singapore steals the show insofar as sommelier-approved selections. American has a new award-winning wine program worth noting, Qatar takes the impact altitude has on taste seriously, and Etihad might even help put a small winemaker on your radar.

2. Beer

As interest in craft beer continues to rise, so does the availability of the good stuff on board. Thrillist took a close look at which airlines are offering craft brews these days and the roster is expanding... which we warmly welcome!
Frontier Airlines offers Oscar Blues Brewery’s Dale Pale Ale (a selection made by customers via Facebook, no less!), Virgin America serves up 21st Amendment’s Brew Free! Or Die IPA, Delta gives you the option of ordering SweetWater Brewing’s 420 Extra Pale Ale, and Jet Blue will hook you up with Sam Adams’ Boston Lager. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) recently collaborated with Denmark’s Mikkeller beer-makers to bring customers the Mikkeller’s SAS Wit, Sun Country Airlines presents a selection of Surly cans on board, Hawaiian Air represents the Maui Brewing Company, United Airlines sells Goose Island (312 Urban Wheat Ale), and Southwest gives flyers the tried and true New Belgium Fat Tire

3. Liquor

Turn to American for Courvoisier Cognac or Beefeater Gin, United for Tito’s Vodka or Crown Royal, JetBlue forMalibu Rum, and Delta for Woodford Reserve Small Batch Bourbon or Avion Tequila. Virgin America might land you with Glennfiddich Single Malt and Alaska Air has special offerings that stem straight from a partnership with distilleries in Seattle and Portland.

4. Cocktails

Sometimes, nothing less than a finely made cocktail in flight will do. (Recent research tells us just why so many people want a Bloody Mary almost exclusively while flying). Some people even resort to hacking the available mixers with carryon additions — like orange bitters or olives from a restaurant past security — for craftier DIY cocktails. Though the sky-high cocktail party scene has occasionally demanded the customer be the bartender to ensure top quality, the outlook is indeed becoming steadily less bleak for ready-to-go mixed drinks. 
On Virgin America, you can score a cucumber vodka mojito these days. Delta has a new specialty cocktail, “Jack and Joe,” which combines Bailey’s, Jack Daniels, and hot or iced coffee. Southwest offers a twist on this with the “Whoa Coco,” which blends Jack Daniels with hot chocolate. And if you’re on Hawaiian Airlines, you can expect a Koloa Rum punch cocktail to help you to feel like you’re in paradise before you land. 
If you plan properly, you’ll have no problem sipping quality beverages as you dart from one city to the next. Cheers! 
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