When you’re on the road, the trail, or up in the air, it’s not always easy to procure a high-quality cocktail. At least not without paying the room service kid $17 plus tip for some watered-down mess.
It is, however, fairly easy to locate, or pack, some reasonably drinkable spirits and a glass. And once you have that, you can make simply make yourself a proper drink with this DIY travel, carry-on friendly cocktail kit.
And, being that it’s the holiday season, we’re recommending these as a seriously good gift option. They can be assembled for about $4.00 in materials, and they’re easy enough to make in batches for everyone you know. We got all our materials from SpecialtyBottle.com. They have totally reasonable prices, no minimum orders, and fast shipping.
How to: Make a Travel Old Fashioned Kit
- Small rectangular container (I used a brushed model from SpecialtyBottle.com. An Altoids tin also works great)
- Sugar packets, preferably turbinado or other raw sugar
- Small glass bottle with dropper top (I used the 1/2 oz Amber Boston Round with Black Glass Dropper from SpecialityBottle.com)
- Angostura Bitters
- 3/8″ or 7/16″ diameter dowel rod and small saw
- Travel cocktail downloadable PDF
1. The Bitters
In addition to a sweetener, bitters are the essential ingredient that turns a whiskey-on-the-rocks into an Old Fashioned. Angostura are traditional here, and unless you have a personal preference for something else, there’s no need to vary from the classic. You can find them in the mixer section of any grocery store.
Now, we just need to get them into the tiny bottle. The cleanest way is to use a butter knife to remove the dropper cap from the Angosture bottle, and pour a tablespoon or so into a small bowl.
Then, use the eye dropper to move the bitters into the container. This will take 15-20 reps, but only a total time of a minute and a half.
If you have a super tiny funnel, you could use that as well. But be smart! It can get messy.
A small length of dowel rod serves both to break down the sugar and citrus peel, as well as the role of a stir stick to bring the whole thing together. I used a 7/16″ diameter birch dowel ( a 3/8″ works well, too).
Cut to the length of your tin using any sort of small saw. You could also ask someone at the the hardware store to do this for you.
Download the PDF and print it out. The in are sized to match the tins from Specialty Bottle. Cut along the light outline, and place in the lid.
The easiest way to sweeten the drink is to include a few sugar packets. It’s best to use a raw sugar for richer flavor if possible.
I asked nicely at the neighborhood coffee shop if it was okay to take a few. You can also easily buy a box online.
To bring the whole thing together, place two-three raw sugar packets in the bottom of the tin. Add the bitters bottle, the muddler, and insert the printed instruction sheet into the lid.
If you’re giving this as a gift, be sure to include a mini bottle of bourbon to bring the whole thing together. There are enough bitters to make dozens of drinks, and sugar packets are easy to come by. (If you’re on an airplane, you can just ask the flight attendant.)
This kit imagines you’ll have access to things like glassware and ice. While you could certainly use it in the backcountry, you’ll be drinking your cocktail at air temperature unless you can find some snow, or you’ve pack a frozen block with you.
But, you can find these things most places you’ll be enjoying one, like a a hotel room, airplane, or your in-laws house when visiting for the holidays. Here’s how to assemble the cocktail.
Place half the sugar packet (or more to taste) in the bottom of the glass, along with three drops of bitters, and citrus wedge, if you can your hands on one. An orange is nice, but a lemon, lime, grapefruit, clementine, etc, will all work great. You can totally pack an orange in your carryon, or grab one at the news stand on your way to your gate. Bonus points if you wipe the colorful zest of the peel around the rim of the glass before adding it.
Add a splash of water to the glass, and use the muddler to crunch the sugar into the fruit of the citrus. Don’t press on the white pith lest you make an astringent and bitter cocktail. When you’re down, the juice, bitters, and sugar will have combined into a nice syrup.
Fill the glass with ice, and add a mini bottle (50 ml or 1.75 oz) of bourbon or blended whiskey to the glass. Use the muddler to stir, and enjoy.
That’s it. Keep it stocked, and you’ll be able to make all sorts of drinks wherever your adventures might take you.