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Travel Cocktail Kit: Tested and Improved

Using the Travel Cocktail KitLast December, we wrote about a fun DIY concept: The Summit Sips Travel Cocktail Kit. If you recall, this was based on a commercial product idea whereby the traveling cocktail enthusiast packs a small tin in their carry-on baggage. Once in flight, you open the tin to reveal sugar (rich simple syrup in our case), bitters, and a spoon. Upon ordering some whiskey and and a glass of ice from the attendant, the kit allows you to construct several Old Fashioned cocktails for in-flight enjoyment. Not all of us can afford to fly first-class, so this is a great way to elevate your air travel experience—especially while sitting in the cheap seats. Over the summer, we had an opportunity to finally test our kit. We also heard from several readers about their own experiences and ideas, so we decided to post a follow up.

Mt. Jefferson, in flightDid the kit pass TSA inspection?
You might think this poses a challenge, but TSA didn't even mention the kit as they peered into our plastic ziplock bag at security check points. We were also carrying 50ml bottles of olive oil and they did a careful recheck to make sure these bottles weren't exceeding the 3 ounce limit, but they said nothing about our little tin. So, yes, this kit passes TSA without any issues whatsoever. Other readers have commented about having similar experiences.

What about including mini bottles of booze?
Although you can fill your one-quart ziplock with mini bottles of booze, you can't open them in-flight. Something about the way the sale of liquor is licensed on airplanes prevents patrons from opening their own. We tried, and the attendant wanted to confiscate our drinks, so we purchased mini bottles instead. The bitters were no problem, and the attendant even asked about the dropper bottle. "Oh, cocktail bitters? No problem." So, take this as a warning—don't try to bring your own booze, vermouth or any other alcohol with the intention of opening it and drinking it during the flight. Besides, it's hard to be discreet when you only order a glass of ice.

Is the spoon necessary?
Initially, we didn't think it would be, but we had a chemistry spoon that we cut to size that we wanted to test. It was definitely convenient to have a spoon to stir—even a short one. This is especially true if you are traveling with a companion. You don't want to mix their drink with your fingertip! Our conclusion on this point: Definitely include a spoon with the kit so that the cocktail can be properly mixed and to achieve adequate chill and dilution without making a mess or being unsanitary. We decided to improve our kit by making the spoon a necessity and have tried a variety of options. We like the rare Illy Ombra spoons, but others are easier to obtain. The Ombra is a flat, stainless steel espresso demitasse. By cutting off the logo at the handle and polishing the end, these spoons work well, but they are expensive. Any good spoon is going to require some customization to maximize length inside a minimum space.

Improved Travel Cocktail KitHow did the vials perform?
Our kit requires filling the vials about 2/3 full with granulated sugar. Then, about 48 hours before the flight, adding water to dissolve the sugar. This works perfectly if you give it a good shake and add more water. It takes time for the water to percolate down to the bottom of the vial and air bubbles are released as it happens. After you first fill them with water, be sure to check for dry granules and add more water to top it off.

One improvement we are making is to match the sizes of the sugar vials. Initially, we had two sizes: the larger vial was a 1/2-ounce with a cap, and the smaller was a 1/4-ounce with a dropper. With these you can build 3 drinks (each requires 1/4-ounce of rich simple syrup). Three cocktails is better than two, but four would be even better! We decided there is no need for the dropper on the simple syrup. We thought it might be difficult to portion the large vial and that the dropper would come in handy for carefully doling out the syrup and for filling with water, but in practice, it's easier without the dropper. Besides, in order to fit, the dropper top had to go on the smaller vial where it isn't really needed. This also required swapping caps around which is way more trouble than it is worth. So, the improvement to the kit is also an upgrade: two 1/2-ounce vials, each capped and ready to make enough simple syrup for a total of four (4) cocktails in-flight!

Adding another cocktail to the kit is a big win, especially when traveling with a companion (an even number makes everyone happy). But what about the bitters? We can recharge the sugar at our destination easily enough, but do we have enough bitters to make four cocktails on the flight out plus four more on the journey home? The simple answer is, YES! The 1/8-ounce vial of bitters includes a tiny dropper which holds about 10 drops of bitters per squeeze. We were able to fit more than 200 drops into this tiny vial which is nearly twice as much as we expected. You can easily squirt a couple of dashes into each cocktail. We used 2 droppers full, so about 20 drops per cocktail. The bitters vial has more than enough to get you there and back again without refilling.

Modified Illy Ombra spoonKits Available in the Summit Sips Store while supplies last!
We initially built two special edition kits that were in the store for mere minutes before they were snatched up by our readers. There seems to be some interest in these kits, so we are adding more to our inventory! Click here to see what we have. There are limited options for stainless steel spoons, and all require customization. We cut them to the perfect size (the maximum that will fit inside the tin). We also polish the edges by hand (we don't want anything sharp onboard). Kits include a customized stainless steel spoon, two 1/2-ounce vials of sugar, a 1/8-ounce dropper vial of bitters, all packed in the tin with sleeve and instructions.

If you are keen on having an Improved Summit Sips Travel Cocktail Kit but you want to make the kit yourself, you can view our previous post with links to the parts. To match our latest improvements you'll need to swap out the 1/4-ounce vial for another 1/2-ounce, and download this updated insert which accommodates the change from 3 to 4 cocktails. Don't forget to fashion a spoon. Happy travels!

4 comments to Travel Cocktail Kit: Tested and Improved

  • melissa

    I just ordered everything and found a lady on Etsy, who made me a linen napkin coaster with an airplane in the middle. The recommended tin, is too small for everything! I'm going to order the next size up, so I can fit a stirring spoon inside as well.
    Great blog post, though!

    • That's cool! I do like the compact size for fitting into 1-quart TSA-required plastic zip bags. A larger tin just takes up too much room in my opinion. Having your own cocktail napkin is certainly a bonus, but the attendants usually place a napkin under your glass anyway. I have also found vintage embroidered cocktail napkins made of linen that is so thin it can easily roll up and fit inside the standard tin shown here. Yours must be a little larger or thicker. I am curious how everything worked for you. Do share!

  • Aaron Apling-Gilman

    checkout these guys as well. same idea, great package. great guy

    https://www.facebook.com/cocktailkits2go/

    • That one looks similar, but they will run into some of the same problems I outlined in the original post. Sugar does not dissolve easily in alcohol and there's no way you are going to muddle it using that spoon in the plastic glasses they have on planes. I like the idea of making a daiquiri with their alternative kit, but I can't imagine one without fresh lime juice.

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