Best way to travel with a couple of cocktails in carryon?
December 27, 2017 7:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm a student and I travel a lot. I would love to be able to have 2-3 cocktails/drinks on hand when I arrive at my destination, since bars are pricey for me right now. What's the best way to travel with a mini-bar in my carryon liquid allotment (not to drink on the plane)?

This really all stems from being a student and travelling: I want a drink at the end of the day, but bars cost a lot and I'm bummed that I have great booze at home that I can't have when I travel!

I've searched a lot, but the internet seems to think that people who want a travel liquor cabinet / bar set are intending to put it in their checked luggage. I don't want to have to check my bag, so I'm looking for advice on TSA sized (3 oz or less-ish) containers that will hold some booze without making it taste gross and without it leaking. I know that getting the tiny bottles from the liquor store is an option, but a) they don't have my good scotch and b) they cost more than me just pouring from my own liquor cabinet. And I'd like to be able to reuse containers and not create a ton of waste.

Here are my chief concerns:
1) Leaking. I've had leakproof travel toiletry containers perform ok with shampoo and conditioner and other thick liquids, but fail with toners and other thinner products. I feel like alcohol will act like a toner in this situation, and I don't want it to leak!
2) Containers imparting undesirable flavors.
3) Containers being prohibitively hard to clean, particularly for syrups that might crystallize on edges.
4) Reusability: I'd like to reuse everything as much as possible.

Does anyone else know how to do this, or have experience I can learn from in terms of porting 2-3 oz of whiskey, bourbon, gin, vermouth, etc in carryon? Should I be thinking about different shapes or types of containers for things like grenadine, creme de violette, bitters, or syrups? Are there particular strategies I should use in packing or predesigning cocktails for travel? Is it a horrible idea to premix them (to drink within 3 days)?

Are there other things I should get to flesh out a travelling minibar? Recommended small shakers or travel cups that are easy to clean? Small containers for a few cherries or olives that won't make everything taste gross?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts, advice, and recommendations!
posted by beccasaurus to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
They make 3 ounce flasks. I have a couple which I have picked up at various liquor stores throughout the years. They are designed to hold booze without it leaking or tasting gross (just don't use them as long term storage). You can premix a Manhattan or Martini in one, then chill it in an ice bucket. But I'd just fill it with scotch and be done.
posted by crush at 8:00 AM on December 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

Oh, I've never had my 3 ounce flask confiscated nor dumped at an airport but I'm a middle-aged white lady in expensive shoes. The cabin crew won't let you drink from it (they will dump it) but you're not asking about that.
posted by crush at 8:01 AM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

3 oz. drinking flasks on Amazon
posted by lazuli at 8:02 AM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Muji sells some nice containers that don't leak or impart weird smells. Scroll down for the refill kit. It's amazing.

I buy the little jars and bottles with screw-on tops and those work for me. They don't pop open and I don't make the mistake of not putting the top on tight enough.
posted by Alison at 8:34 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can get tiny Nalgene containers from REI: Won't leak, are inert, can be reused for a million years.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:56 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nthing a flask. I’ve never had any issues with it.
posted by Marinara at 9:00 AM on December 27, 2017

GoToob if you want something multi-purpose.
posted by complaina at 9:27 AM on December 27, 2017

Best answer: From personal experience: cabin crew may even try to dump stuff you're not drinking from if they see it as you grab something else on the plane. As someone who's actually done this, my first advice is don't take anything you can't afford to lose before you even get where you're going.

We have what we call a travel bar with a bunch of Nalgene polycarbonate bottles (perfectly clear, not milky like HDPE). They don't leak as long as the lids are screwed on securely. Note they also sell little wide mouth jars that (it turns out) don't seal well, so they're not useful for cherries. In my experience the bottles are completely nonreactive. The bag we keep them in protects them from light, and we've had booze in them for months without any degradation.

Your strategy should be to avoid anything that requires shaking, and if you want to bottle a pre-made cocktail it should be something without juices or dairy. Something like a Negroni or a Manhattan bottles reasonably well; I don't think I'd bother to bottle a Martini since that spritz from the lemon peel is crucial. Don't bottle anything with citrus, as the juice will degrade and solids will begin to precipitate after only a few hours.

I do wonder if your tastes are compatible with this sort of travel. Grenadine and Creme de Violette are things we use extremely rarely (are you drinking a lot of Ward 8s and Aviations?) and they're way down the list of things I'd grab when traveling. Personally I'd either bottle something like a Negroni (or a Boulevardier or an Old Pal), or I'd just carry whiskey and a travel bottle of bitters and grab a sugar packet from the coffee tray in my hotel. We also do a lot of X and ginger with whatever base spirit we pack (usually bourbon or rye, sometimes rum) and ginger ale we get at the destination.

Bonus tip: if you're going on a long trip, checking a bag, and you expect difficulty* at your destination, you can pack a collapsible water bottle filled with whatever base spirit. You can now get collapsible flasks, which are the same thing as collapsible water bottles, only marked up more. I've seen those marked down again at Nordstrom Rack so they're almost reasonably priced. I still wouldn't pack my nice Scotch in one, but we have packed larger supplies of hooch for a couple long trips.

* Stressful visits with parents; liquor laws in, say, Utah; long road trips where a small slug of whiskey in the hotel before bed is a special pleasure, that sort of thing.
posted by fedward at 9:42 AM on December 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

Everyone else has got you for the portage of the liquor itself; I'm addressing the "Are there other things I should get to flesh out a travelling minibar?" portion.

I"ve seen these little kits at fancy food shops - they have just enough of the ingredients you need to make two cocktails (you provide the booze and the glass) tucked into a small tin. They even give you a fancy napkin. A couple guys review the kits here, and you can get them on Amazon. They're the size of a deck of cards, about, so they can tuck neatly into a carryon bag. There are about seven different varieties.

This may be ideal since you're looking more for something to pack that you would enjoy later in the hotel - a small bottle of the liquor of your choice which you've packed at home, plus one of these, and you're all set to unwind in your hotel.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:51 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ooh, they have tiny little packets of olives now in pouches. They're totally overpriced for daily use but would be great in a traveling bar. Or, you know, put them in a ziploc like a plebe.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:17 AM on December 27, 2017

Oh, extra special bonus content: for travel bitters, the bottles in the Bitters Traveler's Set from Bitter Truth have better dashers than the Scrappy's Classic Bitters Mini Set, which dribble more than they dash. I peeled the label off the Bitter Truth "old time aromatic bitters" bottle after we emptied it and refilled it with Angostura, which we prefer (but fair warning: eventually I screwed the cap on too tight and it split, resulting in an Angostura-stained mess in our 3-1-1 Ziploc). The celery bitters are nice in an airplane Bloody Mary, "creole" is similar to Peychaud's, and you should be dashing orange bitters in your Martinis already.

I don't have a problem you have a problem shut up
posted by fedward at 11:23 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are really helpful, thanks!

I hadn't thought of the flight crew confiscating things even if I wasn't drinking them - so I'll definitely pack carefully!

Are there pros and cons to nalgene style bottles vs. mini-flasks? My initial view on them is that the nalgene bottles seem more space efficient in a ziplock than a mini-flask, but I could be wrong.

FWIW, I love manhattans, vespers, martinis, negronis but also have a soft spot for scofflaws and scotch violets (and violette royales, when there's prosecco around). I already figured out travel with a lemon and a plastic peeler for citrus assembly on the other end - @fedward, thanks for the tip about what to premix and not. Since this is frequent travel, I like the idea of being able to mix it up over time (and also poach from my parents' liquor cabinet when I visit them), hence asking about infrequently-used ingredients in the question.
posted by beccasaurus at 11:32 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, if you are doing citrus already, then you could use a refillable, wide-mouth water bottle as an ersatz shaker (a wide mouth would be easier to get ice cubes into than one of those trendy metal S'well things or all the knock-offs). Carry a slotted spoon as a strainer, or get a julep strainer if you're fancy, and you could use the handle of the spoon to stir built cocktails in a glass.

Flasks are nice when you're carrying something on your person (or in a purse) but I don't like packing them. I think Nalgene bottles are easier to get clean than flasks are, and you can see when they're completely dry. A flask should be emptied when you're not actually using it, and it may rust.
posted by fedward at 12:10 PM on December 27, 2017

A small shaker designed for protein shakes might work well for a travel shaker. You could probably pack the small bottles inside it.
posted by corvine at 12:49 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

As for the leaking, ziplock bags over individual bottles and then double-bagged gives you three layers of protection.
posted by raisingsand at 1:40 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

You could buy the small bottles at the liquor store and refill them with whatever you like. Can be reused.
posted by yohko at 11:45 PM on December 27, 2017

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