Column: Bottle Services

by Bill DiDonna


Anthony van Dyck. “Drunken Silenus supported by Satyrs,” (circa 1620). oil on canvas. 53.1 × 76.8 inches.




Liquids rule

I could tell you story of my night out at a loft party with Serge from Kasabian and Ninja, the absolute Antwoord. Suffice to say there was singing of Rolling Stones songs and my harmonies held up, Uber picked me up promptly at 7:30 in the morning. Drinks were had. As was fun. This isn’t a democracy however, so I will tell the other story.

When I was 13 the entire unit flew from LGA to LAX, Ma, Pa, and yours truly. My father’s plan was simple. Get to L.A., rush to Disneyland for as long as it would take to qualify this as a family vacation and then pack us into a rental and beeline for Vegas where I would spend a week sitting by the pool [by myself] and ordering room service [ditto]. I did get to go and see my idol Dean Martin, with Charo opening up. Heaven. Google Charo.

Pan Am, we dressed up even for coach. My dad was terrified of flying and we spent an hour at the airport bar, then proceeded to the gate. My mom had a few screwdrivers and I had six Shirley Temples and Pops downed about 15 bloodies. We boarded, they took our jackets and hung them up and we sat down for our seven hours in the air. China, crystal, a meal, and then a snack. And drinks, free drinks. In coach, served in glass glasses. About an hour after lunch the stewardess walked by, leaned over and asked me ‘Can I get you something?’ Pops, who I thought was asleep, cracked an eye, ‘I’ll have the same, and bring him something to calm him down would you?’

A few minutes later the most beautiful woman in the world set a glass down in front of me. It was dark rum, pineapple, Coke, and five maraschino cherries. Mom protested, “He’s only 13,” but my father exhibiting an excellent grasp of international law told her that we were 30,000 feet in the air and outside of all legal earthbound jurisdictions. Thus began a lifelong romance between drinking and flying.

The Reagan years saw the deregulation of the airline industry. That meant: 1. cheaper fares [way cheaper], and 2. the elimination of amenities. I love amenities. Shiny stuff I’ll probably never use excites me. But the last straw was the end of free drinks.

Then 9/11 happened and the elimination of bringing liquids into the airport. When I was at college in Cambridge, I would always stop at Santarpio’s in Eastie for a pizza and couple of cans of Narragansett on my way to airport. Now you can’t even bring in a bottle of Fiji. I’m all for safety, but the contrarian in me thinks the ban on liquids makes one feel that the TSA are in cahoots with the people behind the gate who then gleefully sell you an eight dollar bottle of Dasani.

If you’re at CDG, a Kir Royal at La Terrasse is always in order. In PEK, Fuel is an excellent choice for a martini or even a well-crafted tiki. SFO has Perry’s with grown-up table service and remarkably able bartenders for an airport.

But I’m not in Paris, Beijing, or San Fran, I’m in ICT, that’s Wichita for the uninitiated, waiting for the 4:10 to BWI, coach. I don’t need food so I can pass on Sbarro [how does that place exist?] and turn my full attention to cocktails. I don’t want a Blue Moon and a Jäger while juggling my laptop on a sticky bar surrounded by nervous flyers or beaten-down businessmen.

I need something to soothe the savage beast and thanks to the TSA I can have it. You can bring as many 3oz bottles as you can stuff into a quart-sized zip-lock. My best effort has been 12 [buy the heavy-duty bags], allowing you to host your own small cocktail soirée at gate B29.

The booze. We want boozy drinks, no mixers. Garnish would require another level of insanity but you could pack a few lemon twists. Let’s think Negroni and Old Fashioned. Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Rye, Bitters, and Campari. Or if you like, replace the Campari with another Amaro; CioCiaro is my fave, but Meletti makes an excellent, lower priced alternative.

The ice. Find the cheapest place in the terminal to buy a soft drink. “All ice, no liquid.” They’ll look at you funny, but they’ll always do it.

Cups.  Grab them from the continental breakfast at your Quality Inn.

Shaker. I thought for years that those metal coffee carriers were portable cocktail shakers and now I’ve been proven correct.

If you find kindred souls that also want some quality in their humdrum commuting experience, invite them over.

Mix. Ice. Quaff. Board.

Written by Bill DiDonna