How to drink better on holidays

Tim Philips-Johansson

My wife Linn has a theory. Her theory is that a big part of the reason we attend sporting events, the cinema, or fairgrounds is to have an excuse to eat crappy food without judgemental eyes.  

Think about it, in our day-to-day lives it’s not often you have a reasonable excuse to eat a hotdog for lunch, or a choc-top and torso-sized box of popcorn for dinner. However, going to said events allow us the decisional freedom to ‘let go’, or to convince ourselves that ‘we deserve it’ – all whilst no one is paying attention to what you’re about to devour. 


It’s the same thought channel that twists our minds into what we allow ourselves to drink when we are on holiday. Gone are the needs for an expertly chilled martini, or a craft beer made with local seasonal hops. Drinking cocktails on vacation means one-litre hurricane glasses filled with three types of rum, wishy-washy lager, or boozy slushies made with dreaded sour mix.  

Much in the same way choices are shortened and diluted with substandard options at cinemas and fairgrounds, the same is generally true when we retreat to exotic islands, travel out of the city, or when we cannot get to the best bars we know in our own backyard.   
Over the course of my adult life, and especially this year which has taken me to most corners of the world, I’ve been working on a few ways to drink better when you would normally not have the capacity to.    
Mile High Cocktails – Cocktails on a Plane sounds like the unwanted follow up to a Samuel L Jackson film. Though to me, it sounds like an opportunity to MacGyver something tasty. Old Fashioneds’s and Negroni’s are the easiest place to start. Just set yourself up with with a handful of miniatures, ask your friendly flight attendant for a cup and lots of ice, and you’re away.   Shaking cocktails on a plane however is a whole new beast, hence why I’d suggest steering away from anything too complex. Recently from my flight leaving Kentucky, I had decided my quota of Mint Juleps was one short, so I whipped up a Ghetto Julep; a mix of peppermint tea, Bulleit bourbon, and sugar. It’s my best tip for in-flight sipping.  

For this, you will want to get yourself one of those 8oz shakers and leave your bulky toby tins in your checked bag. 
Duty Free 
– Well stocked back-bars and fancy liqueurs are generally a luxury, or even surplus to requirement when it comes to making great cocktails. So many great drinks can simply be made with only one bottle of great liquor. That’s where buying a bottle of something special in Duty Free should become your go-to before you get to your destination.  
If you’re a little like me, after a trip away you are landing at your home airport and stocking up on Tanqueray Export Strength and whichever new Baileys flavour is out. If you are a lot like me you’re buying a Don Julio Blanco or Ron Zacapa before you start your trip, for blended Tommies Margaritas or Daiquiris with whichever fruit is plentiful and in season at your destination.  
Ice, Ice, Baby – The soul of any cocktail –  ice –  is your first priority once to check in to your holiday home as it takes the longest to make. Make sure the place you are staying at has a freezer. Secondly, get a plastic container, fill it, and get it freezing. Generally, a one-litre container takes twenty-four hours to freeze. You will have to make do until then, I’m afraid.  
Don’t bother with other fancy ice carving equipment - although an Ice Trident does help. But if you don’t have one you can get by with room cutlery and muscle to break the ice apart.  
Punch – Punch can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. Tradition would state you first make an oil sugar syrup (oleo saccharum), adhere to a strict ratio of sour, sweet, strong and weak, then steep spices or herbs to finish.  
 There’s no way I’m doing that whilst on holiday. 

The most delicious Sangria-style punch can be made with equal parts fresh orange juice, cheap and very chilled Pinot Noir, agave nectar, and spiked with Don Julio Blanco. Literally a two-minute process which will yield a turbo-punch for sundowner cocktails.  
For added fancy points, serve over that frozen water in your freezer you worked on yesterday, and garnish with slices of fresh fruit including watermelon, lemon, mango, peach or whatever is in season.  
I gather if you’re reading this you don’t like to drink badly. Unfortunately drinking on holiday goes hand in glove with poor drinking. A few pre-emptive steps to make sure you’re set up for success is the key to fine-drinking when you’re away.  
Adhering to the above tips will guarantee to produce delicious results. At the end of the day, these efforts are in preparation of drinking better, no matter where you are. A little effort goes a long way. 
Ghetto Julep  
50ml (1 Miniature Bulleit Bourbon or Rye) 
1 sugar sachet 
1 peppermint teabag 
- Pre-Steep Peppermint teabag in miniature bottle of Bulleit (for at least 24 hours) 
- Add all ingredients to 8oz cocktail shaker, leaving tea bag out of the shaker 
- Stir sugar and whisky to start dissolving process 
- Add two or three cubes of ice (only) 
- Shake cocktail until ice sound disperses and it turns to water in the shaker 
- Strain mix over fresh ice in cup 
- Top up with extra ice 
- Enjoy! 
Mexicali Cobbler (Serves 6-8) 
200ml Don Julio Blanco  
750ml Chilled Pinot Noir (ideally new world, or quite “jammy”. Cheap is good here!) 
750ml Fresh Orange Juice 
150ml Agave Nectar  
- Take all ingredients and pour in to large jug or carafe 
- Add cut fruit and or cinnamon/nutmeg 
- Chill until cold 
- Pour over ice in chilled rocks or wine glasses 
- Enjoy! 
Frozen Mango Daiquiri (Serves 2-3) 
0.5 Mango (peeled and sliced) 
50ml Lime Juice 
40ml 1:1 Sugar Syrup 
100ml Ron Zacapa 
1.5 Cups Ice 
- Take all ingredients and add to blender 
- Blend for 30-45 seconds until silky 
- Add ice for desired texture (if necessary) 
- Pour into chilled wine glasses 
- Enjoy!