Beverage Services In Flight – Time-of-Day Recommendations

PT 4 M minute read
Beverage Services In Flight – Time-of-Day Recommendations

This is a post by author Roger Leemann. Roger is the senior vice president of Culinary Operations for Air Culinaire Worldwide, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, with kitchens in Aspen, Colorado; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Las Vegas, Nevada; London, U.K.; Long Beach, California; New York, New York; Paris, France; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Van Nuys, California; West Palm Beach, Florida; and Washington, D.C. Also, Air Culinaire Worldwide provides in-flight catering services at hundreds of airports around the world via hundreds of catering partners. Roger is an expert on catering menu development and training for business aviation operators and can be contacted at

This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in-flight beverage services and continues from our last article: "Beverage Services In-flight – Elevate the Passenger Experience."

No matter what time of day you’re taking off, or where in the world you’re headed, there are creative beverage options (and departures from the "norm") to consider. Passenger preferences, time of day, and region of the world will all influence onboard drink choices.

The following is an overview of some beverage considerations:

1. Breakfast beverage choices

Juices are popular for breakfast, but there are other beverage options to consider based on the purpose of flight and passenger preference. For example wheat grass juice is not a typical breakfast drink, but it serves to enhance energy and vitamin intake. Mimosas and Bloody Marys can be adapted based on regional preferences. Adding various garnishes – such as shrimp, pickled green beans, etc. – to a Bloody Mary can change the look and feel of the cocktail. There are a number of possibilities to consider in terms of coffees and teas – both caffeinated and decaffeinated. Recommend to confirm in advance if passengers have particular preferences.

2. Lunch drinks

Beverage options for lunch can depend on the region in which you’re operating. In North America cold beverages with ice are often preferred with lunch, while in other regions – including the Middle East and Asia – warm teas are usually preferred. Water is the most popular in-flight beverage, but it doesn’t have to be flat – it can be bubbly or flavored. In terms of alcoholic beverages, there are many options for beers, wines, and mixed drinks to consider. For example regional beers can vary from the pink beers of the Geneva area to very heavy beers from the mountain areas of Germany.

3. Dinner beverages

The International Bartenders Association publishes a range of official beverages that may be suitable during dinner or evening hours. For pre-dinner cocktails you might consider martinis or old-fashioned whiskey sours, while sweeter and creamier drinks such as Grasshoppers, White Russians, or Brandy Alexanders are typically served after dinner. During dinner service, wines should be based on the types of foods being served. Pair wines with entrees to ensure that the drinks and the food complement each other. If you serve a light-bodied white wine with a heavier entree – such as a beef filet – the wine may taste like water. With the right wine, however, passengers will be able to enjoy all the intricacies of the different ingredients used in the creation of the wine.

4. Long-haul flight considerations

Longer-haul flights may involve up to three full meals with beverages served between each course. For longer missions you’ll need greater variety in terms of beverages. It’s always important to maintain proper hydration at altitude, and there are creative means to do so. For example,
if you’re flying from Seattle to Japan during the summer, consider adding local cherries (instead of the traditional "lemon slice") to water to change its flavor. Your in-flight caterer can recommend a multitude of creative options available locally at each destination.

5. Allergy considerations

Allergy issues do not generally affect beverages. However, anytime you have a passenger onboard with an allergy, it’s best to review all ingredients – including those of beverages – as certain garnishes may negatively affect an allergy. Keep in mind that you are operating within a closed environment with limited access to health services. Any food allergy must always be taken seriously.

6. Onboard must-haves

Water – specifically still water – is an important item to keep onboard as you can use it in many different ways. Coffees and teas are other standard onboard items which may also be used in food preparation, color, caramelization, etc. Shelf-stable juices are also key to have onboard. Beverage garnishes should be ordered pre-flight for each mission and kept on the aircraft. If passengers prefer certain sodas or wines – especially items difficult to source away from home base – these should also be kept in stock aloft.

7. Beverages for cooking

Onboard wines may be used for sauces, coffee grounds may be used to coat certain meats, and sodas can be used effectively to tenderize meats. Half and half may be used to stretch a cream sauce in the event there’s a shortage or sauce malfunction. If mashed potatoes are a little too thick, they may be thinned out with half and half as well. When you heat fish with a white wine sauce, a little extra wine instead of water may be added to the bulk pan to enhance flavor.


The success of a beverage service aloft depends on your paying attention to the details. Many operators don’t spend a lot of time on beverage considerations as their focus is primarily on the food. This is not best practice. In-flight catering is all about maximizing all dimensions of the passenger experience. Beverage options play an important role in this regard.


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