I find that flying has become boring. I’ve seen all the movies. The food is middling at best – my local pub has better kitchen facilities and fresher ingredients than the best airline catering. I can’t fall asleep – an Ikea mattress is flatter and more comfortable than anything on a plane. I’ve tried getting a decent cocktail, but no flight attendant can make me anything more complicated that a gin and tonic.
Fortunately I was able to convince the management at Sri Lankan Airlines that serving proper cocktails onboard should be a priority. A cocktail masterclass was quickly organised in Colombo. A previous video of my attempts at training Qatari stewardesses had gone viral (Well, sort of. It was a well contained virus). The Sri Lankan stewardesses were quick to point out that not only were they prettier than their Qatari counterparts, they were also keener to learn everything that I had to teach. What’s a chap to do? I waived my normal fee in the interests of “giving something back” to the motherland. I’ve been told that this sort of thing can be very good for my karma.
The objective was to explore cocktail making with the aim of developing a line of cocktails for Sri Lankan Airlines. While developing a signature cocktail is an ongoing process (drinking tends to be a prolonged activity), one drink, the COLOMBO 75 was a big hit with the cabin crew.
The COLOMBO 75 takes its inspiration from incidents from both World Wars. The French had a powerful 75mm Howitzer cannon that was used to devastating effect in WW1. The cannon gave its name to a drink called the French 75 – the drink packs a serious punch. In an unrelated development, import shortages during WW2 meant that Sri Lanka lacked some of the foreign ingredients required for the making of gin. A tragedy was averted through local ingenuity. A unique gin was distilled using local spices including cinnamon and curry leaves. They called it Colombo Gin. At the end of WW2 imports resumed, and the recipe was lost for over 70 years, recently resurfacing in a London attic. Colombo Gin has just been re-introduced into the Sri Lankan market. It is available online in the UK from several vendors including the Whiskey Exchange and Amazon.
RECIPE – COLOMBO 75
45 ml Colombo gin (a spicy gin like Bombay Sapphire East may be substituted)
7.5 ml sugar syrup (make by stirring 1 part sugar into 2 parts of water under low heat. A pre-made version frequently referred to as gomme syrup is available in the baking aisle)
15ml fresh lemon juice
Champagne, prosecco or a dry sparkling wine.
Pomegranate seeds to garnish
Shake the gin, fresh lemon juice and sugar syrup with ice and pour into a champagne flute. Top up with the champagne or prosecco. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. This is a light refreshing drink where the presence of alcohol isn’t obvious. However, containing both champagne and gin it packs a mean punch. Drink responsibly, especially in-flight. With celebratory bubbles and a boozy wallop this drink will put you in the mood for a mile high manoeuvre it you are that way inclined. It won’t prevent you from making a fool of yourself however, which you inevitably will.
Sri Lankan now has an excellent range of cocktails served on board its Business Class cabin. Travel with them on your next visit to Sri Lanka. Drink deep and fly well. Ayubowan!
Attached is the original cocktail list developed for the airline. While only some variants are served on board, all are relatively straightforward to make at home. Most of the drinks listed have a uniquely Sri Lankan twist.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.