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"Road Soda" Delivers Tasty Cocktail Recipes for Travelers

By Liza Weisstuch
updated September 29, 2021
Road Soda cocktail book
Scott Gordon Bleicher
Author Kara Newman spoke with bartenders across the country to craft a compendium of cocktail techniques, hacks, and easy recipes.

It’s happened to the best of us: you end up in a hotel room or on a plane or at a campsite and you’ve spent what seems like an entire day getting there. A cocktail would be really nice at that point, but you don’t want to take out a mortgage on your home to buy the micro-bottles from your minibar and a gin and tonic from a harried flight attendant just won’t do the trick. In this situation, the trick is resourcefulness. In “Road Soda,” Kara Newman, spirits editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine, talks to bartenders around the country to create a compendium of clever techniques, practical hacks, and surprisingly simple recipes that can ensure a well-made cocktail is never as far away as your destination. We sat down with her to talk about "Road Soda" (one of Budget Travel's "Holiday Gifts for Cocktail Enthusiasts"), fancy ice, Ziploc bags, and how to make a cocktail at 39,000 feet.  

YOUR HOTEL MINI FRIDGE HAS MORE COCKTAIL INGREDIENTS THAN YOU THINK

BUDGET TRAVEL: You note in your book that an epic delay in Mexico while you were en route home to New York helped kicked this book into gear. What happened there?

KARA NEWMAN: It was a ten hour flight delay and I was with some colleagues who suggested we grab a hotel room so we could rest, work, refresh. All I had was my carryon, which included a bottle of tequila, so I grabbed armfuls of Squirt, the grapefruit soda that’s mixed with tequila in Mexico to make palomas, and the weirdest corn chip flavors I could find. I called everyone and said, ‘Paloma party in my room!’ I was in a foul mood, and it made me feel more civilized. The delay was less like a chore and little more like an adventure. It’s this kind of attitude adjustment that I hope people are able to take away.

BT: In all your conversations with bartenders, was there anything you learned that particularly surprised you?

KARA: I was really surprised by Julie Reiner’s [owner of NYC’s legendary Clover Club and Flatiron Lounge] machinations to bring an entire daiquiri on board a plane—fancy ice and all. It came my way through social media, someone posted a photo on Facebook of Julie shaking daiquiris onboard a flight to Hawaii. She told me she brings all the ingredients and, of course, purchases the rum on board. She had a cooler of dense Kold Draft ice—the kind serious bartenders like to use because it doesn’t dilute quickly—and her own shaker. It surprised me that she’d be so willing to go to these lengths to have that kind of experience on board. She was even considerate by wrapping cocktail shaker in a blanket. She was in first class, so she had some elbow room and wasn’t knocking into neighbors if she’s shaking. You have to know your constraints. 

BT: Knowing your constraints seems like good advice for anything in life.

KARA: I was also amazed by Atlanta bartender Tiffanie Barriere’s suggestion to use a scooped-out half lemon or lime as a jigger. It’s a watertight vessel, nature’s nifty jigger. It never even occurred to me as a possibility, but it works. It’s so crazy. It won’t always be precise ounce or half-ounce, but if you use it every time you’ll get the right proportions. I also liked that another acclaimed New York bartender Pam Wiznitzer gave me her mom’s tip to pack arm-floaties—those things kids use to learn how to swim—to keep bottles safe while you travel. Pack them deflated and blow them up and stick a bottle in it. Insta-packaging!

PLANES, TRAINS, BEACHES, AND CAMPSITES: THERE'S A DRINK FOR THAT

BT: Your book is organized in chapters. I really enjoyed the one about how to make the most of your hotel mini-bar, but I was struck by the three chapters that each focus on a specific vessel--flasks, bottles and cans, bags. Some of that would never occur to me—like plastic bags??!

KARA: I was amazed by how many drinks could be made in bags. That was a shocker. I can’t believe I did an entire chapter on drinks in Ziploc baggies and Capri-Sun pouches. But it’s just really nice to have an alternative to a glass if you’re going to a beach. And as for bottles, that’s great when you don’t have a shaker. Then a lot of bartenders seemed to be into hiking and outdoor sports. Among bartenders who like to climb mountains, I had a lot of conversations about flasks and packing metal or plastic instead of glassware. There are practical reasons for taking drinks in flasks or Bota bag.

BT: “Road soda,” you note, is actually a traditional term for an alcoholic drink consumed in a vehicle. (Presumably not by the driver!!) How’d you uncover that history?

KARA: I was at a cocktail conference in San Antonio and touring through the Anthony Hotel, a historic, luxurious hotel built in 1909. Outside there was a place where cars pulled up and handed their “roadie,” a drink to take on the road.

BT: Wow, times sure have changed.

KARA: I was astonished. Who’d do that now?? It sounds so luxurious, in a way. Of course, I am NOT encouraging drivers to drink. Far from it!!

BT: I realize it’s hard to pick favorites, but….what's your favorite cocktail from the book?

KARA: I’ve been digging the ones in flasks. When I want to take something with me, I’ll take the Pendergast (bourbon, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura bitters) or the Rebanack (rye, orange curacao, Strega liqueur, Peychaud's bitters). They’re nice easy sippers that are especially good when you want to just show what the whole idea is about. Plus they’re in easy-to-pour in containers, so they're easy to share. 

We asked Kara to pick a few drinks from her book and recommend a trip to match. Here are her suggestions.

FOR HIKING, CAMPING and MOTEL-HOPPING: Under My Skin (makes 10 drinks)

10 ounces Calvados 
10 ounces Bigallet China-China Amer
10 ounces Noilly Prat Ambre Vermouth

Funnel all ingredients into a 1-liter bota bag or bottle and shake gently to combine. To serve, pour into rocks glasses, each with one large ice cube, using 3 ounces of cocktail per serving.     

FOR CONCERT-GOING, OR ANY CROWD-HEAVY OUTING: Rebennack (makes 1 drink)

1.5 ounces rye whiskey 
.75 ounce orange curacao 
.25 ounce Strega liqueur 
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters 

Funnel all the ingredients into a flask and cap tightly. 

FOR LAST-MINUTE CARIBBEAN ESCAPE: Jungle Bird on the Wing (makes 1 drink)

2 sugar packets (2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons water 
1 mini bottle (50 ml) rum, preferably an aged rum
.75 ounce Campari 
1.5 ounces pineapple juice
3 lime wedges

In a small cup, stir the sugar and water together until sugar dissolves to form a simple syrup. Fill a large plastic cup halfway with ice, then add the rum, Campari, pineapple juice, and simple syrup. Squeeze in the juice from 2 of the lime wedges and stir until chilled. Pull the peel off the remaining lime wedge and use as garnish. 

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Inspiration

Spend the Holidays in a Castle

Who says there's no place like home for the holidays? Why not give yourself the royal treatment? Rent a room or apartment in one of these surprisingly economical real-life castles, and toast the season as though the whole Christmas feast is in your honor. A 16TH-CENTURY SCOTTISH CASTLE ALL TO YOURSELF Thirlestane Castle: Lauder, Scotland History: Thirlestane was originally a 13th-century fort, but then one of Scotland's richest families, Clan Maitland, set to work rebuilding it as their home in the 1500s. The Duke of Lauderdale died in 1682, but apparently he wasn't very eager to abdicate the castle—his ghost is thought to still roam the corridors. Price: From about $160 per night, celticcastles.com What you get: Privacy in a bucolic setting. You'll be the only overnight guests in the castle, leaving you free to re-enact your favorite Game of Thrones episodes in peace after a few chalices of wine. The Lauderdale Suite is in the castle's south wing and comes equipped with a full kitchen, an original clawfoot bathtub, and parkland views. The "self-catering" option is the cheapest, meaning cooking your own meals, but you can book a personal cook or meal delivery for an extra fee. Take your daily constitutional into the woodlands through the formal rose garden, dine on the secluded picnic tables on the grounds, and enjoy exclusive use of the castle's courtyard. GOURMET FOOD & GOLF IN TUSCANY Castello at Castelfalfi: Tuscany, Italy History: Once owned by the Medici family, this 800-year-old medieval village was abandoned in the 1960s but is now a swank resort. Price: From about $300 per night, toscanaresortcastelfalfi.com What you get: An unforgettable Christmas with beaucoup perks. This Italian vacation is a splurge for sure, but you might find the special extras worth the cash: You'll stay in the (festively decorated) building that was once the village's tobacco factory,and hear live holiday music as you dine on special Christmas and New Year's menus in the castle proper, at the property's gourmet Tuscan bistro helmed by a Michelin-starred chef. Or opt for a four-course holiday menu at the more affordable Il Rosmarino trattoria—one of the courses is roast pork tenderloin with Chianti and radicchio (from about $50, beverage included). Your stay also includes access to the 27-hole golf course. Greens fees are reduced during the low season, or you can practice your swing at the hotel's driving range for less than $15. A FAIRY TALE RESIDENCE IN FRANCE Château Hermitage de Combas: Servian, France History: A medieval fortress turned castle residence, the château sits amid 123-plus acres of vineyards in Southern France. Famous figures like the playwright/actor Molière have called the Languedoc-Roussillon region home. Locals say Molière himself probably performed in this very castle. Price: From about $125 per night, homeaway.com, charming-holidays.fr What you get: A fairy tale come true. You can stay in the round tower just like Rapunzel—but with many more activity options. Enveloped by lavender and rosebushes, the castle has 25 apartments with full kitchens, plus a heated pool, a tennis court, and an on-site restaurant that offers a special Christmas menu and fireside dining. It's also within driving distance of the coast—the weather in December is good enough to rent a classic convertible from the castle to tour the grapevine-lined road. Come Christmastime, each apartment, the main entrance hall, and the stairway are decked out in holiday regalia. A CHRISTMAS FEAST IN THE HEART OF IRELAND Clontarf Castle Hotel: Dublin, Ireland History: Clontarf Castle was built in 1172 and changed hands several times in the 17th century, including from military and political leader Oliver Cromwell to Captain John Blackwell. Nearly 200 years later, due to sinking foundations, the building was demolished and then rebuilt in 1837. Price: From around $250 per night, clontarfcastle.ie What you get: Modern luxuries like 24-hour room service and a flatscreen TV, plus convenient proximity to Dublin sightseeing. The castle is only a 10-minute drive from the city center. Pony up for the slightly pricier Christmas Package, and you can enjoy a Christmas Eve arrival reception with mulled wine, mince pies, and Christmas carols, plus other perks like a champagne Christmas Day breakfast and Christmas Day mass. OPULENCE & MOUNTAIN VIEWS IN UPSTATE NEW YORK The Inn at Erlowest: Lake George, New York History: The castle dream home of American lawyer and politician Edward Morse Shepard, Erlowest was built out of solid granite in 1898 on Millionaire's Row along the Lake George shore. Price: From $195 per night, theinnaterlowest.com What you get: A rich, immersive getaway experience—especially if Titanic-era history fascinates you. The Howe Suite is the most wallet-friendly of the 10 rooms and offers a king-size sleigh bed, gas fireplace, and lake and Adirondack mountain views. A cheese platter, bottle of champagne, and a full breakfast each morning is complimentary. BOOK A GREAT DEAL ON HOLIDAY LODGING RIGHT HERE AT BUDGET TRAVEL To find more holiday lodging, from opulent castle rentals to efficient hotel rooms, book your stay right here at Budget Travel's Book a Hotel page.

Inspiration

Your Vacation Lodging Is About to Get Way More Beautiful

If you've ever dreamed of sleeping over in a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece or exchanging your prewar fourth-floor walk-up for an off-grid glass house in the California desert, we've got good news. The website PlansMatter, a hub for design-savvy vacation rentals and hotels around the world, has curated a roster of properties to make even the most avid Architectural Digest subscriber drool.  Launched in 2013 by two friends from architecture school, the platform places a premium on good looks, great bones, and beautiful locations, from the most photographed house on Australia's Great Ocean Road to an underground villa in Switzerland with a facade that blends into the  hills, reachable only via a tunnel that starts in an adjacent shed and burrows through the mountain. Of course, such cutting-edge properties come at a price, and while we can’t in good conscience recommend dropping $1,000 a night on a house in Topanga (stunning as it may be), the site does offer a few bargains for the budget-oriented architecture buff. These options may be a bit more rustic than their highbrow brethren, but they still provide the designer touches and modernist details of contemporary classics.  AN AWARD-WINNING LANDSCAPE IN MINNESOTA Whitetail Woods Camper CabinsFarmington, MN$75 per night You don’t normally associate a public park with AIA-award-winning design, but in Dakota County, Minnesota, that’s just what you’ll find. In the heart of Whitetail Woods Regional Park stand three ramp-accessible camper cabins, open year-round and surrounded by pine trees, hiking trails, and wildlife. The elevated structures give off a fancy treehouse vibe, with sleek cedar-clad interiors, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, heat, electricity, and wifi. Online reservations can be made 365 days out, and you’ll definitely want to book well in advance, especially for a weekend stay—Friday and Saturday nights get snapped up right away. DESIGN-FORWARD HUTS WITH MOUNTAIN VIEWS Rolling HutsWinthrop, WA$145 per night Nestled in an alpine meadow, the site of a former RV campground is now home to a “herd” of minimalist rolling wood-and-steel huts. Boasting unobstructed mountain vistas, these glass-fronted, shoebox-shaped structures have wood-burning fireplaces, heating and air conditioning, modest cork and plywood interiors, and covered decks for indoor-outdoor living. There’s wifi, but no indoor plumbing—each hut has a water faucet and a portable toilet outside, with communal showers and proper toilets located in a nearby barn, an inconvenience offset by the sheer beauty of the view. A HISTORIC COTTAGE IN THE OZARKS StoneflowerHeber Springs, AR$199 per night A juxtaposition of stone and sky in the Arkansas Ozarks, this E. Fay Jones-designed cottage earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, and it hasn’t lost its luster in the intervening years. With a cave-like lower level constructed from salvaged boulders, featuring stone walls, sofa bases, and a shower reminiscent of a grotto; a soaring, steel-and-glass main level with a 30-foot deck, a vintage kitchenette, air conditioning, and infrared heating; and an upper level with a sleeping loft overlooking the treetops, Stoneflower appears to spring fully formed from the rocky terrain below. It’s not at all child-proofed, though, so save this one for an adults-only getaway.

Inspiration

What’s Your Favorite U.S. Airport?

We each have a soft spot for one or two particular airports. Maybe you have an eye for design-forward terminals? Or you’re all about the food court? A green ethos? Or maybe you just prefer an airport that’s (relatively) free of drama? The travel junkies over at TravelBank, an app that helps business travelers predict and manage travel costs, just published a fun survey on this topic. They took a look at how U.S. airports stacked up on Instagram. While it’s by no means an exact science, analyzing the airports that have the most followers on Instagram, where beautiful, inspiring photography and aspirational captions are prized, is a pretty good barometer of popularity. Enjoy the results, and while you’re at it, pay a visit to @BudgetTravel on Instagram for an extra dose of travel inspiration. AN AIRPORT WITH HOLLYWOOD GLAMOUR Los Angeles International Airport (@flylaxairport) tops the list, most likely because of its proximity to film and TV celebs, its eye-popping LAX sign, and a pretty nice assortment of restaurant and entertainment options that have always made this airport one of my favorites. (I have lots of family and friends in Southern California, so I’ve been a bit of a fixture here over the years.) The airport is also in the midst of a$1.6 billion renovation, so even better things are on the way. THE WINDY CITY BOASTS GREAT ART Chicago O’Hare International Airport (@flyohare) takes the no. 2 spot. If you’ve ever flown to or through O’Hare (and who hasn’t?), you probably associate it with hustle-bustle and, sometimes, frantic gotta-make-that-connecting-flight sprints. But we love O’Hare for its impressive public art collection and restaurants that overlook the airplane runways (definitely an Instagrammable view). BEST AIRPORT FOR FOODIES San Francisco International Airport (@flysfo) is relatively small compared with LAX and O’Hare, but serving Bay Area and Silicon Valley travelers, the easy availability of See’s candies and Boudin sourdough bread, not to mention a $2.6 billion expansion, propels this manageable and welcoming airport to no. 3. THIS AIRPORT HAS A PET HOTEL Dallas/Fort Worth (@dfwairport) comes in at no. 4, possibly because of its great photo-worthy observation area and on-site pet hotel. SWANKY STYLE RULES AT THIS AIRPORT Miami International Airport (@iflymia) is no. 5, with spectacular art exhibits, and, of course, a dose of Miami’s stunning style. MY FAVORITE AIRPORTS Missing from the list are two of my personal favorites: Glacier International Airport, in Kalispell, Montana, is probably my favorite place in the world to step off a plane, with a friendly, welcoming vibe, depictions of Montana wildlife on the walls, and a short drive to its namesake national park. My favorite airport to step on a plane? LaGuardia International Airport in my hometown of New York City. Sure, it’s just about everybody’s least favorite airport for its confusing traffic patterns, crowded and poorly signed interiors, overworked staff, and mediocre food offerings (I could go on), but LaGuardia is a sentimental favorite for me because I can get there easily on public transportation and the views of Manhattan’s skyscrapers from the air are better than those from any other NYC-area airport. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE AIRPORT? Talk to us: What’s your favorite U.S. airport? Why do you love it?

Inspiration

Locals Know Best: Tennessee's Small Towns

America is summed up by many things: Baseball, mom and apple pie; stars and stripes; rock and roll; and, of course, the countless brands of food and drink that started ages ago and are familiar now as they were then. (Think: Hershey’s, Kellogg’s, Coca Cola, and so on.) Not least among them is Jack Daniel’s, the now iconic Tennessee whiskey that was founded in Lynchburg, Tennessee, in the south-central part of the state, in 1875. The distillery and the live old-timey, down-to-earth vibe of Lynchburg have made the town a celebrated tourist attraction, but if you’re among the 275,000 or so people who head there annually, it’s worth tacking on an extra day or two to explore the surrounding area. We caught up with Jeff Arnett, master distiller at Jack Daniel’s, who tipped us off on what to see, eat and do in the area's various small towns, each its own unique portrait of America.      TULLAHOMA IS FOR FOODIES Thirteen miles northeast of Lynchburg, Tullahoma sits adjacent to Arnold Air Force Base, home to the world’s largest wind tunnel where most US military aircrafts are tested. But the area’s military history is even more intriguing, as it was the site of Camp Forest, where German and Italian POWs were taken during World War II; General Patton trained troops on the grounds between here and Lynchburg. Against that historic backdrop today is a rejuvenated downtown, home to restaurants, like One 22 West, which is located in a former department store. It’s been serving locally minded classic American fare since 1997. The lively bar puts a premium on local beer and spirits, so you better believe that means plenty of Jack Daniel’s to go around. Another spot Jeff recommends for good eats is Emil's Bistro, a longstanding cottage-style restaurant with a long oak bar for classy yet casual meals. It's right next door to the Grand Lux, a homey inn in a refurbished old house, which comes highly recommended by Arnett if you're looking to spend the night in the area.   And if you’re a nature lover, then stay you should. Tullahoma’s Rutledge Falls, a tucked-away 40-foot waterfall is a destination for hikes, nature walks and swimming. Short Springs, a mere three miles northeast from Tullahoma, is a 420-acre landscape where the vibrant wildflower blossoms are said to be the best in the state. Its biodiversity is mind-boggling (think: springs, waterfalls, forest, ravines.) There are the natural wonders that are easy to find, like Machine Falls, which has a 60-foot cascade, as well as the hidden gems that Jeff is partial to, like various pop-up springs. But perhaps the town is most widely known by aviation enthusiasts who make pilgrimages here to see the Beechcraft Heritage Museum, which boasts an unparalleled collection of vintage aircrafts and aviation curios. Jeff notes that once a year, people who own staggerwings, those quaint, if rickety-looking planes that ruled the skies in the 1930s, fly to Tullahoma from all over the U.S. for a competition, of sorts. "It’s truly amazing how many people get into it," he says.  SHELBYVILLE IS FOR EQUESTRIANS  Louisville has the Derby, Boston has its marathon, and Park City has the Sundance Film Festival, but Shelbyville, about 70 miles south of Nashville and 16 miles north of Lynchburg, becomes a destination every August for a very particular kind of equestrian showcase. Once known as the Pencil City for its role in pencil manufacturing, today it’s the Walking Horse Capital of the World and hosts the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration each August. The event is an opportunity to witness horses move like they’re up on their back legs, shunning the laws of nature and physics. As they kick and flail their front legs, the rider manages to look like he’s hardly moving. “It’s like they’re on a magic carpet,” Jeff explains. “The horse puts on quite a show.”   FAYETTEVILLE IS FOR TIME TRAVELERS Fifteen miles west of Shelbyville is Fayettville, the county seat of Lincoln county, which means it boasts a beautiful old courthouse square, complete with official Main Street District designation and an historic theater. Going into the Lincoln Theater “is like going back in time,” Jeff says, even though they play the latest film releases. Much of the décor, like the lush velvet curtains, are kept in good repair. While you’re in a vintage frame of mind, you can swing by one of the several antique stores in the area or at the Antique Mall that's located on the Square. The sprawling emporium, located in an historic building, features furniture, art, jewelry, home goods, It’s not all time capsules, though. The old town jail has been transformed into a homey restaurant called Cahoots, which dishes out familiar pub grub. There’s also Honey’s, a country diner-style joint, complete with a counter overlooking the stoves, that Jeff is partial to. He advises—rather, insists—on ordering the slaw burger, which involves a mustard- and vinegar-heavy slaw. “Everyone always argues that they make the best barbecue. In Tennessee, it’s mostly pulled pork and it’s known to have vinegar-based sauces. This burger concoction morphed from the slaw that people were putting on pulled pork,” he explains. “So catch a movie, shop for antiques, and grab a burger and I’d say you made a good day of Fayetteville.”  WINCHESTER HAS OLD-WORLD CHARM Winchester, which 20 miles southeast of Lynchburg, is also a county seat, so, like Fayetteville, it boasts a lovely court square. Businesses around the square have a distinctly old-world charm, The Oldham Theatre, which first opened in 1950, plays new releases in a vintage setting; John T’s BBQ is a barbecue restaurant retrofitted into an old furniture store with brick walls and wood panel walls. The eatery’s own furniture, like tables with receipts from the old shop displayed under glass, pays homage to that past. But at its core, Winchester is a quaint lakeside town with lots of enticements for outdoorsy types. (Trout fishing, anyone?) Arnett has a lake house here, so he’s well acquainted to its many virtues, the crystal-clear water of the rocky-bottom Tims Ford Lake not least among them. Part of the Tennessee Valley Authority, it’s a 20 to 25-mile ride from one end to the other and its many channels lend themselves to lots of exploration in any number of kinda of boats. (Rent one at one of the three marinas.) The town claims one of the more unusually situated restaurants in the region: To reach Bluegrill Grill requires walking across the single gangway that connects it to land. Makes sense, then, that many approach by boat. Its hours are seasonal. Back on land you find a state park with 20 modern cabins and Bear Trace, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.