I Got on a Plane for a Cocktail & It Changed My Life

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Erin Little)

It was midweek when I found myself staring outside the plexiglass window of my landing plane, worrying my lip as the typical Dublin rain blurred the lights of the airport.

What am I doing? I asked myself as the “unbuckle seat belts” sign dinged overhead.

This is not what a rational, put-together adult would do, I lectured as I wrestled my carry-on out of the overhead bin.

I can’t believe I’m doing this, I murmured as I rolled it towards Customs, a little sweaty from the spontaneity of the whole thing.

I had just left a perfectly lovely time in the south of Spain to fly over to Ireland for a whirlwind weekend. Hours before I had been sitting on a piazza in Sevilla, minding a paella dish and sipping on vermouth, when I got an alert that a roundtrip ticket to Dublin was just a crisp 30 dollars. Staring at the push notification, I thought back to those long evenings inside whiskey bars and cozy old-man pubs, and booked it before Reason could show up to my table and wrestle the phone rightfully out of my hands.

This is why you never have your credit card numbers saved.

(Image credit: Roger Kamholz)

Why I Flew to Dublin (It Wasn’t for Love)

But rather than visiting a country like Ireland — with all its legends and rolling hills; fairy tales and heroic seascapes — for a love interest I left behind, I instead booked my ticket for a glass of whiskey. That’s right, for a beverage.

I ended up taking a bus from Dublin Airport to O’Connell Street, staring somewhat stunned at my suitcase, all to meet up with a cocktail I just couldn’t get out of my mind.

I’ve been carrying it around with me all through Europe — as I went from city to city, crossed border after border — closing my eyes and replaying the time we spent together like I was the starring role in a Lifetime melodrama. And before you think I’m an alcoholic, hear me out — it was seriously just so good.

The Whiskey That Made a Frugal Traveler Hop a Flight to Dublin

The first time I tried it was around the end of November. It tasted like a boozy Christmas morning in a cup, with hints of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange. Seeing how a trip back would cost me the same as a decent dinner in Sevilla, I had to decide: Appease a heartache, or get another grilled fish dinner at midnight? To me, the choice was easy.

Thinking back on my short affair, I wish I could tell you that our “How We Met” story was something satisfyingly dramatic — like I took a wrong turn and discovered this nook tucked into the end of an alley, or ran in from the rain only to find a mom-and-pop pub run for 12 generations, like a proper adventurer.

At the risk of making you groan, the drink that made me cross an ocean came from the Jameson Distillery. I know. But before you label me a fanny-pack-wearing tourist, let me explain: When you go to Dublin during the winter it’s cold and wet outside, and chances are you’re probably going to be trudging into the distillery with a red nose and wet socks, sufficiently grumpy.

Then you walk in and there’s all this whiskey lined up all welcoming on the wall, and the bartender asks you what you want to drink in a brogue I’m sure the Irish are done hearing about but still charms the socks straight off of me. He puts down a napkin in front of you, and you sip on a drink that tastes the way opening presents feels, and you’re a goner. You’re done for. Your heart is lost. And you will grab every plane out there that clocks in at a modest price to go chase your infatuation.

How a $30 Flight for a Glass of Whiskey Changed My Life

Poetry aside, the real reason I’m sharing this with you is because, when I did it, I thought I lost my mind. I literally bought a plane ticket to go have a drink for an evening, and then booked it back to Spain the next morning. This coming from the woman who is so cheap that she sometimes opts to wash her socks in the bathroom sink rather than paying the hostel to do laundry.

I didn’t think it could be done. I thought it was too whimsical; too much of a movie moment (i.e., not something that I’m allowed to do).

But once I did it, it was no longer off-limits. Instead of my knee-jerk reaction being “no way” to these impulsive plans, I started to say “why not?” If the ticket price was right, why not throw some clothes into a backpack and get hot chocolate and churros in Spain, or a glass of Champagne in France? Why not go for an afternoon of waffles in Belgium, or an evening of fire-breathing vodka in Poland?

It’s fun to do something ridiculously indulgent and semi-wild once in a while, because in the end it’ll probably end up as one of your most favorite memories. I know it’s one of mine.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a good drink?