Air New Zealand unveils first onboard cocktails, new business class menu

East Imperial has developed two gin-based cocktails as the first onboard signature cocktails for Air New Zealand.
East Imperial developed the gin-based cocktails. Photo credit: Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand has announced its first-ever signature cocktails to be served onboard as part of a ramped up business class offering.

A new 'Taste of Aotearoa' menu will also be served in the airline's premium cabins featuring the likes of kawakawa and horopito as "indigenous ingredients meeting contemporary cuisine".

Together with the upcoming more spacious Business Premier seat layout - as well as the more spacious still new Business Premier Luxe option - the new announcements mark the national carrier upping the luxury factor on its ultra long-haul routes.

The extra space, modern fittings and features such as a sliding door for greater privacy make the airline's swankiest seats more similar to those of Emirates, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, although there still isn't a first class option on Air NZ.

The as-yet unnamed duo of signature cocktails have been developed in partnership with East Imperial, the premium New Zealand beverage company known for producing high-end mixers and tonics.

They're both gin-based, but Air NZ Senior Design Specialist Mat Cleaver promised "we have a vodka-based cocktail up our sleeve, too".

The airline said it is adding the cocktails to its line-up of beer, wine and spirits due to customer demand.

"We wanted to create something which would elevate the experience and provide a moment of indulgence while our customers relax onboard," Cleaver told Newshub.

"We know Kiwis love gin so we worked with East Imperial to create something special. If customers embrace these new cocktails, we will continue developing a number of variations, so it'll be a real seasonal surprise and delight."

Air NZ is tight-lipped on the ingredients beyond gin as well as the names of the cocktails, but has provided the following tasting notes:

Cocktail one

  • Floral and oily notes pave the way for a burst of sherbetty citrus and rich ruby red grapefruit, while the finish delights with dry, herbaceous accents, heightened by luxurious grapefruit oil and the velvety texture of juniper. Rich, textural and nothing short of luxurious.

Cocktail two

  • Rich, vibrant and berried: Zesty with sherbet notes to start, juniper and vegetal botanical notes in the mid palate. Sweet berries and white pepper make up the finish. 
Air New Zealand reveals first signature onboard cocktails, coming to Business Premier cabins in August, 2023.
'Cocktail one'. Photo credit: Air New Zealand

"Our taste buds behave a little differently in the sky compared to on the ground, so it was a fun challenge for our talented mixologists to create cocktails that would truly shine at high altitudes," said Cleaver.

"They worked tirelessly to ensure the flavours pop and delight, making sure each sip is a memorable one. The East Imperial mixologists are masters of their craft and have created flavour-forward cocktails which we're sure our customers will love, even at 30,000 feet!"

The tipples will be introduced in August solely in the Business Premier cabins on Air NZ's New York and Chicago routes, but Cleaver said the airline "looks forward to developing additional seasonal cocktails to share across our wider network".

Although onboard cocktails are new for Air NZ, they have long been served on other airlines including Qantas, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Air France.

Among the new meal options being served as part of the 'Taste of Aotearoa' programme is a grass-fed New Zealand lamb rump with horopito rub, along with an ahia smoked moki on kawakawa blini.

Those are two of the business class options on the Auckland-New York route - the full dinner and brunch menus are displayed below.

Air New Zealand's Business Premier dinner and brunch menus for Auckland-New York flights.
Photo credit: Air New Zealand