Create a visual setting for yourself. You and two friends have a trip planned. Kings Cross to Leuchars Station, in Scotland. This takes a total journey of six hours, but you’re on a budget (a discretionary one, though), so first class tickets are too expensive even with a rail card. The trip is a celebration though, and a long overdue one at that, so total sobriety is not an option. As the title suggests, the very simple way to solve this problem is to bring your own bar with you. With only minimal effort you can turn the trip from a dreary exercise in cheap travel into a six-hour party.
Trains are expensive when it comes to food and drink, but even more so when it comes to alcohol. You either pay the price of an expensive first class ticket or you pay for overpriced, low-end wine and beer, leaving spirits as the only economical option.
However, if you bring your own bar with you, the only limits holding you back are how much you can carry and general public decency (though, this seems not to exist between Newcastle and Edinburgh). Maybe you’re fourteen and you want a place to drink your Dragon Soop before you throw it up thirty minutes later? Maybe you’re a group of businessmen who decided that £99 bottle of Dom Perignon that pops up in Tesco was too good to turn down. Maybe, you just don’t want the crap they serve you on the train?
Whatever your desires may be, rules and regulations of train travel mean that you can essentially bring what you want to eat and drink. This, however, needs to be carefully planned out to take into account any logistical concerns. This particular trip was a reunion tour back up to my former University. We had spent months planning the trip, especially what wine we were planning to bring with us for the train, and for our final destination at St Andrews.
We opted for four bottles of Champagne. “Go big or go home” became a rather prevalent theme for our activities. As I mentioned before, we were on a budget, but a discretionary one at that.
We decided specifically to aim for smaller production grower Champagnes (a Champagne that is produced by the same house that owns the vineyards going into the finished product) versus the larger houses, which are often more expensive and lower in quality. This meant we could aim for a happy medium of lower costs, but good quality.
There are a few issues first off with bringing these sorts of wines (i.e ones that need chilling) we had too many bags, so a cooler was not really an option. We kept them in the fridge for well over a day beforehand and then put them in the freezer before we left, but after several hours most were only slightly more chilled. Fortunately, we brought relatively disposable flutes which dealt with the glassware problem, but unless you don’t mind drinking out of plastic sippy cups, this is something that needs to be taken into account.
The other problem is that, as conservative as we attempted to be, we ran out before we even arrived at Edinburgh. This is much easier to do than a reader may think. A bottle of Champagne can produce a conservative six glasses if you are pouring at roughly 125ml a glass – two per person. With four bottles in total this meant eight glasses each – and even limiting oneself to one glass every half hour, you’d be out of champagne within four hours. This is probably not an issue for most, and indeed there is no reason you necessarily want your trip to turn into a six-hour booze-a-thon. However, this more serves as a means to highlight considerations you take on the BYOB route. If you do want to turn your travel into a party, you will have to plan accordingly.
If you wanted to take a more sensible approach with friends, red wine is a much better option. It (usually) doesn’t need to be chilled and if you don’t mind what you drink it out of, anything will do. It is also cheaper than Champagne (depending on what you’re buying of course) and won’t need a constant flow of ice and mixers like most spirits.
But, frankly, being sensible sounds boring. There are times in life to let loose, and if you have those moments in hand, take them. Next time I do, I plan to see just how much of a cocktail bar I can set up on a train, and I’ll be sure to let you know.
Of course, there is also the question of what to do about food on trains now that the glamorous dining car is no more. IGT’s food editor has the answer…
Photo Gary J. Wood