The promo images and video for Mad Men Season 7 showing Don, Roger and company flying TWA got us thinking about the now defunct airline and its famous Royal Ambassador Class service of the late 1960s, when flight attendants were airborne bartenders. To learn more, we spoke with Marge Siegal, a former TWA flight attendant who started flying with the airline in 1970.
Siegal is the editor of The Very Best of TWA, a collection of 130 recipes from TWA kitchens, which also includes contributions from former flight attendants.
TWA was known as the “airline to the stars,” says Siegal, recalling the glory days of flight. “We were the first to do in-flight meals. Celebrities loved flying TWA, and three popes chartered flights to the United States on TWA.”
“Flying was more glamorous and the meals were too,” adds Siegal. “It was a different era. People dressed up and we were proud to fly.”
Dinners, served on Rosenthal China, were made in kitchens on the ground, but flight attendants added sauces and garnishes in the airplane galleys. “Drinks, served in glassware, were all mixed in flight. Passengers expected cocktails and we would gladly mix them,” says Siegal. There were many cocktail options, including the famous Royal Ambassador Cocktail (see recipe). The most popular TWA inflight cocktail ever served was not a 1960s cocktail, but an 1980s concoction, the Bocce Ball, a mix of amaretto, orange juice and club soda. A TWA favorite of the Mad Men era was the GK Cadillac, made with Galliano, Kahlua and cream from those little airline creamers, served over crushed ice.
What could Don and Roger expect in first class? In the early days, recalls Siegal, beverages were served to passengers in glassware while the plane was on the ground. Hot towels were passed after take off. Linen tablecloths were placed on the seat trays and cocktail service began again. Attendants came down the aisle with an appetizer cart, which included caviar. The most popular appetizer, however, was Coquille St. Jacques.
“Then we came through with a salad cart and made salads to order,” says Siegal. “For entrees, TWA was famous for Chateaubriand, which was served from a carving cart. Our steaks and Chateaubriand were cooked to order. Many entrees were boarded in foil pans with steaks in one, potatoes in another, veggies in yet another., and we assembled the entrees in the galley, with the appropriate sauces and garnishes before serving to our passengers. It was no small feat to try to accommodate different meat preferences, when they were all boarded in the same pan,” says Siegal. A perennial favorite entrée, she recalls, was Iron Skillet Chicken, a fried boneless chicken breast with a sweet and sour sauce.
Finally, there was a dessert cart. Most popular was Grand Marnier Fluff – a combination of orange juice, gelatin, sugar and vanilla pudding served with whipped topping and vanilla ice cream. The dessert cart also featured cheese, crackers, fruit and cordials.
It was a far cry from flying today and no one paid to check a bag.
To order a copy of The Very Best of TWA,
email Marge Siegal (Margesiegal@gmail.com).
The classic TWA Royal Ambassador Cocktail, as prepared by TWA flight attendants, is a perfect drink to toast Season 7 of Mad Men.
- 4 ounces orange juice
- 1 ½ ounces Grand Marnier (or one mini)
- Splash champagne
- In a champagne glass, pour orange juice. Add Grand Marnier and top with champagne.
- Adjust to taste by adding more orange juice or Grand Marnier.