The drinking scene in the desert with Orlando and the Khan is based on what actually occurred with the production crew. Sally Potter set up a banquet in the desert to woo a local Russian mayor into letting them use a local castle for some shoots. During the banquet, some Russian alcohol was served by the mayor, but the production crew were unable to swallow the drink straight.
To help find the character of Orlando, Sally Potter and Tilda Swinton rented some costumes from Bermans & Nathans in London and did a photo shoot. Orlando's looks to the camera and asides to the audience were one of the key character aspects that came out of the photo shoot.