The Best Airport Cocktails in the World

Mar 21, 2015

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While traveling, there are few things worse than a flight delay, but fortunately, a delicious cocktail can help ease the pain of a long layover. For travelers who are fans of a good tipple, TPG Contributor Spencer Spellman of travel/cocktail site Whiskey Tango Globetrot shares some of the world’s best airport cocktails—and where to find them.

Célibataire cocktail at the Fairmont YVR
Célibataire cocktail at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel. Photo by Spencer Spellman

Célibataire—Jetside Bar, Vancouver Airport (YVR)

More hotel bar than airport bar, Jetside is located in the upscale Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, set inside YVR’s international terminal just steps from the check-in counters. The finest cocktail here (among many), is the Célibataire (French for “single”), a Fairmont mainstay featuring bourbon, Cointreau, Aperol, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, and topped off with ginger beer.

Runway 34 Zurich
Nerd out while drinking cocktails at Runway 34 in Zurich. Photo from Runway 34.

Jetlag—Runway 34, Zurich International Airport (ZRH)

While Runway 34 isn’t inside the Zürich Kloten Airport per se (it’s airport-adjacent, instead), it’s far and away the coolest bar on this list, inhabiting a retrofitted vintage Soviet plane set within a refurbished hangar. I recommend settling into the plush seating area down the aisle of the plane and keeping to the travel theme with a Jetlag, which packs a sassy punch with tequila mixed with orange juice, lemon juice, and grenadine.

Lounge 5280 at Denver International
Craft cocktails abound at Lounge 5280 in Denver. Photo from Lounge 5280

Colorado Crusta—Lounge 5280, Denver International Airport (DIA)

While Lounge 5280 has a number of classic cocktails—like a Negroni and a Sazerac—many of their cocktails are Colorado-inspired, incorporating Colorado-owned or produced products. Featuring Denver-distilled Leopold Bros. whiskey, the Colorado Crusta creates a balance of sweet and sour with Michigan Tart Cherry Liqueur, orange liqueur, fresh lemon juice, agave, and bitters.

Rooftop Pool Bar, Singapore Changi Airport
Enjoy a Singapore Sling at the Ambassador Transit Hotel’s rooftop pool bar at Singapore Changi Airport. Photo by Fans of Changi on Flickr.

Singapore Sling—Rooftop Pool Bar, Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) 

During your next layover in Singapore, head to the rooftop pool bar at Changi Airport. (Yes, that’s right—a rooftop pool bar at an airport.) The bar is generally reserved for guests of the Ambassador Transit Hotel, but for a nominal fee, anyone can enjoy a dip and drinks—like the fruity Singapore Sling. This take on the early-1900s classic nine-ingredient cocktail features gin, Cherry Heering, Bénédictine, Cointreau, pineapple and lime juice, grenadine and bitters, and is topped with a splash of club soda.

One Flew South
Linger over a Caribbean Grog at ATL’s One Flew South

Caribbean Grog—One Flew South, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

The cocktail menu at the award-winning One Flew South features everything from classics like the Old Fashioned to local twists on traditional drinks, like a Georgia Peach Bellini that pays homage to Georgia’s state fruit. However, I prefer their version of the Caribbean Grog, a tiki-style punch drink, featuring a couple different types of rum, allspice, and grapefruit. It’ll make you feel like you’re on a beach until you actually are on a beach.

Cat Cora's Kitchen in SFO's Terminal 2. Photo by Adam Fagen on Flickr.
Cat Cora’s Kitchen in SFO’s Terminal 2. Photo by Adam Fagen on Flickr.

Love and Haight—Cat Cora’s Kitchen, San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Cat Cora made a name for herself on the Food Network’s Iron Chef, and amongst her restaurant mini-empire is San Francisco’s Terminal 2. Many of Cat’s cocktails are locally inspired, such as the Love and Haight, named for the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco and featuring tequila, blood orange juice, fresh lime juice, and agave.

Plane Food London Heathrow
Belly up to the bar for expertly-made drinks at Plane Food at London Heathrow. Photo by Plane Food.

Through T5—Plane Food, London Heathrow (LHR)

At Gordon Ramsay’s appropriately-named Plane Food in Terminal 5, the Through T5 is nothing short of dangerous, featuring a healthy pour of Grey Goose vodka mixed with pineapple, strawberry, and passion purée. As a bonus, it costs around $12, a relatively reasonable price for an airport bar.

Altitude Bar Austria
At Geneva’s Altitude Bar, enjoy a Black Russian with a view

Black Russian—Altitude, Geneva Airport (GVA)

Combine the culinary chops of two Michelin-starred chefs and you get Altitude, which pairs a seasonal Swiss-French fine-dining menu with classic martinis. For a buzz with an extra kick, order the Black Russian, a simple vodka martini spiked with a shot of coffee liqueur.

Sake Mojito at AMS' EAST Bar & Bites. Photo courtesy of Foursquare.
Sake Mojito at AMS’ EAST Bar & Bites. Photo courtesy of Foursquare.

Sake Mojito—EAST Bar and Bites, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)

A contemporary Asian spot, AMS’ EAST Bar and Bites uses a few traditional types of sake in several of its inventive cocktails. My pick is the Sake Mojito, which includes the usual sugar, mint, lime, and club soda found in most versions of a mojito, but substitutes the rum with sake. Arigato!

What’s your favorite airport cocktail? (Just asking, y’know—for a friend.) 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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