Airport Drinking 101

There are a plethora of factors that will lead you to the pre-flight or layover cocktail. Have you arrived way too early and need to pass the time? Is flying not your cup of tea and thus requiring to fight off the nerves with a few spirited sips? You booked your flight during Master’s Sunday and you’re just trying to catch a few holes with a cocktail in hand? Or is there literally nothing else to do besides grab a drink? In the end it doesn’t really matter how you end up at the bar, but when you do, how will you fill the glass?

As you look over the assortment of distilled bottles and drafts, remember it’s your trip and to order what you want. There shouldn’t be any judgment to what you’re ordering at an airport bar. No one knows what you have been through to get to that imbibe or what might be waiting for you at your destination. There is no single timezone, and people are traveling from all corners of the world. Your internal clock could be hours, if not days, different than the bar stool you’re calling home. The point being, if it’s 7am and you feel like a Paloma or 007 Vesper Martini, go for it. The whole purpose of the airport cocktail is to make you feel better about the situation because undoubtedly something has or will go wrong along the way. Any airport cocktail is going to cost you an arm and a leg, so tell the bartender your name is Chad and order a DOUBLE Ed Hardy Jack ‘n Ginger. It makes all the sense in the world to order it TALL because you’re going to be slapping your banker on the ass asking for a loan when the bill comes anyways. When a single shot cocktail is going to be sitting around $15 and there is a mere $2-3 upcharge to amplify your drink, why wouldn’t you? Remember, an airport bar is a very special place where this move isn’t considered obnoxious, it’s not like the outside world. In the long run, doubling down on your cocktail is going to save you money because there really is nothing worse than finishing your drink and realizing it wasn’t enough and then, having to order another heavily taxed cocktail on a tight travel schedule.

Once you nestle up to the bar to place your order, put down the phone, iPad or book and interact with your bar mates. The drink probably isn’t going to be as good as you hoped, so you’ll need some accompanying entertainment beyond the subtitled SportsCenter. They might have an amazing story of fending off pirates or inventing the Dewey Decimal System. And if you’re up for it, why not create your own story. In theory, you could be the offspring of The Man From Snowy River. It’s doubtful you’re ever going to see them again (unless you’re this guy) so have some fun with it—this will help pass the time… if they even want to talk to you.

You may run into a few restraints when dealing with a terminal bar, but they should always have the classic standbys.

Bloody Mary/Maria – It’s a go-to for the a.m hours wherever you are, and it makes you feel a little better about yourself sitting at the bar with some choice veggies protruding from the glass. Or perhaps you need a little something to fight off last night’s antics.

BoilermakerA refreshing pint accompanied by a shot of whiskey to sip, shoot or depth charge. It’s somewhat of a friendly one, two punch with all the qualities of the hops and the introduction of a little friend.

Beer – You know what you like, but maybe try one of the local breweries and remember to order the larger size.

Mixed Drink – Make it a DOUBLE well with soda, because you’re not going to impress anyone with your Brandy Blazer and every bit of hydration helps.

Vino – With wine specific bars becoming more of a standard airport tenant, wine not?

Drive By – Know what you want. Have cash in hand. Slam it. Say thanks and continue on to your gate.

Water – This one is important. Always accompany your airport drinking with water. Alcohol by itself will cause dehydration and with the combination of air travel, you’ll be thankful later for the H2O.

It’s important to have your order ready as not to get lost in the hustle and bustle of other travelers trying to grab a quick one. Or even lay out a plan based on the direction and climate of your travels. We recently caught up with Los Angeles’ well-known barman John Jordan who weighed in on his airport rules for consumption, “When heading East, Pilsner and a shot of Jack. If I’m headed West, blanco rum Daiquiri. To the South, Michelada and a shot of tequila. If I’m headed North, White Russian with the shittiest well vodka they have.” Go get em’ Johnny. It’s to each his own but this geographical tactic could become a pasttime based on the creativity of flight paths and one to pass along to new acquaintances.

In the end, just about any and all travel these days is going to bring forth some sort of adventure. Once you’re through TSA or walking off the plane planning your attack for your 3hr layover, the time of day doesn’t really matter within the confines of an airport. But remember, there is one clock still counting down to takeoff. You certainly don’t want to get held up at the bar and ultimately running to your gate only to see the jetway door closed. So, be efficient and timely in your consumption, always keeping your wits about you. Never in your travels do you want to be “that guy” sitting at the bar telling a story of how you missed your flight because, well, you were sitting at the bar. Remember to drink responsibly and safe travels.

Editors Tips


  • Keep a mindful eye and know how much time you have before boarding.
  • It’s your trip, it’s your time. Order what you want without remorse.
  • More often than not, order the coveted “airport double.” 
  • Be smart, ask for the bill with what you know to be your final drink.
  • Don’t overdo it. It will hurt the bank account and the middle seat is far better than detainment.


“All human life can be found in an airport” — David Williams