Buzzworthy: 9 great spots to grab a drink in the airport
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
The good news is that travel is back! But as everyone is taking to the skies again, the all-too-familiar flight delays and cancellations are back too. Sometimes you just need to get away from the crowds and throw back an adult beverage.
Although many restaurants and bars were closed during the pandemic, U.S. airports have been working hard to not only open them, but continue to work on upgrades and adding new outlets designed to lure you in before your flight. I spend an inordinate amount of time in airports, so below I'm sharing nine bars you should check out on your next trip.
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Located in more than 30 airports in North America, this wine bar has always been a favorite of mine. It offers wines from around the world by the glass or bottle. Waitstaff have been trained to offer suggestions. If you still can't decide, you can try one of Vino Volo's tasting flights, which include notes on each glass. You can even shop for bottles to take with you to your destination. Plus it offers small plates to pair with your wine. The tables and bars have plenty of power outlets and USB ports.
One Flew South
This restaurant’s cocktails were created under the theme “Salute to Aeromarine,” which pays homage to Aeromarine Airways, an airline that flew from Miami to Nassau and Havana so wealthy guests could drink legally during the Prohibition. At my number one airport restaurant, one of my personal favorite cocktails is the Nearest to Happiness, made with Uncle Nearest 1856 premium whiskey, Lillet Rouge, lemon, simple syrup and muddled blueberries and mint. Or the OFS Old Fashioned — made with Four Roses Bourbon, Demerara sugar, angostura bitters and Peychaud's bitters. Located at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in Concourse E right before the food court, it also offers a great selection of global wines, craft beers and sake.
Sure you can eat at this restaurant and bar, with locations at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport's Terminals A and C, but the drinks are the star here. Bartenders use the freshest ingredients to craft custom cocktails including Lady Marmalade, made with Don Julio Blanco Tequila, Grand Marnier, orange marmalade and pink grapefruit, or the Melon Breeze, a blend of Tanqueray Gin, mint, watermelon and apple juice. There's also a great selection of craft beers, global wines and premium liquors.
If you're in the mood for a nice glass of wine or Champagne, this wine bar at Chicago O’Hare International Airport is the place for you. You can have a 3 oz, 6 oz or 9 oz glass of wine, or even a bottle. Among my personal favorites of the 30 global varieties served here are Cakebread Chardonnay, Blackbird Vineyards Arriviste Rosé, Santa Julia Sustainable Malbec and Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco. If you're hungry, you can pair your wines with small plates. Beaudevin is located across from the United Airlines Polaris Lounge in Terminal 1 next to Gate C17.
Surdyk’s Flights Wine Market & Bar
This local favorite spot that opened in 1934 also has locations at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) in Terminals 1 and 2. Enjoy wines from around the world — either by the glass or in flights of three — along with beers on tap. You also have your choice of classic cocktails — such as a Moscow Mule, an Old Fashioned or a Mojito — or a signature drink such as the First Glass, made with Valdoro Prosecco, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and a wild hibiscus flower.
United Airlines and partner OTG Management partnered to completely transfer the food, beverage and retail options at Newark-Liberty International Airport's Terminal C’s beverage, food and retail offerings. One of them is this spot, near Gates C120-139, that claims to be New Jersey’s largest tequila bar. You can choose from more than 200 tequilas — including Clase Azul Ultra Anejo, which runs up to $2,400 a bottle — along with mezcal. You can also enjoy a variety of street tacos. If a tequila shot isn't your speed, ask your mixologist to make you a signature cocktail such as El Jefe’s Margarita, made with Clase Azul Anejo, Mandarine Napoleon XO, agave nectar, a splash of Veuve Clicquot and fresh-squeezed lime juice served in a crystal margarita glass rimmed with Amethyst Bamboo Korean sea salt.
Lounge 5280 Wine Bar
This cocktail lounge is located at Denver International Airport (DIA) on the upper Mezzanine level in the center of Concourse B. Aside from being a great respite from the airport masses, the Lounge features 53 hand-selected wines that come by 6- and 9-oz pours and bottles, high-end and craft liquors and Colorado-made craft beers. Cocktails include the Mile High Manhattan, made with Breckenridge Bourbon or the Colorado Goat Gimlet, made with Goat vodka. You can also enjoy snacks and small plates with your drink choices.
Book & Bourbon Southern Kitchen
Are you a bourbon connoisseur? Then this restaurant, located in pre-security on the upper level at Louisville International Airport (LOU) is going to be your favorite. Concessions operator HMSHost has partnered with bourbon distilleries in the region to allow customers to sample nearly 90 bourbons. Popular drinks such as the Manhattan or the Mint Julep are available, but consider trying the Peaches and Beam, made with Jim Beam, peaches, basil and apple. Local craft beers from Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co. and others are also available for your drinking pleasure.
United Airlines Polaris Lounge
This may be cheating on my part, since you need to be flying in United’s international premium cabin for access to this lounge, but after getting a sneak peek of the lounge right before it opened in November 2016, I decided to include it on this list. The lounge offers premium wines by the glass, craft beers or their choice of custom cocktails, including the London Spritz, a twist on the Pimm’s Cup, or the Paper Airplane, made with Maker's 46, Aperol, Amoro Nonino, fresh lemon and a paper plane balanced on the rim of the glass. All drinks are made with premium or craft alcohol and fresh ingredients.
These and other airport bars can be a great option for those who don't have lounge access (and in the case of United those who do!). Because airports are on different schedules to re-open, it's best to check their website to see if your favorite is open for business. Also, bring your patience. Most airport concessionaires laid off thousands of workers as they shut down bars and restaurants during the pandemic. Now they are working hard to hire, but are competing with non-airport companies for employees. DFW has more than 30 concessions looking for workers. So be kind -- and tip well!