Top 11 Pre-flight Cocktails to Order at Airport Bars

Is there a better way for a traveler to unwind before a flight, after navigating airport drop-off traffic, baggage check-in lines, and the search for your Gate, than to enjoy a preflight cocktail at the airport bar?

Whether you’re a frequent jet-setter or just an occasional traveler, you’ve probably found yourself in the bustling, sometimes bewildering environment of an airport and anxiously waiting for the moment you can sit down and enjoy a drink. 

And when it comes to top airport drinks, we’ve got you covered and suggest 11 preflight cocktails you can enjoy before hopping onto your flight.

But let’s face it, airports are not the most cheerful of places. And a delayed flight is not an uncommon issue every traveler will face at some point.

Even after booking vacation flights, packing your suitcase, and rushing to the airport, your dream vacation is just within reach but still can feel like a world away from the hectic airport environment when waiting for your flight. 

Enter the hidden oasis that is the airport bar.

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a man holding his luggage while looking at the airport window
Another delayed flight? The airport bar is a great place to wait even if a flight is not delayed, many people love to wait at a lounge or bar and enjoy some airport drinks.

Well-timed airport drinks can turn a dreary departure lounge delay into a delightful detour. 

The airport bar is also a great place to meet new people or not if you’re looking for a break from awkward airport socializing. 

Further down in this post, you will also discover 7 of the best airport bars in the world, places where you may wish your flight was delayed longer so you can enjoy another round.

But before you rush off to indulge in that pre-flight libation, you might want to read on. 

This guide is your key to understanding the art of sipping your way to airport serenity. 

From deciding on the best preflight cocktails and airport drinks to navigating the unwritten rules of this unique social setting, this post was written to ensure your next airport bar experience is both enjoyable and stress-relieving.

And if you are wondering if airport lounges are worth the extra cost have a read of this article where I give my honest opinion on airport lounges.

Best Preflight Cocktails Drinks

When it comes to selecting the best preflight cocktails, here is some advice from travel pros and industry experts who spend a lot of time sampling the finest selections of drinks at international and domestic airports around the world.

  1. In an interview with Forbes, Tiffanie Barriere, bartender at One Flew South, a fine-dining establishment in Hartsfield-Jackson’s Concourse E, advises travelers to choose something light, aromatic, and bright, like a cocktail made with fresh juice.
  1. Seasoned traveler, and wonder of ABC Beer Co. in New York, recommends a Martini; “It’s also the perfect thing if you can only have one drink before running off to your gate, complete with an olive snack.” 
  1. Ian Cameron, a writer for DiffordsGuide in an article on Airport Bars advises: “Opt for built drinks rather than anything that requires shaking, stirring or rolling” or “other drinks you should be able to make with minimal fuss.

Generally, the best cocktails to have while waiting for a flight are those that are simple to make and don’t require too many ingredients. 

You also want to avoid cocktails with too much sugar or caffeine, as these can dehydrate you and make you feel worse on the flight. 

Some airports may have local or specialty cocktails that are worth trying. When ordering a cocktail at the airport, feel free to ask the bartender for their recommendations or inquire about any airport-specific specialties they might offer.

Here are 11 of the most popular airport drinks or pre-flight cocktails.

1. Moscow mule: 

This cocktail is made with vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice. It’s refreshing and flavorful, and the ginger beer can help to settle your stomach.

This cocktail is served in a distinctive copper mug. It’s a refreshing and slightly spicy choice.

a Moscow mule served in a copper mug  and tipped with a lime and mint leaf
A refreshing and cold Moscow mule served in a copper mug and tipped with a lime and mint leaf may be what you need before boarding a plane

2. Screwdriver or Greyhound

Citrus is a particularly smart choice, as the scent is energizing and many of the best and simplest cocktails are made with some form of the citrus mixer.

One of our favorite freshly squeezed cocktails is the classic screwdriver, usually made simply with orange juice and vodka. For a tart twist, try the greyhound, which replaces the orange with grapefruit.

A bottle of vodka and several glasses, one next to each others.
A good and old combination, popular among most people: orange juice, sugar, and vodka. You can’t go wrong with this one!

3. Mimosa or Poinsettia

Champagne is a nice preflight cocktail option. The effervescence and the bright notes of orange juice will help to keep you alert without giving you an overdose of sugar.

For a nice mixture of the two, try a mimosa or poinsettia—made with champagne and orange juice, or champagne and cranberry juice, respectively.

This bubbly cocktail made with champagne and orange juice is perfect for a morning flight or a special occasion.

a margarita topped with strawberry on top of a table
Maybe you’re up to try some champagne, then a mimosa is the best option, pair it with your favorite juice like orange or cranberry juice and you’re ready.

4. Margarita

Another refreshing option is the margarita, one of the most popular and often called the best alcohol to drink before a flight!

A nice mixture of salty, tart, and sweet, the margarita is typically made with agave, tequila, and lime and has a salted rim.

Just be sure to ask for the straight, non-frozen variety. Some bars serve their frozen margaritas from a pre-mix akin to a Slurpee. 

These generally contain a lot more sugar—not a great option when you’re about to ascend several thousand feet in the air—and, consequently, many more calories.

a snowy glass of Margarita topped with lime
Many people say that a Margarita is the best alcohol to drink before a flight! and I bet they are right, since it’s one of the most popular drinks of all time.

5. Tom Collins

A Tom Collins takes the distinct bitter-pine taste of gin and mixes it with a fresh twist of lemon, a bit of sugar, and some soda water for a concoction resembling a delicious juniper-flavored alcoholic lemonade.

Juniper berries were once used in Medieval healing practices, so you don’t have to feel bad about knocking back a couple at any time of the day—it’s for your health!

6. Bloody Mary

If you’re more of a fan of spicy than sweet, try a Bloody Mary. 

Not only a classic breakfast cocktail and lauded hangover cure, but the Bloody Mary also has just the right amount of kick to pry your weary mind from the drab darkness of a no-human-should-be-awake-right-now red eye. 

For an extra bite, ask the bartender if they can make a sriracha Bloody Mary.

a glass of bloody mary topped with olive, pickles and limes
If you’re more of a fan of spicy than sweet, go for a regular Bloody Mary but if you want to add even more spiciness try a sriracha Bloody Mary.

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7. Pina Colada: 

A tropical and creamy cocktail made with rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice. 

It’s a great choice if you’re in a vacation mood and traveling somewhere tropical.

And if you’re looking to try something new then check out the Colombian Michelada. And living in Central America I got to say that Micheladas are my favorite drinks. And in my opinion, they are better than other well-known cocktails from the same region. 

a glass of piña colada topped with pineapple
A Piña Colada is the best option to get before a holiday to set the beach mood right!

8. Gin and Tonic

A refreshing and straightforward choice with gin, tonic water, and a slice of lime or lemon. 

It’s a great option for warm weather and pairs well with various cuisines.

a glass of gin and tonic with a lime on top of wooden table at an aiport bar
One of the most straightforward options but a good one, it’s served in most bars and makes the perfect, and quick choice for a pre-flight airport drink.

9. Negroni

A bitter and aromatic cocktail with gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. It’s a sophisticated and flavorful option.

a glass of negroni with a yellow lime inside
One of the most flavourful options available, it’s the best choice for those who want to try something different.

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10. Daiquiri

A simple and refreshing cocktail with rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. 

It’s a good choice for those who prefer tart and citrusy drinks.

a glass of daiquiri topped with strawberries and mint leaf
Another great airport drink for those who are going to the Caribbean or beach holiday, it may be a simple drink but it’s delicious and an all-time favorite.

11. Martini

A classic and elegant cocktail made with gin or vodka and a touch of vermouth. It’s a great choice if you prefer a strong, iconic cocktail.

And you get an on-the-go snack in the olive too.

a glass of maritini with some olive inside
An iconic cocktail, suitable for those looking for a more strong and straightforward option.

7 of the World’s Best Airport Bars

Hopefully, your departure or layover is within walking distance of one of these top-rated airport bars.

Just be warned, you may not want to leave!

1. The Sunken Lounge at TWA Hotel (New York City, USA)

This iconic bar is located in the TWA Hotel, which is housed in a former TWA terminal at JFK Airport. The Sunken Lounge is known for its retro décor and its classic cocktails, such as the Mile High Margarita and the Paper Plane.

2. Bubbles Seafood & Winebar (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

A great place to sample from the wide selection of Dutch beers at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. 

Bubbles Seafood & Wine Bar is a great place to enjoy a glass of champagne or wine with some fresh seafood. 

Check out the Bubble Seafood & Winebar if you are flying to or transiting through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.

3. One Flew South (Atlanta, USA)

Located in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, One Flew South is known for its creative cocktails and its elevated food menu. The bar also has a great view of the runway, so you can watch the planes take off and land while you enjoy your drink.

4. O2 Bar (Las Vegas, USA)

You can find O2 Bar at McCarran International Airport, and it’s known for its high-energy atmosphere and its over-the-top cocktails. The bar also has a large outdoor patio with excellent views. 

I would highly recommend stopping by the O2 bar next time you plan a trip to check out the best attractions on the Las Vegas Strip.

5. City Bar and Grill (London, UK)

Located in London City Airport, it’s a great place to enjoy a classic British cocktail or a pint of beer. The bar also has a good selection of food, including fish and chips, burgers, and steaks.

6. Rooftop bar at Ambassador Hotel (Singapore)

The Rooftop bar can be found in the Ambassador Hotel at Singapore Changi Airport, and it offers stunning views of the Singapore city skyline. This airport bar has a wide selection of cocktails, wine, and beer, as well as a food menu with Asian and Western dishes.

7. Bar Sazerac (New Orleans, USA)

Bar Sazerac is in the New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport, and it’s a great place to try some of the city’s famous cocktails, such as the Sazerac, the Hurricane, and the Vieux Carré.

You may just consider looking at flights to New Orleans just to check out Bar Sazerac.

Remember that the primary purpose of being at the airport is to travel safely and responsibly. 

Enjoying a drink in moderation can enhance your experience, but it’s important not to let it interfere with your journey or the safety of others.

Why do people drink at airports?

Before you strike up a conversation with your fellow traveler at the airport bar and share a cocktail or two, you might want to first understand what their reasons are for sitting down for a drink at the airport bar.

Should you talk to other people at the bar more or less than you would in a regular bar? 

Below we look at the common reasons why people are drinking at the airport and note, some travelers are best just to ‘Do not disturb’ while others may become airport BFF’s!

Here are some of the types of people you might meet at the bar and knowing this can help your airport bar social experience more enjoyable.

The Nervous Flier

Some people are really afraid of flying and a pre-flight drink helps calm their nerves. Traveling, especially by air, can be stressful and anxiety-inducing for some individuals.

Having a drink can help them relax and ease their nerves before or during a flight.

And if you are a seasoned flier then reassure them by pointing out that since 1997, the number of fatal air accidents has been no more than 1 for every 2,000,000,000 person-miles flown.

This makes flying one of the safest modes of transportation when measured by distance traveled.

The Time Killer

But more often than not, the drinking crowd at the airport bar probably are just trying to kill time. 

Airports are synonymous with waiting, and waiting and waiting… 

Some travelers drink at airport bars to kill time and boredom while other drinks to cope with the fear of flying.

Whether it’s waiting for your flight to depart or during layovers. Enjoying a drink can make the waiting time more enjoyable and pass more quickly.

These types of traveling drinkers are probably happy to chat with you if they have a lot of time to kill.

The Party Crowd

For many travelers, the act of having a cocktail at the airport signifies the beginning of a vacation or a break from their regular routine. 

It’s a way to set the mood for a holiday.

Travelers may also have special occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, or other milestones, and they choose to celebrate with a drink at the airport.

Just don’t party too hard with this group and end up missing your flight!

The Local Drink Connoisseur 

Some travelers like to try the local beer, wine, or spirits of the region they are visiting. 

Airports often feature bars that showcase regional products, making it an opportunity to sample local flavors.

Uniquely local drinks like Guatemala’s national beer Gallo Cerveza

Why not join them and sample the local drinks or suggest some cocktails popular in your hometown?

In-Flight Drink Selection

Some passengers may prefer to have a drink at the airport rather than on the plane. 

The selection and quality of drinks in an airport bar can be more appealing than what’s available on the flight. And they just probably want to fall asleep as soon as they get into their seat on the plane.

They may be some of those travelers who prefer to drink alone, but you never know! Strike up a conversation and see how they react.

Unless you’re also one of those solo airport drinkers of course.

The Traditionalist

For some people, having a drink at the airport is a tradition or part of their travel routine. 

It’s something they’ve always done or something they enjoy.

They probably have a lot of interesting airport drinking stories to share. And it’s a great way to pass the time to converse with the ‘traditionalist’ airport drinker.

Helpful Tips for Drinking at Airport Bars

It’s important to note that while enjoying a drink at the airport can be a pleasant part of the travel experience, it’s also crucial to do so responsibly and in moderation. 

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to disruptions, missed flights, and other issues that can negatively impact your journey and the experience of your fellow travelers.

Here are some helpful tips to follow when drinking at airport bars, especially before your flight.

  • Know When to Stop Drinking: It’s essential to be aware of your tolerance for alcohol. While you might be on vacation or traveling for business, you should still be mindful of how much you’re consuming.
  • Stay Hydrated: Air travel can be dehydrating, and alcohol can exacerbate this. Drink water in between alcoholic beverages to stay hydrated. This will also help to reduce the chances of a hangover.
  • Eat Something: Try to have a meal or a snack before or while drinking. Food can slow down the absorption of alcohol in your system and help you feel more in control.
Having something to eat with your airport drink is a good idea, most bars and lounges offer a wide range of foods and snacks suitable to eat while drinking.
  • Watch the Time: Be aware of the time of day. Early morning drinking, especially before a long flight, can lead to excessive drinking and issues while traveling. Many travelers prefer to limit alcohol consumption during the early hours of the morning.
  • Respect Local Laws: Be aware of the legal drinking age and regulations regarding alcohol service in the specific country and airport you’re in. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.
  • Use the Right Currency: Pay attention to the currency you’re using, especially in international airports. Some people accidentally spend more than they intended because they didn’t realize they were using foreign currency.
  • Set a Budget: Plan how much you’re willing to spend on alcohol, and stick to your budget. Airport bars can be expensive.
While many people can enjoy VIP lounges and get complimentary drinks and snacks, most airport bars and the price of airport drinks can be expensive so set your budget and stick to it
  • Don’t Get Wasted: Never drink to the point where you’re impaired when you have a flight to catch. Airlines have strict rules about intoxicated passengers, and you could be denied boarding or face other consequences.
  • Be Respectful: Remember that you’re in a public space. Loud, obnoxious behavior can disrupt the experience for other travelers. Be considerate of those around you.
  • Don’t Mix with Medications: If you’re taking any medications, check if they interact with alcohol. Some medications can have adverse effects when combined with alcohol.

You can Always Skip the Drink Too!

Just because you are at the airport bar, it doesn’t mean you have to drink.

You can always choose non-alcoholic drinks. There are many delicious non-alcoholic drinks available at airport bars, such as sparkling water, juice, and mocktails.

Ask the bartender what non-alcoholic options are available, you are sure to find something that piques your interest.

If you want to relax, you could avoid the airport lounge bar and find another place to unwind and pass the time, such as a bookstore or a coffee shop.

Airports also offer options to get a massage, or coin-operated massage chairs which can help you relax and unwind without needing to have a drink.

What time do they serve alcohol at airports?

If you are dreading that early morning wake-up call and the nervous wait to see if your ride actually shows up on time to drop you off at the airport, you probably really need to know if the airport bar will be open.

Airport bar opening times can vary depending on the specific airport and local regulations. 

When it comes to international flights, many airports allow the sale and service of alcohol 24 hours a day in the international terminal, as travelers may be on different time schedules and time zones.

International airport bars are usually open all hours but is a good practice to check availability beforehand

But, for domestic flights, the availability of alcohol at airports may be subject to restrictions. In some cases, alcohol service may be limited to certain hours.

Specific regulations around alcohol service at airports can vary by country, state, and even by individual airport. Some airports may have stricter rules or more lenient rules regarding alcohol service. It’s wise to do some online research first so you don’t get disappointed.

Some airports also restrict alcohol service during early morning hours. And they may not serve alcohol before 10 a.m., so be prepared for this! This is to prevent excessive drinking, particularly on morning flights.

Additional Airport Drinking Advice

Here are some more important airport drinking advice that only the insiders know, and now you will too!

When Drinking at the Airport, Should You “Make it a Double”?

Most times when ordering a drink at the airport bar the bartender will ask “Do you want to make that a double?”.

Meaning, you can get another shot of liquor for a lot less than ordering a second drink after finishing your first round. Usually only around USD 2 for a “double” instead of paying the full price for another order of the same drink. 

If you were planning on having a second drink anyway then get the double instead. 

At airport drink prices you will save money

The Worst Options to Drink Before a Long Flight

The worst options for airport drinks, especially before a long-haul flight are probably straight spirits.

This is due to the amount of sugar in straight spirits. Cocktails are better options and ideally something with effervescence, or even champagne. 

Sugar can dehydrate you. This is especially so when you reach higher altitudes on your flight.

Give Straight Shots a Miss

This is a surefire way to get hammered before a flight.

Potentially making your flight a massive attempt to sober up and recover.

After all, you really don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who is loud, aggressive, and reeking of alcohol on a flight.

Book an Aisle Seat

This way you have free and immediate access to the nearest bathroom when you need to relieve yourself.

There is nothing worse than needing to visit the bathroom and disturbing the middle and aisle seat passengers in the middle of a meal.

So, book an aisle seat on your next flight if you do plan on having a few drinks before you depart.

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Last Updated on November 2, 2023

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