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Airport Bars Worth a Layover

Anyone who spends a fair amount of time in airports knows how challenging it can be to find a good bar in which to spend a layover. What’s the criteria for a standout stop-over before (or after) takeoff? We tapped some frequent fliers from the drinks world (including Imbibe staffers) to find out which airport bars around the U.S. they look forward to visiting for reliable drinks and hospitality.

Bar Sazerac at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)

The New Orleans International Airport showcases the Crescent City’s iconic food and drinks, such as Cafe du Monde and Cure. But in Concourse B, one can properly end or start their vacation with the cocktail that put New Orleans on the map, and at a bar by the company who put it there: The Sazerac Company. “Where else can you get a well-made Sazerac, Ojen, or Vieux Carré along with a beignet?” asks Andre Darlington, author of Bar Menu: 100+ Drinking Food Recipes for Cocktail Hours at Home. “For those who are already missing the mashup on Bourbon Street the bar also offers one last chance at a Hurricane.” 

Book & Bourbon Southern Kitchen at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF)

Fortunately, one doesn’t need a boarding pass to partake of this award-winning bar’s 85-bourbon list as it’s located in the pre-security area of SDF’s main terminal Here, one can luxuriate with a whiskey flight and a view of the runway upstairs in the Bourbon Loft. “Whenever I’ve been traveling in Bourbon Country, I make time for one last taste of the local stuff at Book & Bourbon in Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport,” says Imbibe executive editor Paul Clarke. “Given the number of neighboring distilleries, the bar’s bourbon list goes surprisingly deep for an airport bar. You can take one for a spin in an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan, but I usually just park at the bar with a neat glass of whiskey and a Kentucky-brewed beer. There are worse ways to spend the time while waiting for your flight to board.”

One Flew South at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Since 2008, the restaurant and bar, elegantly outfitted in native Georgian pink marble and heart pine, has been serving “Southernational” cuisine and some of the best cocktails to be found in an airport concourse. “One Flew South is what every airport bar should aspire to be,” says Charlotte Voisey, director of brand advocacy, William Grant & Sons. “Once through the doors you forget you’re in Terminal E—it feels like you’re enjoying the service, drinks, and spirits of a world-class cocktail bar.”

Outside of One Flew South in the Atlanta airport. | Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee.

Point the Way Café at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Los Angeles brewery Golden Road Brewing‘s airport gastropub, which opened in 2016, offers 12 rotating beers on tap. A majority of the brews are its own, such as its Golden Road blonde ale and Wolf Among the Weeds double IPA. “For me, airport bars are typically something I avoid before a flight, mostly because I feel like my options are limited and likely overpriced,” says Imbibe associate editor Katrina Yentch. “LAX’s Golden Road Brewery gives me the calm vibes of a city brewery with a pub menu that has more thoughtful touches, plus a wide variety of beers from an LA staple.”

Root Down at Denver International Airport (DEN)

Root Down, whose flagship location is in Denver’s Highland neighborhood, extends its ethos of local, seasonal, and sustainable food to its beverage program. A handful of colorful cocktails accompany biodynamic wines and a stellar lineup of Colorado beers. “They have an incredible list of local beers, a wine list that focuses on organic producers, and a really, really fantastic cocktail menu,” says Erin Hayes, longtime bartender and co-founder of the Black Lagoon pop-up bar. “Airports can be a desolate wasteland for good food and beverage. It’s sometimes difficult to even get a well-executed simple, classic cocktail at an airport, but Root Down will never disappoint. They offer such diverse options for beverages that anyone who stops by will find something they love.”

The Sunken Lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

Step back into the golden age of flying at this gorgeous mid-century cocktail lounge, located in the historic TWA Terminal at JFK, with its floor-to-curved-ceiling windows overlooking the jetway. “It’s a retro stunner channeling a glamorous vibe from the 1960s,” says Mark Sansom, director of content, The World’s 50 Best Bars. “The bar offers floor-to-ceiling views of a vintage Lockheed Constellation ‘Connie’ airplane parked outside where the Beatles first arrived in the U.S. Cocktails by the Gerber Group of The Campbell maintain the throwback feel with Mad Men-era favorites, like the Old Fashioned, and are served with nostalgic TWA swizzle sticks.”

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge at Nashville International Airport (BNA)

After extensive renovations in 2020, the newly expanded 3,116-square-foot Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge reopened as one of the largest airport bars in BNA. Grab a local beer on tap and enjoy a live performance. “The one that stole my heart is Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville because, like the original on Broadway, they have great live music, which is a total escape (especially when you feel trapped by a delay or cancellation),” says Mary Wright, owner of Denver’s Yacht Club Bar. “I’m also from Chattanooga, Tennessee, originally, so finding a honky tonk is a dream anywhere, let alone at the airport!”

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