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If You’re Not Ordering a Martini at the Airport, You’re Doing It Wrong

Airports + Flying
by Nickolaus Hines Sep 9, 2019

This is the Travel Take, where Matador’s writers and editors make the case for their favorite travel hacks, tips, and personal tics.

There are a lot of things you can’t control at the airport. Delays, for one, as well as over-eager TSA agents. Thankfully, there’s a refuge past security where you make the choices: the airport bar. It’s just like any other bar, but with a little more restrained chaos and a lot more acceptance for solo bar-goers. The main difference, however, is that there’s really only one optimal drink at an airport bar: the pre-flight Martini.

A Martini is the perfect fix for anyone in search of something to ease the doldrums of flying. And by anyone, I mean anyone. The sweaty couple who just missed their flight, anxious travelers, business travelers, the Chatty Chads on their way to a bachelor party — you get the point. All come to the airport watering hole for entertainment and relaxation, all leave with varying levels of satisfaction if they’re not following the one-Martini rule.

A Martini is easy, cold, and strong. Martinis lack the sugar of an Old Fashioned and Margarita, so no syrupy mouth before boarding. It’s also a more sure bet than that expensive glass of cheap wine that’s been open for a questionable number of weeks. Most importantly, and I can’t emphasize this enough, Martinis have far less liquid than a standard beer, so you won’t be squeezing past seats B and C on your way to the bathroom right when the fasten seatbelt sign goes off.

My faith in the pre-flight Martini stems more from what can go wrong than what can go right. The worst thing that’s happened to my go-to order is when the bartender at a Buffalo Wild Wings airport bar used a lime twist instead of a lemon twist. And I took it out. What you can’t take out is bad whiskey, cheap tequila, or saccharine red wine. Don’t even get me started on dirty draft lines delivering beer in less than prime condition. With a Martini, the house gin is likely one I would’ve chosen otherwise, like Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, or, if I’m lucky, Plymouth. It’s true that it’ll probably be shaken, but embrace Bond’s poor taste for a bit and drink down those little ice shards. Martinis are also something every bartender knows, unlike the many unbalanced cocktails filling the bar’s “custom cocktail” menu. That means no stress of having to chug when you’re presented with a drink 15 minutes after you ordered.

It won’t be the best Martini you’ve ever had, but it checks all the right boxes.

There are, of course, exceptions. This burgeoning new world of local airport dining means regional spirits may be on the menu, or maybe you’re at a bar run by a town’s beloved (and detail-oriented) craft brewery. If that’s the case, by all means, go local. I’m no stranger to the New Belgium hub in Denver International Airport, and I strongly suggest a tasting flight of Portland’s own Westward Whiskey at the tasting room in the Portland International Airport. These are exceptions, however, not the norm.

So much attention goes to what to drink during the flight (yes, everything you’ve heard about in-flight Bloody Marys is true) that we often neglect the more immediate decision of what to drink before. Luckily, it’s not a hard decision or a long conversation. Order a pre-flight Martini. That ice-cold glass of satisfaction is just the right balance of alcohol-to-liquid to make even a cross-country flight between two babies manageable.

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