two glasses of coffee with brown liquid

One of the very best perks of elite frequent flyer status or scoring a great business or first class deal is airport lounge access.

Away from the increasing crowds, lounges are generally on the up and up, offering refined wines, spirits, beers hot food and even occasionally some showers to refresh!

While some of the finest lounges offer nifty cocktail bars, others leave a “help yourself” shelf to make your own magic. Here’s how to take your lounge cocktail experience to the next level, if so!

two glasses of coffee with brown liquid

The “Espresso” Martini

Virtually every lounge offers an espresso machine and some decent vodka – the two key components of a great espresso martini. Here’s how to refine the art and create something excitingly drinkable.

There are many ways to play with this recipe to add a little bit more or less sharpness and it may not be fully traditional — but it works.

If you want something creamy and decadent, adding a little baileys certainly won’t hurt! This is a fantastic way to start the day, or end the night.

Airport “Espresso Martini” Ingredients

Double Espresso, Plain Vodka (or Vanilla), Sugar.

Optional: Cinnamon, Frangelico, Baileys.

Step 1: Take a cup or glass and fill it up with Ice. Pour sugar on top, dash Cinnamon. 

Step 2: Place cup in espresso machine and dispense double espresso into cup. Let chill.

Step 3: Stir double espresso, sugar, cinnamon mixture and then pour into new glass, sans ice. 

Step 4: With another new glass, pour preferred amount of vodka over Ice into new glass. 

Step 5: Pour espresso mix into glass with vodka on ice. Stir vigorously.

Step 6: Add Baileys or Frangelico to taste (optional).

two glasses of alcohol with ice cubes on a bar counter

“Old Fashioned”

Lounges are a great place to find whiskey. It’s often poured less aggressively than other spirits, which allows airlines to bring in some premium stuff. Lounges are also known to carry fruit for passing guests, and of course – sugar.

By request, you can almost always find some bitters as well. If you love an Old Fashioned, they’re extremely easy to make. Rum can make a nice twist.

And don’t forget, things under 100ml, which many bitters are, can be brought through airport security without issue. So, if you have a favorite bitters or spirit, no excuses.


Rye, Bourbon, Scotch or Rum, 1 Orange, Sugar packet, Water.

Optional: Soda Water.

Step 1: Grab a sugar packet and open it into preferred low ball glass. 

Step 2: Grab (or request) Angostura (or similar) bitters. Dash bitters over sugar. 

Step 3: Use cutlery from lounge to press down on sugar, releasing bitters into sugar.

Step 4: Add dash of water or soda water to slightly dissolve sugar.

Step 5: Use knife, fork or hands to peel large skin section of orange. 

Step 6: Twist orange peel and rub around rim of glass, place inside glass after twist.

Step 7: Add ice as desired and pour preferred spirit over cube. Stir as desired. 

a glass of champagne with a lemon slice and a black olive

The Airport “French 75”

It’s zingy, sharp, herbal and refreshing with crisp Champagne or Prosecco to top it all off. This one is good at any time of day and for a very refined drink, it’s totally doable.

Yep, even for a novice cocktail maker this is as simple as dissolving sugar and a little sqeeze of lemon. You may look a bit crazy at first with all the glasses and pouring, but it’s worth it in the end. We promise.


Champagne or prosecco, gin, lemon, sugar, water.

Optional: aromatic bitters.

Step 1: Open 2 packets of sugar into coffee mug. Pour minimal hot water over to dissolve.

Step 2: Grab another cup, fill with ice. Once sugar dissolves, pour mixture into ice cup.

Step 3: Squeeze 2 or 3 lemon wedges into champagne glass or similar. 

Step 4: Pour sugar syrup (without the ice) over lemon juice in glass. 

Step 5: Add one measure of preferred gin (chill before adding). Stir mixture vigorously.

Step 6: Fill to top with Champagne or Prosecco. Garnish with lemon (optional). 

a glass with a drink and a lemon wedge

Cuban Sidecar

If you’re headed to or from a sunny destination, there’s nothing like ingraining the memory of sunshine with some proper rum. T

hrow in citrus and aromatics from lime, orange and cointreau and you’ve got a captivating and complex way to pass some time waiting for flights.

Cointreau can be found at many airport lounges, making this a surprisingly easy delight!


Dark or light rum, limes (or lime wedges), cointreau.

Optional: Orange, Cherry Brandy or Pineapple.

Step 1: Squeeze 2/3/4 lime wedges into glass. Push skins down with cutlery to release zest. 

Step 2: Add ice to glass, swirl around to release lime zesty aromas. 

Step 3: Add equal parts Cointreau, Rum. 

Step 4: Fill separate glass with ice, transfer mixture back and forth between two glasses.

Step 5: Optional garnish or squeeze fresh orange, pineapple or dash cherry brandy. 


Obviously, making drinks is exciting and the more you experiment, the better you get. With that said, keep it within reason with your new airport mixology skills.

Nothing will kill your buzz quite like being tasered or duct taped to your seat, shall your destructive alter ego kick in at 33,000 feet. Airlines put up with drunk idiots every day and it ruins it for everyone else who can handle their booze.

Be smart, be safe – and enjoy!

Which of these cocktails will you test out?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. On a related note, some lounges seem to actively discourage you from mixing your own. I recently flew back from LAX on a red-eye and tried to get a hot chocolate with a shot of amaretto in it from the bar in the OneWorld lounge. They wouldn’t serve me this combination and only agreed to give me the chocolate and a separate glass of amaretto if I agreed not to mix them (ok I broke that promise because it’s the best pre-flight nightcap). Is that some weird American bar rule?

  2. Also bear in mind that many cocktails work out to about three ounces, in some cases as the finished drink and in some cases before adding a mixer. So you can prep a drink or two in TSA compliant bottles and get ice past security (or even on the plane) for a surreptitious cocktail — even without lounge access.

  3. My favorite lounge cocktail is a negroni:
    1 part Gin
    1 part campari
    1 part sweet vermouth
    Mix and server on the rocks. Nice and easy since you really don’t need to stir, muddle or shake. A spritz is also extremely easy to make:
    3 parts sparkling wine
    2 parts aperol (or campari, or other appertif of choice)
    1 part sparkling water (feel free to omit)

    Sometimes I’ll bring a pre-mixed TSA bottle of simple syrup and bitters and use it to make old fashioneds on the plane.

    1. If you take the basic Negroni recipe, leave out the gin, and top off with soda water you the Americano which is more of a “session” cocktail (if such a thing exists) and possibly a better bet when you’re about to be confined in the desiccated plane cabin for 10 hours.

  4. Just a note for cocktails in general – if the recipe calls for sugar syrup and lemon juice, just use the lemon juice to dissolve the sugar πŸ™‚

  5. If we’re also considering condiments / ingredients you can bring through TSA, you can also get small snack-size packs of green olives with some brine and make your own dirty martinis. For a while I was vacuum sealing some olives in brine with a toothpick through them to make dirty martinis en-flight. Just a wee bit of comfort and sophistication during otherwise sometimes drab times.

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