Going away this Christmas? There’s no need to wait until you reach your destination to get into the holiday spirit, as a new breed of stylish airport bars and cocktail lounges means festivities can begin before you’ve even boarded the plane – in moderation of course! We scoured the UK’s best airport bars for the top tipples available to thirsty travellers during December and beyond.
Where to find the best airport bars and cocktails
If you’re leaving from one of the UK’s bigger airports this Christmas, a tempting cocktail is sure to be waiting for you in one of the lounges and bars, with opportunities to indulge offered both before security and airside. Most airports now employ specialist cocktail bartenders and mixologists, so you can start your journey in style with a classic martini or mojito – or even something a little more bespoke.
Heathrow provides travellers with plenty of cocktail hour opportunities, with numerous bars to choose from. The V-Bar (T5) and the Bridge Bar (T1), both located after security, mix up all the classic drinks, while food outlets such as Giraffe and Garfunkel’s also have a well-stocked bar. If you’re on a budget, there are Wetherspoon’s pubs in all of the terminals, and for something a bit special, head to Rhubarb, the restaurant favoured by the stars, or try the bar at Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food.
Cocktails are also available at the airport’s executive lounges, including the No.1 Heathrow , where you can enjoy a glass of prosecco or a champagne cocktail along with a spa treatment, games and a bistro meal while you wait for your flight.
Manchester airport has a good range of stylish cocktail bars, including Bar MCR located in Terminal 1, where trained bartenders mix up seasonal concoctions alongside all the old favourites.
The Runway Bar, also airside in T1, is worth checking out for one last drink before you fly, and Frankie & Benny’s in T2 has an impressive cocktail menu — including frozen margaritas, champagne cocktails and non-alcoholic cocktails.
If you’re willing to pay a fee of around £20 to enjoy your drink in quiet and calm surroundings, Manchester’s Escape Lounge is a smart and contemporary oasis in the heart of Terminal 1 – you can enjoy a cocktail here along with your newspapers, light snacks and unlimited free wi-fi.
Gatwick airport is brimming with cocktail options, whichever terminal you’re passing through. Located near the North Terminal, Gatwick’s Sofitel is well worth a visit: its cool and contemporary Kua Bar is particularly recommended for cocktail-lovers. Check out the Nude Cosmopolitan for a very special pre-flight treat! Once you’ve entered the North Terminal itself, cocktails and other drinks are served at the Lloyds Bar, the Aqua Bar and at Wetherspoon’s.
In the South Terminal there’s a branch of Frankie & Benny’s with the same lengthy drinks menu as the Manchester outlet, a large Wetherspoon’s, and several restaurants. For the more discerning traveller, Gatwick also has its own luxurious No.1 Traveller Lounge, so you can enjoy a classy cocktail or two here while you unwind and enjoy the facilities.
Newcastle airport’s cocktail bar has its own Facebook page, and includes the Eagle Bar Diner, a spacious and lively bar inspired by New York City chic. For those collecting passengers, or with a little more time to kill before a flight, the nearby DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel is highly rated for its bar.
It’s not only the biggest airports getting in on the act: some of the most imaginative cocktails we’ve seen are to be found at Leeds Bradford airport, where The Saltaire bar serves up themed cocktails from mixologist Barry Maguire, whose ‘Dublin Calling’ cocktail was inspired by a popular Ryanair route!
Written by Abi Silvester, a London-based writer and editor with a passion for great food, fine wine, coffee and cats; always planning my next trip! @absinthecity