Behind the World’s Best Airport Bar

Up the airport drink ante with craft cocktails on Concourse E.

Airports can leave even the best travelers feeling frazzled. So it’s a relief to find One Flew South, an eating and drinking haven within Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, the world’s busiest airport.

Here, Tiffanie Barriere and her bartending team soothe and revive guests with top-notch cocktails alongside a backlit wall that evokes calming forest scenery.

“We’re creating an oasis,” says Barriere.

Open since 2008, the current cocktail menu includes classics and original drinks, like the Cab Calloway, a nutty, pleasingly warming mix of oloroso Sherry, apricot liqueur, dry vermouth and rye whiskey. Working closely with Executive Chef Duane Nutter, the drinks often incorporate seasonal produce. No wonder it was named “Best Airport Bar in the World” at Tales of the Cocktail in 2013.

It might seem like a lot of trouble for clientele that’s just passing through, but Barriere has plenty of regulars.

“You’d be surprised how many people fly to work,” she says, chuckling. “I see some people every week—I know so many by their name and their title and their drink.”

Even for those less likely to return, Barriere prides herself on her ability to read a guest.

“Just look at ’em,” she says. “They’re pretty much exuding what they want to drink,” whether it’s a “vulnerable” traveler who needs a restorative elixir, a “determined” type who seeks a spirit-forward pounder to prepare for a long flight, or a group of pleasure-seekers who want something celebratory.

“You can tell everything from your characters before you speak to them and bombard them with questions,” Barriere says. “We always ask our travelers how much time do you have, how are you, where are you going?”

The Louisiana native says that the secret to creating the world’s best airport bar is simple: consistent, friendly service.

“When travelers sit at our bar, they are going to forget for a moment where they are going and where they are coming from,” she says.

Perhaps the ultimate compliment is that many customers at the bar aren’t flying out of Concourse E, where One Flew South is located.

“We’ve attracted people that want to have a good time, and came over just to see us,” Barriere says. “That’s what I call a purpose-driven layover.”

More Layover-Worthy Airport Bars

Where are you headed next? Keep an eye out for these airport bars, each a drink-centric destination of its own.

Lounge 5280, Denver International Airport: Modern and light-filled, thanks to an expansive skylight above. It’s one of the few airport bars to offer barrel-aged cocktails.

Center Bar, Zurich Airport (Switzerland): Noted for its strong whiskey selection, the bar’s relaxed, thoughtfully designed space provides relief from the bustling terminals.

Eyecon, Copenhagen Airport (Denmark): Look for aquavit, Danish beers and Scandinavian-style small plates amid this bar’s minimalist setting.

Laurelwood Public House and Brewery, Portland (OR) International Airport: Two cozy, wood-paneled brewpub locations in PDX offer outstanding selections of year-round and seasonal craft beers.

Le Grand Comptoir, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston): Select from 50 wines available by the glass at this sleek bar, which recently opened a second location at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Published on January 14, 2016
Topics: Airport Bars, Bars & Restaurants, Travel
About the Author
Kara Newman 
Spirits Editor

Kara Newman reviews spirits and writes about spirits and cocktail trends for Wine Enthusiast. She's the author of Shake.Stir.Sip.: 40 Effortless Cocktails Made In Equal Parts (Chronicle Books, 2016) as well as ROAD SODA: Recipes and techniques for making great cocktails, anywhere (Dovetail Press, 2017). Email: spirits@wineenthusiast.net



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