02/27/2015 10:52 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Definitive Guide to Drinking in Airports

By Ben Robinson

Credit: iStock (Edited by Jennifer Bui)

According to highly scientific polling, every day, hundreds of people pass through the world's airports without drinking. Possibly thousands. These people are doing it wrong.

While the destination is something to be cherished and lusted after, the airport itself is a scourge. It is lonely, it is somber, it charges you seven dollars an ounce for water, it has delayed your flight for the fourth time, and it doesn't have enough available outlets, meaning you'll only be able to watch maybe one third of Spy Kids: All the Time in the World on your Android smartphone. Everything goes wrong, always. Misery is the default.

This is why you drink.

The airport, however, is not the real world (either the one outside the airport or the one in which people stop being nice and start getting paid to emcee bar mitzvahs after their season is over) and therefore presents many unique paradoxes and questions. It confuses even the most established of drinkers.

To help, we rounded up 12 of the most common questions curious souls ask themselves (or their priest) about airport drinking and will now answer them one by one, in as much or little detail as they deserve.

More: Every Important American Airport Ranked by Its Food/Drink

Credit: Flickr/Stian Olsen

Do you have to order a bloody mary or other breakfast cocktail before 10 a.m.? Are beers, liquor, and standard cocktails fine?

Airports are time vortexes. You will sit next to people who, hours previously, were literally halfway around the world. You can fly 3,000 miles from New York to San Francisco with only two hours coming off the clock. Time barely exists in airports, unless you're sprinting, bags bouncing off your desperate body, because your flight is about to take off. And if you are, you probably shouldn't stop to get a drink, so this question will not apply to you.

For the rest of you: You are never going to see any of these people ever again -- except, possibly, immediately again, when they end up in the seat next to you for a 16-hour flight to Mumbai.

The point is: Screw it. This is your show. If what you want is a giant beer at 8 a.m., get that giant beer. If what you want is a pint glass of Lagavulin, get that pint glass of Lagavulin. If what you want is a mojito, get something else, because that mojito will be more poorly constructed than a Millennium Falcon Lego set built by that guy who just drank a pint glass of Lagavulin during a 15-minute layover.

Do you get the double?

Most airport bars will offer a double version of your spirit or cocktail, or a beer that's close to twice as large as their standard beer, for a nominal additional cost -- let's say $2. Of course you get the double. You always get the double. Only a complete asshat does not get the double. It's simple economics.

Airport drinks, just like Airport Sbarro Supreme Stuffed Deep Dish slices, are notoriously overpriced, except in progressive cities full of marginally employed people, like any and all cities named "Portland." Make your peace with this now; it's fine. You're captive. The laws of The Market will never apply. This, of course, means any opportunity to hack into said gouging must be exercised.

If a rail gin on the rocks costs $8, and the double you so wisely purchase clocks in at $10, you just knocked down your per-drink cost to around or below that of a normal, non-airport bar. You have defeated an undefeatable system. And as a reward for your noble fighting of the power, you now get twice as much rail gin on the rocks. You are a financial and imbibing success. You won. Also, why are you drinking rail gin on the rocks?

Credit: Flickr/Eldan Goldenberg

Should you talk to other people at the bar more or less than you would in a regular bar?

In the non-airport world, people go to bars for manifold reasons. Maybe they're celebrating a big promotion or birthday. Maybe they're depressed because there isn't another episode of Castle for an entire week. Maybe they're on an incredibly sexy date with Ed Begley Jr. Chances are none of these people is dying to talk to you, a total stranger who is significantly less handsome than Ed Begley Jr.

In the airport, none of these things is the case. Every single person is either traveling or just got off work ringing up $4 Snickers bars and Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazines at Hudson News. Most of them are alone. They are all explicitly focused on mitigating a bit of the horror of airports via drinking.

With this in mind, you can feel free to make an idle, non-aggressive comment about the sports contest on TV, or how your flight has been delayed again, or how Auntie Anne's pretzel dogs are tasting really good this month. If the person responds well, you may have just acquired a new friend for the next 23 minutes. If the person turns away and doesn't want to talk about Auntie Anne's pretzel dogs, they are probably French, or a nihilist, or both. Don't push them.

If you do find a willing friend, should you tell crazy goddamn stories to said stranger because you'll definitely never see them again?

You sure should. Make them all about doing molly with Gloria Steinem.

Credit: Shutterstock

How early is too early to take shots?

Please refer to question 1.

Do you have to buy members of the military a drink to thank them for their service?

This becomes a decision based on situational awareness and proximity. If the military individual is sitting next to you and has no drink or less than half a drink in front of them, you should embrace your inner gratitude-filled citizen and ask them if they would enjoy a drink as appreciation for their service.

Basically all other situations do not require you to perform this benevolent act -- namely, military individuals sitting across the bar, or military individuals with full drinks. If the serviceperson in question is Channing Tatum from G.I. Joe, you do not have to make an offer no matter the circumstances, because that movie was terrible. But whatever route presents itself, be sure to say, "Thank you for your service." They seem to love that.

Of course, if you're trying to hit on them, ignore these rules, send them a buttery nipple, and wink really hard.

Head to for our full guide to drinking in airports!

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