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Drinks on the Fly: Exploring LaGuardia's Exceptional Cocktails

by Seanan Forbes on Jan 6, 2015 in Culture
Drinks on the Fly: Exploring LaGuardia's Exceptional Cocktails

Once upon a very recent time, being in an airport meant eating fast food and drinking 32-ounce sodas. Maybe a beer or a gin and tonic (cheap tonic, blasted through a line). Maybe an Old Fashioned made with well liquor, served by a brusque bartender who knows he’s never going to see those patrons again, and who spends each day in the airport but never boards a flight. More recently, it became possible to find a sort-of-decent Manhattan or craft beer, but at a price that would almost buy an upgrade.

The times, like the bars, are a-changing. Two LaGuardia terminals now brag restaurants with bars worth buying an airline ticket for, just so you can ease back, be comfortable, forget that you’re in transit and enjoy a drink.

The change comes courtesy of two chefs, Michael White and Michael Lomonaco, one Master Sommelier, Roger Dagorn, and one top-shelf bartender, Theo Lieberman, who is in charge of a few restaurant beverage programs throughout LaGuardia. Bringing the talent together is OTG, On the Go, a highly respected business bent on turning in-transition-leisure into an experience to anticipate, not with dread, but with delight.

Cotto, Michael White’s Italian trattoria, is in Terminal C, near gate 30. You’ll find Prime Tavern, Lomonaco’s haven for meat-eaters and voracious omnivores, in the food court in Terminal D. That’s where you’ll spot wibar, too. For wibar, Dagorn has curated a menu of more than 100 wines by the glass. You’d have to build up thousands of frequent flier miles to work your way through that menu.

Lieberman has picked liquors from the craft to the international, and has built a selection of excellent cocktails to suit each space, from ambience (as far from l’eau d’airport as you can get without turning around and going home) to plate. There are classic cocktails, classics with clever spins, and drinks that will earn you cutting-edge bragging rights on the social medium of your choice. If that sounds good, then it sips even better. For those in the boozy know, it’s no surprise. Lieberman’s bio includes Raines Law Room, Lantern’s Keep, and Sasha Petarake’s rightly famous Milk and Honey.

Spoiled for choice? Let Lieberman guide you. Here are his top five cocktails of choice for LaGuardia drinking.

At the Prime Tavern, savor the McKittrick Old Fashioned or Sutter’s Mill. Chocolate bitters give the McKittrick Old Fashioned well-grounded richness, and in the Sutter’s Mill, bourbon is brightened by fresh lemon juice, while honey bolsters the spirit’s innate sweetness. Either would be an excellent antidote to the stress of TSA lines.

At Cotto, select the Montenegro Buck or Troublemaker. With amaro, ginger, lime and sparkling water, the Buck will calm a nervous pre-flight stomach. The Troublemaker’s blend of gin, sugar, citrus and sweet vermouth is crisp and clean – not adjectives hitherto fit for airport terminals.

At wibar, Lieberman recommends the Regal Cameron’s Kick, a drink that packs muscle thanks to Irish and Scotch whiskies, with balance from tart lemon and sweet orgeat syrup.

With drinks like that, you might actually want to get to the airport early.

Photos via OTG (Cotto, Prime Tavern, Sutter's Mill)


Tags: Cocktails
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