If you’re looking for the best cocktails in the world, head to the airport.
And then stay there.
In a new perk for business and high-end frequent flyers, Virgin Atlantic has been teaming up with a number of renowned cocktail bars to serve a limited menu of signature cocktails at the airline’s Clubhouse lounges.
The bars — including Dandeylan (London), Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco) and Employees Only and Blacktail (New York) — should be familiar to cocktail enthusiasts. They’re the types of places that regularly end up on various “best bars in the world” lists.
Fortunately for us, we were able to test out one of the menus. Crafted by Manhattan’s new Cuban-themed bar BlackTail (which hails from The Dead Rabbit’s Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry — no strangers to world’s greatest bar accolades), the Virgin Clubhouse menu at the Newark International Airport features six unique cocktails.
“We started the general idea for this about three years,” says Mark Murphy, the Clubhouse Food & Beverage Manager for Virgin Atlantic. “We partnered with a well-known restaurant in Los Angeles for our lounge there, and it worked. So we decided to partner with the best bars in the world. We want to create a truly collaborative menu with these bars, and create a ‘wow’ guest experience.”
For the collaboration in Newark, Virgin left the curation and training to BlackTail’s head bartender Jesse Vida. “The challenge is making the cocktails perfect every night,” says Murphy. “The guys the bartenders are working with aren’t mixologists, they’re airport employees — they could be barmen for the three hours the lounge is open, but doing check-in later in the day. They need to switch roles often.”
To that end, these menus are about making a small selection of cocktails consistently well for the 36,000 passengers who utilize the lounge each year. Don’t expect crazy infusions or molecular gastronomy: these are the bars' best cocktails that can be made without too much fuss (personally, we’d suggest the Cubano Fashioned or gin-based Alaska, but the entire menu does a nice job reflecting BlackTail’s theme and most popular drinks).
“We’re fussy about partnerships, but there was a lot to like about working with Virgin,” adds Muldoon. “And BlackTail actually has an aviation connection — it was actually a nickname given to small seaplanes that helped fly New Yorkers to Cuba during Prohibition.”
The collaboration between BlackTail and Virgin started in early January and is scheduled to run through the year. To whet your whistle, you can see one of the cocktails we tried below.