American Express is spreading holiday cheer at The Centurion Lounge. From December 3rd through 17th, Centurion and Platinum card holders and their guests will be treated to exclusive tasting opportunities, surprise appearances, and giveaways at all eight US locations, courtesy of American Express and The Centurion Lounge partners.
The event rounds up an eventful year for American Express. The financial institution strengthened its position in the US airport lounge market with a larger location at Dallas Ft. Worth airport and a flurry of announcements: in 2019, guests can look forward to a new flagship club at New York JFK Terminal 4, and new lounges at Los Angeles, Denver, and Charlotte airports.
Jim Meehan, Head Mixologist, kicks off the festivities at Seattle-Tacoma airport
Yesterday, Jim Meehan, Head Mixologist of Centurion Lounges in the US and Hong Kong, made a surprise appearance at The Centurion Lounge Seattle.
Jim Meehan is the owner of the James Beard award-winning bar PDT in New York City, and the author of two books: The PDT Cocktail Book and Meehan’s Bartender Manual. In his role as Head Mixologist with American Express, he oversees the bar and cocktail menu at all Centurion Lounges in the US.
He came bearing gifts: copies of his latest book Meehan’s Bartender Manual, as well a selection of his favorite handpicked ingredients to round up an already impressive cocktail selection.
What is it like to design cocktails for a demanding crowd always in motion? We sat down with Jim to discuss his approach to his rather unique job.
For Meehan, drinks are all about the stories. “What unites us is the stories, not the flavors”, pointed out Meehan, who sees a seamless connection between his cosmopolitan bar in New York City and the airport lounge environment, as both serve global and sophisticated guests.
“My goal as a mixologist—regardless of the client—is to use cocktails as a storytelling vehicle that captures the spirit of the place and people where the drink is being served.”, said Meehan. “For The Centurion Lounge, this means considering the interests of the Card Members, the culture of the cities the lounges are located in, the storied history of American Express, and the cuisine of the chef partners wine director Anthony Giglio and I collaborate with.”
Meehan’s creations evoke the sophisticated atmosphere of The Centurion Lounge while honoring their unique locations. “Drinks are story-telling vehicles to communicate the ethos, culture and ambition of the lounges. Each lounge has local spirits and local beers. I like to have local cocktails that speak to the cities where the lounges are located in.”
The cocktail menu at The Centurion Lounge Seattle illustrates Jim Meehan’s philosophy.
The “Blue Door”, a nod to American Express’ signature lobby design, features Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Scotch Whiskey, Myer’s Rum, Herbal Liqueur, Lemon Juice, and Anise-Flavored Liqueur. Meehan designed the drink for the first incarnation of the Centurion Lounge. The almost anachronistic cocktail evokes an old-fashioned airline club from the golden age of travel, while enjoyed in contemporary swanky surroundings.
Jim Meehan’s other creations for The Centurion Lounge Seattle celebrate the Pacific Northwest. The “Housemade I.P Yay,” a refreshing mix of beer and vodka, sports local Rainier Beer, Anchor Hophead Vodka, grapefruit juice, maple syrup, and Angustora Bitters. “Via Veneto,” a dangerously delicious ode to Starbucks, features Remy V.S.O.P Cognac, Aperol, Starbucks VIA Pike Place Coffee, and egg. The “Team Spirit,” with blue and green tones, is a variation of the traditional margarita inspired by the Seahawks.
Designing cocktails for airport lounges also involves more pragmatic considerations. “The lounges are busy, so I focus on elemental, 3-5 ingredient drinks that can be prepared without slowing down service,” noted Meehan.
An airport lounge mixologist also needs to cater to the needs of diverse customers. “We all come from different places and cultures, and are exposed to different flavors and cuisines. Knowing that no one drink will please everyone, I write menus featuring a variety of spirits (vodka-cognac), formats (refreshing long drinks to stiff, stirred drinks), and flavors so just about everyone can find something interesting to drink. At 30,000 feet, our sense of smell and taste are compromised, but down on the ground, it all comes back to us along with hunger and thirst during a long travel day.”
According to Meehan, a carefully curated drink can even help the weary traveler. The Matcha Tonic, served at the Centurion Lounge Seattle, boasts East Imperial Tonic, Botanist Gin, and matcha soda. Matcha was the tea that monks used to meditate: it Invigorates and nourishes the weary traveler, remarked Meehan. Words of wisdom to live by this holiday season!
Visit The Centurion Lounge through December 17th for treats and gifts
Jim Meehan’s appearance in Seattle kicked off two weeks of holiday cheer at American Express’ eight Centurion Lounge locations in the US. Patrons may expect surprise appearances by local chefs, along with tastings and treats, custom holiday recipe cards, exclusive spice blends, and cookbook signings.
The Centurion Lounge partners will contribute treats such as Vosges chocolate, and hot chocolate and Sanctuary T stations by Marriott. Guests will receive giveaways including L’Occitane skin care sets, Allure beauty boxes, and Dopp Kit sets from Away, packed with travel essentials. We’ve even spotted electronics—make sure to visit The Centurion Lounge in December!
For many travelers, home will be the destination this holiday season. We asked Jim Meehan to recommend a drink to enjoy with loved ones. “My favorite holiday cocktail is the Tom & Jerry, which you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone but Wisconsinites to call “fun and easy” to prepare, but it’s worth the effort in my opinion! If you’re hoping for a little less time in the kitchen, I’d recommend the Champagne Cocktail. Nothing screams celebration like Champagne, and it’s an easy drink to spruce up with holiday garnishes.” Cheers!