The Aero Club Bar
3365 India St. (Middletown)
Happy Hour: 2 to 7 p.m., daily
Let’s Get Happy! | Dr. Ink
If you’re a whiskey lover, consider The Aero Club Bar your ultimate candy store. Fans of vodka and other spirits will also feel a rush when laying eyes upon Aero’s in-your-face wall of liquor boasting more than 750 bottles of booze, with about 500 of them revealing whiskeys of every genre.
Indecision strikes when leafing through a tome listing the liquid gold by category: Scottish, Irish, American, rye and “other worldly.” The pages continue endlessly while the burgeoning display of glass behind the bar will set your liver on fire.
During happy hour, shot pours are 50 cents off. They measure an ounce and a half, not counting the few extra dribbles that sneak into your rock glass. For whiskeys that begin exceeding $13 a pour, the discount may not apply.
The same price break applies to well drinks and myriad beers, which include about 20 drafts. But we came for the hard stuff and sipped gleefully to Lou Reed and David Bowie songs playing on the jukebox.
While my companions imbibed on a couple of summery Greyhounds (vodka and grapefruit juice), I zeroed in on Dalmore Single Malt Scotch, aged 12 years and served from a pretty bottle with a stag’s head stretching across the front. Priced at $8 with the discount, it was worth every cent.
“You’re going to want to try this straight up,” the knowledgeable bartender said as she discouraged me from diluting it with a splash of soda, which I commonly request when drinking the cheaper stuff at other bars. She was right. This scotch needed nothing more than an eager set of lips as the rush of light peat and orange spice began warming my throat.
It would take a whiskey connoisseur many years and mucho bucks to sample the entire list, considering that in the next few weeks, about 100 additional labels will be added to the inventory.
“I always had this dream of a wall of liquor,” said owner Bill Lutzius, who purchased The Aero Club Bar in 2004 after running a tire shop in Orange County. “My whiskey buying was more of a compulsion that ended up to what it is today.”
Lutzius is among a string of owners who have run the joint since 1947 after it was originally founded by a female pilot. Vestiges of the aeronautical theme remain in the form of model airplanes hovering above the booze collection.
The clientele today is diversified, attracting bartenders from nearby downtown, 20- and 30-somethings escaping the club scene and occasional airport personnel that we presume do not include pilots gearing up for flight.
You’ll need a second lifetime to sample the entire whiskey list, which currently totals nearly 500 different labels, ranging from affordable to exclusive. Beer and other liquors are also in abundance.
The bar does not serve food.
While the 50-cent discount seems nominal, the booze is fairly priced without greedy markups.
The bartender on a Sunday afternoon was super knowledgeable of the vast inventory and interacted with us enthusiastically, just the kind of gal you’d want working the front lines if you owned a bar with a colossal booze collection.
You can hang out and save money at The Aero Club each day for the same amount time it would take you to fly from San Diego to New York. Yes, we would rather be right here on the ground with the vapors of distilled grains rising through our nostrils.