Just a few years ago, drinking culture in Reykjavík was a lot more bleak than it is today. Asking for a cocktail in a regular downtown drinking hole would most probably result in a spirit and mixer, with a slice of lime if you were lucky. But today, most bars offer a cocktail or two. Some, of course, are better than others. And that’s where we come in. So whether you’re looking to start your evening with an espresso martini pick-me-up, or to end your day with a local invention, here are a few of our favourites.
If you’re looking for a good cocktail without a hoity-toity atmosphere, Bar Ananas is your best bet—the crowd is pretty stylish, but it’s fine to wear whatever you wore to the Golden Circle that day. With tiki-themed decor—it looks like a cabana—and fittingly bearded and tattooed bartenders, Bar Ananas might not be the first place you’d expect a memorable cocktail, but it will prove you wrong. Fruity and tropical is the go-to, so don’t order a whiskey sour but instead opt for some tequila. My favourite? The White Widow: tequila, cucumber & dill—a beach holiday in a cup. HJC
These twin high-end restaurants, both in the heart of downtown, are also a great place for a cocktail. Fishmarket has a first-floor lounge where you can try a mouthwatering wasabi mojito, a jalapeño margarita or a cherry sour. Grillmarket has a spacious basement bar where you can try fruity re-ups of the classics such as a raspberry cosmopolitan or a rhubarb mojito, as well as a range of creative recipes using only Icelandic ingredients. JR
My first time at Geiri Smart I was served by an enthusiastic bartender named Fannar. He excitedly explained to me, while preparing my drink, that he had dipped the glass in cold absinthe before pouring the cocktail into it. I was fascinated, but after a few more visits to the restaurant concluded that these extraordinary touches are ordinary at Geiri Smart. Every single drink is so perfectly thought-out that you could easily lose yourself for hours just watching the bartenders work their magic. I’m a cocktail fanatic, and Geiri Smart could easily rival famous establishments like Death & Co. This place is the real deal. HJC
While it’s best known for creatively topped pizzas, Hverfisgata 12’s ground-floor drinking room offers a nice line in lovingly prepared cocktails. The bartenders take pride in their work, and flamed citrus peel seems to be the house’s signature flavour. Their Bloody Mary is made using, and I quote, “pizza juice”—try it out at the same time as their decadent brunch menu. JR
Probably Reykjavík’s best-known cocktail bar, Slippbarinn is located in the ground floor of Hotel Marina on the city’s old harbour. The ever-changing menu is more like a compilation of experiments, often using locally made ingredients such as birch liquor, Reyka vodka or the traditional go-to slammer, Brennivín. The bartenders are some of the best in Iceland, and can make you anything you might want. For my money, they serve the best espresso martini in town—an expertly prepared short cocktail that’s strong, just sweet enough, and not over-diluted in the making. JR
Snaps is a French-style bistro that manages to feel classy enough for a fancy meal, but casual enough to walk in whenever. There’s a wraparound bar in the main room where you can perch on a stool people-watching, and see your drink being made in front of you, or a tiny atmospheric basement bar with some tucked-away sofas. They offer some pleasant variations on the classics, including a Reyka vodka martini, a signature Snaps Margarita and a well-priced kir royal. JR
Along with being one of the best restaurants in Reykjavík, Sushi Social is also without a doubt one of the top cocktail destinations in the city. Their menu is extensive—and I mean extensive—so if you have trouble with choosing between 100 equally appealing items, this might not be the place for you. That said, they’ve essentially got everything here—fancy martinis, amazing mojitos, caipirinhas, and even the requisite Brennivin item. My favourites? The chilli mojito and the entire page of sours. I only go there payday, so be warned: Prepare your wallet. HJC
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