Published December 30, 2015
Tucked inside Nostra, one of Reykjavík’s most exquisite restaurants, Artson Cocktail Bar is, for cocktail lovers, a true hidden gem. Not only does the cosy spot play host to one of Reykjavík’s best cocktail menus, but it also serves up an attractive and relaxing ambiance—an ideal destination for a quiet date or friendly reunion.
The bar is known for mixing cocktail expertise with sustainability, as co-owner Hörður Ólafsson explains. “There’s a focus here, both in the kitchen and in the bar, on reducing food waste as much as possible,” he says, pointing to their Artson Margarita as a prime example of this ideology.
A fresh, sweet take on the classic, the cocktail—at first glance—is a simple mix of Don Julio Blanco, ginger, and lime. That said, there’s a whole lot more going on under the surface.
The drink is garnished with a thin slice of caramelised apple with bitters. Using such a garnish, though, meant that behind the bar, staff were left with many apple cores. “Instead of taking them and putting it in the trash,” Hörður explains, “they torch the core, make it into a coal, put it in a jar with Don Julio Blanco, and infuse the tequila for one to six months.”
Infusing the tequila adds undertones of flavour into the Don Julio Blanco that make it taste closer to Añejo. As a whole, the margarita is bright and refreshing—a tequila drink even for those not usually partial to the drink.
Don’t forget to mist
But while each drink on the Artson menu is well thought-out, no doubt the crowning jewel is the ‘Síðan skein Söl.’ A Söl aquavit-based cocktail, it serves up a melange of contrasting flavours that ultimately melt into something truly extraordinary: This is a drink you won’t find anywhere else in the city.
The aquavit in the cocktail is infused with seaweed and dill, which gives it a mild hint of saltiness. On top of that is a strong liquorice root syrup, and egg whites to fluff the drink up. Before being poured, though, the glass with doused with a green tea mist, and the drink is then dusted with a fine layer of dulce.
Misting is somewhat of a trend in the mixology community, but here is a moment where it shines. Not only does the green tea tweak the flavour of the cocktail, making it a hint more mild, but it adds an aromatic element to the drink, and gives it a delectable aftertaste. Liquorice and green tea might be an unusual combination, but it’s a fantastic one.
Fernet’ about it
Other standouts include the ‘Fernet’ About It,’ which tames the bitter and medicinal taste of Fernet into one that showcases its delightful herbal qualities. That said, the menu changes seasonally, with new concoctions being added and modified at the discretion of their experienced bar staff. Each menu revolves around a concept or ingredient. The current menu is based around the peach, and will prove to you that the normally overlooked fruit is full of nuanced flavours.
Artson’s happy hour is on Tuesday to Saturday from 17:00 to 19:00 and offers cocktails at 1,500 ISK, along with a selection of beers and wines. Stop by for a sip. It is sure to be a surprising.