Iceland is an incredible place. So incredible in fact that I traveled back last week after visiting in 2018. Full of natural beauty and fresh seafood, it may not to be a place you’d think of for inventive cocktails. With the country being an island, the supply chain can be difficult and expensive. However, this doesn’t stop enterprising and creative Icelanders from working their magic. While I did have to search a bit, I think these places are among the best for cocktails in Iceland. As you will see, they are concentrated to the main cities with a couple of outliers. Cheers!
Best Bars in Reykjavík
Not surprisingly, Reykjavík, has the best cocktails in Iceland. With the draw of being the capital city, it supports some great bars and bartenders. While there, you’ll find quite a few great bars and restaurants where you can get a great drink. If you’re looking for happy hour deals for cocktails in Reykjavik, download the app specific to the city, Appy Hour. Available on iOS and Android.
When researching the cocktail scene in a new city, or in this case country, you have to pace yourself. This usually means limiting multiple visits to the same bars. With Kokteil Barinn, I broke this rule and visited twice. The interior is a feast for the eyes, and includes a full-scale Champagne Train along one wall. The menu is interesting and inventive and the drinks were delicious. Perhaps most important of all, the staff were engaging and friendly. Definitely a must-visit spot for cocktails in Iceland for me.
From top left: Basil Thangalang (gin, yuzu, lemon, egg white, basil), outside and inside the champagne train, and the Aji Pepper Margarita (aji pepper-infused tequila, tonka agave, apricot, lime, black lemon)
Easily one of the best meals I’ve had and some of the best cocktails in Iceland, are at Kol. They serve a globally-inspired menu of both food and drinks. When you sit down, they hand you a beautifully illustrated cocktail list. I instantly knew it was my kind of place. From left to right are the Wokou, the bar, and the Grandhattan. The Wokou is a twist on a gimlet with coconut-washed awamori, yuzu cordial, pink grapefruit, and lime. It was very refreshing and flavorful. The Grandhattan was served smoked in a glass. It’s made with black rum, aged bourbon, vermouth, amaro, bitters, and smoked cinnamon.
If you’re looking to step out of Reykjavík and into the jungle, Jungle Cocktail Bar is for you. With all the vibes of lush greenery, nice group seating for friends to gather, and great cocktails, you’re bound to have a great time. They also DJ on the weekends which transitions the bar into more of a nightclub, which is what I thought we were stepping into based on the entrance. Luckily, we found a chill, laid-back atmosphere and friendly service instead. I enjoyed the Defibrillator which is made with 64° brennivin, rhubarb, lemon, and absinthe. Skál!
4. Röntgen Bar
On my last trip to Iceland, I went to this bar when it was a pizza restaurant with awesome cocktails. Now it’s an awesome cocktail bar called Röntgen. The interior is almost the same as my last visit and it’s still cozy and chill. I enjoyed the “Cocktail of the Week.” It was a blend of tequilas, grapefruit, and natural wine. If you’re looking for a nice place to grab a drink, check this spot out.
Located in the heart of downtown Reykjavik, you’ll find ROK. This restaurant and bar has a cozy interior, along with a small and coveted second-floor balcony. They easily have the best view in the city. It overlooks the 73 meter Hallgrimskirkja, the iconic church built in 1986. I enjoyed a classic Sidecar while enjoying the view.
6. Sushi Social
If the sushi and the presentation of cocktails is any indication, Sushi Social knows what they are doing. We had just visited two more bars prior to dinner, so I reluctantly skipped ordering a drink. However, we sat at the bar and watched the bar team expertly prepare countless cocktails. Keeping with the theme of the restaurant, they serve a great range of interesting flavors and plenty of (tiny) pyrotechnics.
7. The Roof and 8. TÖLT at The Reykjavik EDITION
The ROOF is a hotel bar located on the 7th floor of the brand new EDITION Hotel. With sweeping views of the Harpa Concert Hall, the ocean, and mountains in the background, it’s an idyllic spot for a cocktail in Iceland. I enjoyed a classic gin gimlet. It’s also a great spot for people watching.
And, perhaps even more exciting to me, is the new speakeasy located behind the Lobby Bar called TÖLT. Named for the unique fourth gait found only in Icelandic horses, the bar is going to be something really special. It’s sadly not open to the public yet. They’re currently hosting private events.
If you stroll the streets of Reykjavik, you’ll find a great mix of pedestrian-only streets, pubs, shops, and cafes. Some of them serve some solid, classic cocktails. One of them is Veður. This sun-dappled bar was the perfect place to sip a Bee’s Knees and rest for awhile. They have a decent drink menu, happy hour, and also serve beer and wine.
Best Bar in Bláskógabyggð
If your Icelandic adventures take you an hour and a half outside of Reykjavik you’re likely to find Gulfoss or Bláskógabyggð. The drive is beautiful and you’ll find some nice places to stop along the way.
Friðheimar was founded in 1946. Today, they grow tomatoes in multiple greenhouses year-round. About 2 tons are sent to the market every day. In 2012, they opened a restaurant inside one of the greenhouses that offers a unique dining experience next to the tomato plants. The menu includes everything from the best tomato soup and Bloody Marys in the world, a to-die-for bread bar, heirloom tomatoes and Icelandic burrata and tomato beer. The bar is particularly charming, as you can see. They also operate a small-scale horse breeding operation, so you can visit with nearly 50 Icelandic horses on the farm.
Along with an incredible, tomato-based meal, I enjoyed the Happy Mary and a pour of local birch schnapps in a tomato. The Happy Mary cocktail is made with gin, bitter lemon, green tomatoes, lime, honey, and ginger. It was delicious and healthy. They also serve a tomato beer brewed with green and red tomatoes, along with other cocktails.
Best Bars in Akureyri
Iceland’s second largest city is located in the Northern part of Iceland at the base of Eyjafjörður Fjord. It’s a cute town that serves as a small cruise ship port. Nearby, you’ll find places to hike, historic settlements, and a couple of spots for cocktails.
Götubarinn is a huge space that clearly knows how to host a party. I went early enough to see it empty and enjoyed an Old Fashioned. They have a nice selection of whiskies and host local bands. The bar is eclectic in style as it’s built from found local objects that have been gathered and preserved through the years. Come ready with your drink choice as they don’t have a printed menu.
I obviously love a good restaurant that also has great cocktails. While there are certainly some great cocktails in Iceland, they are necessarily not easy to find. We had a delicious meal at Strikið and I enjoyed their house cocktail. The “Yfir Strikid” is made with gin, strawberry syrup, lemon, and prosecco. The French 75 riff went perfectly with my Langoustine Sushi.
Best Cocktails in Vestmannaeyjar
If you’re in search of the world’s largest puffin colony, you will visit the Vestmannaeyjar (Western) islands. Although the only puffins I saw on my trip were the ones being rehabilitated, I’m told they’re around. When you tire from hiking around Heimaey, the largest and only inhabited island, you’ll want a great meal and a cocktail.
And you’ll find both at GOTT. They serve a great mix of healthy and creative dishes and cocktails. The interior of the restaurant is cozy and inviting. Local families and travelers folk to this beloved spot. They serve a whimsical cocktail menu including the Pink Floss. It’s made with pink gin, violette liqueur, rhubarb, cranberry and lime juices, and topped with cotton candy.