Where can you find the tastiest cocktails in Reykjavík? When are the happy hours? Read up on some of the coolest bars, lounges and restaurants in Iceland's capital city here and find out where you can taste the craftiest cocktails from the best mixologists and bartenders in town!
In recent years Reykjavík has been changing a lot. When I was growing up there was always a new nightclub or a bar here and there, leading to another one ending its time, but these days there are new restaurants and hotel bars popping up, without any other ones going out of business. So the city is now saturated with dozens of quality restaurants and hotel lounges, serving up some delicious concoctions of alcohol.
After years of celebrating beer, after a ban on beer was lifted in 1989, it is now finally the era of fabulous craft cocktails in Reykjavík!
Early cocktail years would only see classics like Mojito and Cosmopolitan on cocktail menus, perhaps with the odd Sex on the Beach and a Mai Tai, but those days are gone and today there are several fine establishments in town that put their focus on crafting beautiful and exciting alcoholic concoctions.
Although you wouldn't perhaps think of Reykjavík as a place to go out for cocktails (due to the price alone!), then these days Iceland is serving up some of the best cocktails on the scene, on par with the best ones on an international scene. And I've listed when their happy hours are, so you don't have to completely break the bank!
So lets check out the best cocktail places in Reykjavík, and these aren't just personal favourites, they're all frequently finalists in the annual Reykjavík Cocktail Weekend competition for professional bartenders, so you know for sure that you're heading to the right places for the best cocktails in town.
Besides having one of the best bar names in Reykjavík, Pablo Discobar also serves up some of the most funky and fun cocktails in town. This is the only cocktail bar on this list that's also a nightclub, and in fact my favourite nightclub in town. It was voted the best cocktail bar in Reykjavík in 2017 at the Reykjavík Cocktail Weekend. In 2018 they had several pop up events in New York City.
The surroundings at Pablo Discobar are kitsch and funky, but also fun and laid back. This is where you come to have a good time, and they know their stuff when it comes to the cocktails. Great for a party, and also to watch the show the bartenders put on when preparing the drinks. If you're also on the hunt for dinner, then there is a restaurant one floor below Pablo, its younger brother Burro, serving up some fine dining latin fusion.
The cocktails have a South American flair, using a lot of tequila and mezcal, but the music is disco. Pictured here is their Big A$$ Margarita, where you can choose your flavour between raspberry, strawberry, pineapple or classic. This one has tequila in it, but you can also choose to get a mezcal Margarita.
There are also gin and rum based drinks, but the most famous cocktail is Puff the Magic Dragon, with blanco rum, cream, coffee and liquorice - sprinkled with Cocoa Puffs. It looks fabulous, but since coffee is my nemesis I can't comment on the flavour.
I'd rather go for Disco Daisy (pisco, lime, pink grapefruit, raspberry) or the slightly spicy El Cilantro (Don Julio tequila, Pablo's orange liquor, lime, agave, coriander, jalapeño). Disco Ber is also a favourite (Tanqueray gin, honey and elderflower). And if you order the Mexican Donkey then it's served in a skull glass!
Address: Veltusund 1.
Happy Hour is between 16 and 18 every day, and there's a late happy hour on Monday and Tuesday nights from 23-01.
If you're looking for something a bit less kitsch and a more sophisticated atmosphere, then Geiri Smart is both a restaurant and a hotel lounge bar, serving up some of the best cocktails in town. Key words here are elegance and beautiful presentation.
There won't be a crowd here partying, but instead you're greeted by comfortable leather sofas surrounded by great artwork.
And the cocktails themselves are a work of art as well! The presentation is classic, and you'll feel like you belong in a James Bond film as you sip on Pink Cadillac (Pisco El Gobernador, Cherry Heering, lime juice, maple syrup, egg white, Creole Bitters, Tiki Bitters) or you can go for one of their classic such as Jungle Boogie (Reyka vodka, pineapple juice, lime, ginger, mint, Angostura Bitters, ginger beer).
Billie Jean (Matusalem Platino Rum, white wine, raspberry syrup, vanilla & cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, Tiki Bitters) and Basilisk (Himbrimi gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup, basil) are also solid choices.
As you may have noticed, they like to include Icelandic liquor in their drinks, using Reyka vodka, Himbrimi gin and they also have cocktails including Katla vodka and a Brennivín cocktail, Here Comes the Sun (Brennivín, Rosemary olive oil infused Katla Vodka, lime juice, pear and thyme syrup, Lavender Bitters). So definitely a great choice for trying something more local.
Surprisingly, although Geiri Smart is a very classic dinner and cocktail destination, they also have some of the best street food in town, since they operate a burger and kebab joint at the adjoining square, Hjartargarður. For a fine dining experience, their restaurant also comes highly recommended, especially the lamb sirloin.
Address: Hverfisgata 30.
Happy Hour is daily from 16-18, where selected cocktails cost 1200 ISK.
It's time for some quality fusion of Icelandic ingredients but with a Mediterranean flair. Mediterranean restaurant with an open kitchen, so you can admire the cocktails being made, as well as the tasty food being cooked.
If you're feeling peckish then you can always order small plates of grilled flatbread and hummus or baba ganoush.
And although their cocktails are fantastic, if you fancy a glass of wine instead, then they have a great selection of Lebanese wine.
Sunneva Bjarnadóttir is one of Sumac's cocktail makers, and a finalist in the 2018 Jim Beam cocktail competition held in May. The most popular cocktail is the simply titled Sumac, although my favourite is the Arak Sour.
Since guests primarily come for the restaurant, then cocktail enthusiasts can benefit from a late happy hour on the weekends, where cocktails are almost half price!
Address: Laugavegur 28.
Happy Hour is Friday and Saturday nights from 23-01.
Last but not least there are the cocktails at Apótek restaurant, lead by multiple award-winning Jónmundur Þorsteinsson. Great stuff. Personal favourites are Dillagin (consisting mainly of dill and gin, not surprisingly - dill infused Beefeater Gin, mango, lime, sugar) and their avocado cocktail.
Jónmundur won the 2018 Jim Beam cocktail competition, as well as the 2017 Beefeater MIXLDN competition that took place in Reykjavík for the first time in 2017. It's safe to say that Icelandic cocktail mixologists have started making a name for themselves abroad!
A bonus about the cocktails at Apótek, is that you can go on a cocktail workshop, that's paired with their delicious food, and learn how to make these delicious cocktails yourself (if you remember how after 5 of them at the end of the night).
Address: Austurstræti 16.
Happy Hour is daily from 15-18, with 50% off on all cocktails.
Another contender for the best name of a bar in town is Veður Bar, that unfortunately only works in Icelandic. The name is a play on words, meaning 'weather-beaten' but simultaneously meaning 'weather bar'.
First time I went in here they had just opened and didn't have a menu ready, but their bartender made a sublime but deadly concoction of bitters, orange and thyme. It felt like I was drinking Christmas. In need of checking out their cocktail menu now that it's ready.
Address: Klapparstígur 33.
Happy Hour: Daily from 12-19:35 (beer and wine).
Cocktail Hour: Daily from 19-21.
Although the days of the only cocktail in town being a mojito, I can't leave out the mojitos you can get at Sushi Social. They have various kinds, and if you just want something simple then this is where you get the best mojitos in town.
To make it a little more exciting, have the chilli mojito. Trust me. Sushi Social also has some of the best cocktail bartenders in town, but so far I haven't gone beyond that addictive chilli mojito. 'Absolutely Amazing' looks absolutely amazing though, and is on my list of cocktails to try.
Address: Þingholtsstræti 5.
Happy Hour: Daily from 17-18. Cocktails are half price.
Thursdays are Mojito Fiestas with 4 mini Mojitos for 2990 ISK.
The newest kid on the block and one I haven't been to. Yet. But the word on the street is that this new restaurant Nostra, has some of the best cocktails in town at its lounge bar Artson (that's Nostra spelled backwards). I'll be sure to go there shortly and check it out. Their signature cocktail is called Síðan skein söl.
Address: Laugavegur 59.
Happy Hour: Tuesdays to Saturdays from 17-19. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
If you're more into whiskey than you are into cocktails, then you have to check out Dillon, the only whiskey bar in Reykjavík, with dozens of great whiskey brands to choose from.
Address: Laugavegur 30.
Happy Hour: Daily from 14-20.
The newest wine bar in town is Spánski (The Spanish), serving up Spanish wines accompanying some lovely Spanish tapas. And of course they have Sangría!
Address: Ingólfsstræti 8.
Happy Hour: Daily from 14-20.
Another, hidden, wine bar in town is the fashionable Port 9. You'll find a lovely selection of handpicked wine here, bio and organic as well. And they have 4 cocktails on their menu: Whiskey Sour, Aperol Spritz, Moscow Mule and Espresso Martini.
Address: Veghúsastígur 9.
Happy Hour: Daily from 16-19.
What's your favourite place for a cocktail in Reykjavík? Do you recommend specific cocktails in Reykjavík's bars or restaurants?