Reykjavic, while old and established in so many ways, is fairly new to cocktail bars. In fact, the first real craft cocktail bar in town, Slippbarinn, at the Reykjavik Marina Hotel, opened in 2012. The city’s recent arrival on the cocktail scene didn’t prevent the Consumatorium team from checking out the its quickly growing adoption of craft cocktails. We didn’t have time to hit every bar in town to create a definitive guide, but we did make a reasonable dent in the list of bars while we were there. Here’s the low down on Reykjavik craft cocktails.
Slippbarinn is terrific. There is a great celebratory vibe that continues until closing, when the crowd moves outside and wakes all the residents in the hotel it’s based in (we know this for a fact). They have a wide variety of their own barrel-aged drinks (see above) and offer some truly unusual cocktails. Among several others, I had “The Jar,” a spiced punch with a couple of Jamaican rums, aperol, apricot, lime, Averna and absinthe-sprayed mint leaves. It was supposed to be a two person drink, but I wasn’t sharin’. Everyone enjoyed their drinks and had trouble getting down off the high stools we sat in at the bar when we wrapped up for the evening. Highly recommended.
We walked by the entrance to Loftid several times, always intimidated by the sign in the window stating there was a dress code. As it turns out, it appears that the only dress code is that you are required to wear some clothes, although, come to think of it, we never tested that premise. The place was pretty empty when we got there and one of the two bartenders was great. The other, not so much. We got a round of drinks from the lesser bartender and thought they were ho-hum. Our second round, from the better bartender, was terrific. The menu is on the wall (see above). You may want to try to decipher it before you have too many drinks. While it’s in English, it’s still pretty hard to read. Oh, BTW, don’t go to Loftid hungry, their bar menu has some pretty slim pickens. The nice waitress rustled up some crackers and cheese for us only after one of our party was ready to pass out. Not the first place we’d go, but they have some great drinks if you have the right bartender.
The Gallery Bar was a huge disappointment. We read great reviews about it and the pictures indicated a fun leather-backed library chair kinda vibe. We had a difficult time finding it (it’s inside the Holt Hotel, which wasn’t obvious from the links we had) and we weren’t surprised that it was pretty empty when we got there. We sat and waited . . . and waited. Eventually I got up to go to the bar and heard the bartender asking one of the patrons what were the correct proportions for a Martini. I waited to see if she was joking. She wasn’t. We left.
Snaps was our backup to the Gallery Bar. Very cool and very crowded. It would have been great to sit at the bar, but it was full. The drinks were great, but pretty much good cocktails ordered off a list. Crafty in their own way, but not customized and the experience was pretty generic. If you go, I’d make sure you sit at the bar where I’m sure the experience is much better. Oh yeah, the food was fabulous. Even if you don’t do the whole cocktail thing, definitely go and eat there.
Searching for a restaurant one busy night, we found ourselves waiting for a table at the Fish Market. While we chose the place for its food, we ended up spending some time at the excellent bar downstairs, enjoying some of their liquid offerings while waiting for table. We didn’t get the chance to interact with the bartender, but their cocktail list was long and inventive. They mixed local ingredients with classic recipes to create new drinks and tastes. A very good choice, especially if you are there to eat the delicious food.
Of course, there were other establishments we didn’t get to and new ones opening all the time. You should check online and with recent visitors to see what’s new and unique. Beer is fairly big in Reykjavik and many of the bars specialize in their beer offerings. If it’s cocktails you’re looking for and, if you’re reading this blog you probably are, be sure to check whether or not the bar even offers cocktails. We found that many did not or offered a very small selection. One thing to consider before you go bar-hopping in Reykjavik is cost. Iceland is not a particularly inexpensive place and cocktails, especially with their almost 100% imported ingredients, are among the more expensive things you can buy while in the city.