Apotek Bar Iceland: Its Award-winning Cocktail May Surprise You
My husband and I love a good cocktail bar. We have sipped our way through several world-class bars including Mori Bar in Tokyo and Old Man Bar in Hong Kong. I will be honest. I was not expecting Iceland to have amazing cocktail culture. That was until I walked into Apotek Bar in Reykjavik.
Housed in a historic building, this beautiful bar had some of the friendliest bartenders and offered up some very unique cocktails. I will share our favorite drinks and why this bar deserves your presence on your next trip to Iceland.
Apotek Bar Ambiance
I love bars with a little history. This beautiful historic building used to be a pharmacy (known as an apotek) from 1930-1999. It was designed by the well-regarded architect Guðjón Samúelsson, who also was the mastermind behind one of the most photographed sites in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja church.
When the building was transformed from pharmacy to restaurant + bar, designers Leifur Welding & Brynhildur Guðlaugsdóttir took on the challenge and created an incredible aesthetic by keeping the historic charm and adding modern styling touches. It’s an incredible space and one you will want to linger around.
My husband and I love to sit up at the bar and watch the bartenders work their magic. The bartenders were incredibly friendly, and we really enjoyed seeing how they created their beautiful concoctions.
Later I found out the Apotek Bar was led by the award-winning bartender, Jónmundur Þorsteinsson. He won World Class Iceland Bartender of the Year 2019 and has helped positively shape Iceland’s cocktail culture. In addition, he created the winning cocktail at the 2017 Beefeater MIXLDN competition and also won the 2018 Jim Beam Cocktail Competition.
Apotek Bar Cocktails
Now to the good part. What one drink is worth stepping into this beautiful establishment?
Let me introduce you to the Dillagin.
This award-winning cocktail is made using Dill-infused Beefeater Gin, mango, lime, and sugar. Dill is not something I get very jazzed about. I use it on deviled eggs and that’s about it. However, this weird combination just works, and it is incredible. The dill is not overpowering and really nicely balances out all the flavors playing in your mouth. Give it a try! You will not be disappointed.
Browsing through the menu, we picked our next cocktail, the Hekla. This refreshing drink is made with the local Reyka Vodka, grapefruit, green tea, and yuzu. I love all the ingredients on their own, but mixing them all together created an incredibly smooth, invigorating, citrus-forward flavor. Bonus points for a beautiful presentation.
The last cocktail we enjoyed had a nice story. The head bartender, Jónmundur Þorsteinsson, grew up in Laugardalur, Iceland. As you can imagine, not alot of plants can survive Iceland’s harsh climate. However, there were a few that Jónmundur enjoyed eating as a kid. He dedicated this drink to those childhood memories.
The Laugardalur was yet another fantastic drink. Made with Beefeater London Dry Gin, lemon, yuzu, tarragon, and rhubarb, this lovely concoction went down way too fast.
Local liquor Brennivin
What better way to end the night than with a shot of chilled Brennivin. The bartenders introduced us to this local Icelandic spirit and said the best way to try it was super cold. Its licorice or anise flavor comes from caraway, which is a hardy spice that can withstand the difficult Icelandic climate.
Brennivin has a unique flavor. Not something I would crave but fun to try nonetheless. I bought a bottle at the airport to bring back home and may try to experiment with it. Some say it pairs well with tonic water or sweet vermouth. To be determined … will report back.
When I think of a great cocktail bar, places like New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, London, and Hong Kong come to mind. Not Iceland. Iceland’s cocktail culture truly surprised me! If you are visiting Reykjavik, grab a seat at Apotek Bar and let the bartenders whip up something great based on your tastes.
Looking for other amazing foodie & outdoor adventures in Iceland? Check out my 19 Best Things to Do in Iceland and What to Eat in Iceland.
Do you have any favorite bars in Iceland?
Let me know in the comments below!