Cocktails in London, cocktails in Reykjavík8

When I travel, I like to try out the best of what my destination city has to offer in the way of cocktails. This is why I recently sought out Varnish in Los Angeles and Knee High Stocking Co. in Seattle, and why I made a point of going to Harry’s New York Bar and the Bar Hemingway in Paris last year. In fact, I keep a list of interesting sounding bars in various cities that I may visit, just for reference should I find myself there and wanting a drink.

I’ll be spending a week in London soon, followed by a few days in Reykjavík, so it’s time to do a little research on what these cities have to offer.


As a classic cocktail enthusiast, the first bar to come to mind when speaking of London is the Savoy. Home of Harry Craddock and The Savoy Cocktail Book, how could I pass up the opportunity to stop in for a drink? But alas, the Savoy Hotel is undergoing restoration currently and while it was originally scheduled to be completed this year, the reopening been postponed until 2010. So scratch that one.

There’s Milk and Honey, London, counterpart to the NYC location, which is sure to be a good bet. But non-members have to make reservations, which requires a level of advance planning that just isn’t likely to happen when traveling. Lab and Coburg both sound promising, but I don’t really know anything about either of them.


Here I’m a bit lost. I’ve gone a bit of research but most of the places I’ve come up with as being “good for cocktails” in Reykjavík are trendy nightclub spots, which isn’t my style at all. Not to mention, the descriptions I’ve read are more about the “scene” than the quality of the drinks themselves.


Know any great spots in either of these cities? Leave a comment!

Comments 8 Comments So Far

Jay Hepburn |

Personally I’d skip the Coburg bar and head to their sister bar, The Connaught Bar (both are within the Connaught Hotel). Ago and Erik turn out some amazingly inventive and tasty cocktails there – it’s one of my favourites in London.

Milk and Honey can be hard to get a reservation sometimes, but most of the time if you call early-evening (6pm-ish) you won’t have a problem getting a reservation. I’d also recommended heading over to Notting Hill – Montgomery Place, Portobello Star, Trailer Happiness and The Lonsdale all within stumbling distance.

And finally Tony C’s new place, 69 Colebrooke Row in Islington, is superb too. I recently wrote an overview of London bars for the Mixoloseum which will give you some other ideas too. You’re not short of choice here!

Kenn |

Great info, thanks. I actually bookmarked that article when you mentioned it on Twitter a couple weeks ago. I’ll definitely be writing up my own articles about where ever I end up.

Jon |

In London for a week? Looking for some good bars? Come up to Edinburgh.

No, really.

We’ve got the mighty, mighty Bramble, Tonic (the birthplace of the Scottish cocktail renaissance) and tons of great bars, all in a city of about half a million souls.

If you don’t manage to venture north, I’ve heard good things about Hoxton Pony, but I don’t have any firsthand experience.

Kenn |

As much as I’d like to stop by Edinburgh, I’m afraid I can’t make it on this trip. Next time for sure though.

Audi |

I wish I had some good Reykjavik recommendations for you, but when I’ve been there it’s mostly been to attend Iceland Airwaves, where beer is the standard fare. However, you should try Brennivin while you’re there; it’s a caraway-flavored schnapps that’s the classic Icelandic liquor. You can pick it up ridiculously cheap at the duty free when you enter (and exit) the country. I’ve also heard that a couple of the local bars mix it into a cocktail; after 6 visits to Iceland I’ve never had one, but tracking them down might be a worthwhile Reykjavik adventure!

Kenn |

But is it actually any good?

Coincidentally, I just read about Brennivín in the Lonely Planet Iceland book. Its sounds interesting but the color is a bit off-putting. I’ll try some out at a bar while we’re there and bring back a bottle if it’s good.

Audi |

Um, define “good.” ;-)

Iceland is an odd place, and I’d say the Brennivín is more of a cultural experience than anything, considering that the locals like to refer to it as the Black Death. Try it with some hákarl (fermented shark meat) if you’re feeling brave. You can find hákarl at the weekend flea market at any of the fish sellers’ booths. They let me taste it for free the last time I was there; I think they just enjoy seeing the reactions of the uninitiated. It wasn’t as horrific as some of the descriptions I’ve read of it, but to me it sort of tasted like sweaty gym socks; I think the Brennivín would actually be the perfect thing to wash it down with.

If you want to find GOOD cocktails (and I’m sure they’re out there), you can’t do better than to ask the locals. The Icelanders are very friendly and thier English is often better than ours, so you won’t have any problem tracking down the best spots. By far the biggest reason to go to Iceland is to meet the Icelanders; they’re fascinating people.

Kenn |

I’ve heard about hákarl but the great thing about being vegetarian is that I don’t have to try eating things like that. Yuck.