Are you wondering what alcohol in Iceland you should try? Discover 10 delicious Iceland drinks, including beers, liqueurs, spirits, and cocktails. Plus, learn a little more about Iceland’s illicit relationship with beer.
If you are headed to Iceland and wondering what to drink next, we got you! Nothing beats coming back to your hotel after a long day of waterfall and glacier chasing and warming up with a famous Icelandic spirit.
Iceland’s liquors are sweet and nostalgic of the land, and their whiskeys will put the ‘fire’ in the ‘land of fire and ice.’ Icelandic beers range from hoppy and light to deep and nutty, and you cannot skip a drink at the Blue Lagoon. All are delicious.
Who knew that Icelandic alcohol was so plentiful and good, especially after such a long period of Prohibition? Keep on reading for the history of alcohol in Iceland along with delicious Iceland spirits, our favorite Icelandic liqueurs, and the endless flights of beer we devoured.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
A History Of Alcohol In Iceland: Icelandic Prohibition
Did you know that Iceland had a rather long and modern Prohibition period? No drinking in Iceland for you, TUL.
From 1915-1989, boozy bloggers could hardly find a drink in the land of fire and ice. Seen as a progressive move with support from women — who still technically could not vote — Iceland banned the booze.
I’d probably become an illegal homebrewer, too, and top it all off with some suspenders, fishnets, and a pageboy hat. These are my Prohibition fantasies.
I honestly cannot believe how long the Icelandic ban on beer lasted. March 1st, 1989 is Bjordagur, “Beer Day,” when Icelanders could enjoy their first legal cold brew.
To be fair, Iceland legalized wine in 1922, and by 1935, everything but beer and beverages with less than 2.25% alcohol could be kicked back publicly.
Why the dry? Politically, beer drinking in Iceland had a Danish association. Iceland fought hard to become an independent republic by 1944. Personally, I don’t think the 1918 date counts. Go ahead historians, troll me.
I know, it is hard to imagine being deemed non-patriotic by drinking beer when today in the U.S. we have far worst symbols appearing…
Alcohol In Iceland Today
With all of this tipsy history, when we headed to Iceland, I was ready to enjoy ALL the bevies. We found craft breweries in Reykjavík and Vík, did not tour but enjoyed whiskeys and liquors from local distilleries, and of course, tried a few craft cocktails.
These are a few of my favorite alcoholic beverages in Iceland. Some you cannot miss while others are just personal preference. We all know Reyka Vodka, but what else is there to drink in Iceland?
Plus, you need something to warm up your soul on those chilly glacier-filled days. Let our history and booze-filled Icelandic tour begin.
10 Must-Try Icelandic Drinks, Spirits, And Liquors
Where should you grab a delicious Icelandic drink? Who makes the best Icelandic beer? These are our personal favorite Icelandic liquors, drinks, and spirits. Find what you should drink next while traveling around Iceland.
When I say Birkir, I mean the Icelandic snaps and not the soccer [American soccer] player. I still don't quite understand the difference between schnapps and snaps beside the more Swedish origin.
Known for using natural ingredients, the Foss Distillery produces Birkir. Hoping to capture nature in a bottle, this Iceland drink is pretty dang poetic.
Best described by Foss Distillery:
"Our aim with Björk and Birkir is to capture the experience of a spring night in Iceland, the moment when, after [the] rain has cleared, the dew settles on the leaves of the birch trees on a wooded hillside."
I think the Foss Distillery might be the new Walt Whitman of booze. I think I might be in love.
With that said, Birkir is infused with Icelandic birch, tasting a bit deliciously woody. I am not a poet.
Imagine sipping on sweet Icelandic blueberries after dinner. On Valentine's Day, we have to honor those that we love.
If you are a sweet port drinker, this Icelandic liquor is for you.
Established in 2009, the Reykjavík Distillery offers a unique story similar to the hidden people you can read about in Sarah Moss's Names for the Sea.
Local elf, Benedikt -- on an edict from his King -- presented distilling methods to the institution. These secrets included small-batch distillation, the art of using locally produced products, and natural infusion.
That's one smart little elf, and personally, I love the hidden people and elfish traditions and beliefs carried across the Icelandic landscape.
I hope that drinking more of this sweet Icelandic alcoholic beverage puts me on the elf 'A' list. There is only one way to find out.
I loved RVK Brewing in downtown Reykjavík. While we walked from our hotel, you can also drive over to enjoy an Icelandic beer flight.
Founded by a former NYC finance guru, RVK offers a selection of great beers ranging from white and sour to dark and barrel infused. The taproom is open for pints and flights, and you can also email for a tour.
Imagine sipping local Icelandic beers while watching the snow drift down from the sky as you await your fresh fish dinner reservations.
Ensconced in a small faux DJ station in one corner and tanks for brewing in another, I could have relaxed here all afternoon.
It's no secret that we loved Vík, and for Icelandic drinks paired with the Northern Lights, you cannot go wrong.
Vík is also a great rest stop along Ring Road to see the glaciers. After this boozy Icelandic alcohol list, you can check out our 7-Day Iceland Itinerary to make sure you don't miss the Smiðjan Brugghús.
If you are looking for delicious burgers and a huge selection of beer, Smiðjan is the place to be. Not only do they produce their own draft beers, but they also showcase a large variety of Icelandic brews.
My husband, who has Celiacs, also found a delicious rhubarb cider here -- claimed to be the only one produced in Iceland.
I loved this Mori Red Ale from Ölvisholt Brugghús. Located in Selfoss, we sadly did not make it to the brewery itself.
The taproom is in a former cowshed; I'm feeling pretty bummed that we missed out since we got married in a barn.
I'm not going to lie: the snow and ice made us wimp out, and we instead settled on a tavern lunch in Selfoss. I have so many regrets here.
Opened in 2007, this microbrewery is located at an old dairy farm close to the magnificence of southern Ring Road. Although we missed the actual brewery, I sampled their beers next to Skógafoss in Skógar.
I'm not going to lie. This brew tasted even better watching the falls and birds from a toasty tourist pitstop. I am a sellout.
With all of this boozy history, let's talk about an alcoholic drink with a splash of warm water. Don't forget to pick up your free drink at the Blue Lagoon Spa.
We arrived at the Blue Lagoon at 8 AM in the morning, which might be a little early to drink, even for us. Who am I kidding here?
We floated around for awhile debating when it was socially acceptable to grab our free Icelandic drink. The Blue Lagoon offers beer and wine selections plus smoothies and juice.
Notably, we also couldn't find the bar in the dark. Commence panic mode.
Much bigger than expected, the Blue Lagoon pool has pockets of tucked-away areas. Face masks are easy to find.
The bar took a second to find, and the minute we saw others with drinks, we went on the hunt for ours.
The bar is to the right once you slide into the toasty waters.
Mimosas are not on the menu, but somehow I scored one anyway. I looked sad, thirsty, and tired.
Coming straight from a red-eye flight with no sleep, this little drink powered me up...for a nap.
There is always this option at the penis museum…
So, Why Icelandic Alcohol?
I truly believe that alcohol in Iceland — like most other places — is ingrained in a country’s identity and history. Alcohol is important to history. Like Anthony Bourdain’s relationship with food, we understand a culture and place over a meal and drinks.
From elves and natural elements to passion and just good conversation, Iceland infuses heritage and nature into their booze.
To me, Iceland’s drinks combine Mother Nature into fiery beverages meant to warm the soul like the Blue Lagoon or light up your taste buds just like the Nothern Lights light up the sky.
Plus, the country had such a divisive relationship with alcohol, I’m more than intrigued. Today, Icelanders are still known for drinking less than their European counterparts.
In many ways, this is how I choose to study and greet Iceland.
What is your favorite Iceland spirit or liquor?
What do you like to drink while in Iceland? What is your favorite Icelandic beer? Have you tried any of the Icelandic alcoholic drinks above? Let us know in the comments.
This post originally published on March 12, 2019 and has been updated for 2021.
Looking For Places To Stay In Iceland?
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Christine (she/her) is the owner, lead editor, and tipsy book sommelier of The Uncorked Librarian LLC, an online literary publication showcasing books and movies to inspire travel and home to the famed Uncorked Reading Challenge.
With a BA in English & History from Smith College, an MLIS from USF-Tampa, and a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship in Christine's back pocket, there isn't a bookstore, library, or winery that can hide from her. Christine loves brewery yoga, adopting all of the kitties, and a glass of oaked Chardonnay. Charcuterie is her favorite food group.