Athens’ cocktail scene is thriving, here’s our exclusive guide to get you started on a cocktail adventure through the city’s center.
I recently wrote a piece for my favorite online + Instagram destination for all things drinkable, Thirsty. While geared more towards an audience that lives outside Greece, I figured the piece warranted reposting here. While researching Athens’ cocktail bars I even met a few enthusiasts from outside Greece who flock to the city for its unique vibe. If you’re in Athens center, below are some of DR’s favorite places for cocktails, wine, and the occasional Acropolis vista.
This originally ran on Thirsty and is presented here with a couple of additions… The piece was not written with a non-native Greek audience in mind.
When you think of Athens, Greece, it’s likely that ancient ruins come to mind before nightlife and cocktails. And yet, if there’s one thing Greek people do impeccably, it’s going for drinks. Oftentimes this merely means coffee, and Greeks have mastered the art of slowly sipping iced coffees on summer afternoons for hours on end. A culture with a ripe appreciation for slowing down to enjoy coffee life naturally translates well to the cocktail sphere.
After living in NYC for many years, I thought I’d reached the mecca of all things cocktail related. By some combination of Greek charm and the Athenian care for details when it comes to drinks, Athens has given my former home of NYC a run for its money in the realm of cocktails. Add to it that, as one friend attested on a recent visit from Berlin, there’s something indescribably sexy about the city.
Athens is a sprawling city, and many of its loveliest areas lie far from the center in places that you’d never step foot as a tourist. Luckily, its center which is both highly walkable and central to public transit is home to many thriving cocktail bars. From a Christmas-inspired joint with a hidden bookstore inside to rooftops with views of the ancient Acropolis, Athens might just be your new favorite city for sipping cocktails.
BABA AU RUM
Why: This is, admittedly, the author’s new favorite bar in the world. The inviting space has been named one of the The World’s 50 Best Bars as well as one of the best rum bars in the world, and if you visit you’ll quickly understand why.
Their impressive selection of rum includes varieties from Cuba, Jamaica (duh), Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Venezuela, Peru, Guatemala and more. Fela Kuti spins in the background while bartenders whip up creative but not overbearing cocktails. Try the Devil’s Milk, a luscious combination of Jamaican coconut rum with chilipepper, lime, falernum and a choco-nutmeg finish. And mind how easy these go down…
Why: As you may guess from the name, Noel is a holiday themed bar. But instead of kitschy Christmas decorations, you’ll find decor that’s surprisingly elegant and not quite like anything else in Athens. With red walls and gilded decor, the transportive vibes evokes glamorous days of yore. P.S. there’s frequently a DJ who spins impeccable tunes, icing the cake of a bar experience that may best be described as “cinematic.” P.S., there’s a bookstore inside the bar, so you can indulge your literary tendencies before hitting the bar. Or perhaps you prefer it the other way around. Whatever floats your boat.
P.S., there’s an amazing bookstore inside the bar called Fotagogos, so you can indulge your literary tendencies before hitting the bar. Or perhaps you prefer it the other way around. Whatever floats your boat. The cocktails rotate constantly, and there’s hardly a drink that isn’t crafted to perfection. Try whatever the offering may be when you visit.
Why: When a bar has a large, lit sign that reads “REHAB,” you know you’ll likely want to stay awhile. Drunk Sinatra has a cheeky, retro vibe. Upon entering the narrow space the bar occupies, I felt some kind of natural intoxication come over me. It goes without saying the name is an homage to Mister Sinatra, and the celebration of all things hedonistic and boozy is the bar’s shameless theme.
The first time you visit Couleur Locale is the best. Upon entering a pretty nondescript, slightly dingy alley, your expectations will be low. You then enter the bottom portion of the bar which is empty during summer months… and you’ll soon understand why. A short elevator ride spits you out onto the bar’s incredible rooftop space.
Buzzing with beautiful people and a breathtaking view of the Acropolis, it’s the perfect bar for someone’s first time in Athens. It’s hard to take your eyes off the sweeping view, but delicious cocktails throw some competition at your senses. The cocktail list is extensive, especially given the size of the bar. Try a Leon’s Daiquiri for a fruity, summer option. The drink features a Havana Club rum blend, citrus and aphrodite bitters.
Why: Come to lounge in the massive outdoor garden space, take a photo on the signature neon steps that descent to said magical outdoor space, and stay for the absurdly named cocktails. The current theme of “Fantasia” lends itself to cocktails such as Bubble Chaos, a concoction featuring the Greek spirit Mastixa, Cloud Ballet, and Princess Goldfish. More than just a bar, Six Dogs is a full-fledged cultural center that hosts special events and djs.
It’s a complete respite from the city madness, with heaps of space to lounge even if the bar becomes busy (it usually does..). It’s worth coming to try the aforementioned Princess Goldfish, a refreshing combination of Beefeater gin (bergamot and borage infused), elderflower liqueur, cordial lime & bergamot, fresh lemon and lime juices, Peng Hi Cha green tea syrup, fresh cucumber and kiwi, cucumber bitters, black smoked salt, and verbena.
This tiny bar could easily fall under the radar. Tucked into Kolokotroni St., it’s much less imposing from the outside than others on the list. Its bravado lies in other places: namely the artful cocktails, attentive bartending, and incredible DJs who spin here. The bartender here is incredibly passionate about the ingredients and recipes he creates and has been known to handpick many of the flowers and herbs he uses.
A favorite cocktail is the “Mayahuel,” named for the female deity associated with the “Agave Americana” plant who was known as “The Immortal” in the pre-Columbian era. This cocktail competed globally and won 6th place in the 5th International Tahona Society competition. It’s comprised of 100% Agave spirit, combined with pineapple flavors, fresh lime, fennel seed tincture and citrus oleosaccharum. The house-made dehydrated mandarin powder fulfills “the pilgrimage” to Mayahuel.
What bar roundup is complete without the requisite speakeasy? Aptly named, The Speakeasy is intentionally not marked at all from the outside. In fact, though it’s technically located at 12 Lekka St, you won’t see “12” written anywhere. Once you find “12” Lekka, (it’s actually not too hard – it’s a grey door located between two other bars), you descend to a basement space. The descent is part of the charm, and everything you’d expect from something celebrating the 20s.
The basement is a perfect place to cool down on hot summer nights. I thoroughly enjoyed the friendly bar service and a Bitter Harvest cocktail. Rye, averna liquer, and pimento rum are perfectly balanced to create a strong cocktail befitting the speakeasy vibe.