So many great cocktail bars, so little time. We cut to the chase to help you find the perfect bars in Athens to suit your style and spirits.
By Denny Kallivoka
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So, you’ve heard all about Athens’ red-hot cocktail scene. Now you want to dive in and experience it for yourself. If only there was some way to find out which of the city’s many celebrated cocktail bars are the best fit for your personality and tastes—and what to order when you get there. Worry not. From the award-winning favourites to bohemian bars and rooftop classics with Acropolis views, we’ve got your back (and your next round).
One of the finest rum bars on the planet. Officially. This roaringly popular—and endlessly fun—rum bar laid the foundations for the new Athenian bar scene. It ranked number 22 on the World’s 50 Best Bars in 2018 and was the first Athens bar to break onto the list. Surrounded by old textile merchants, this chilled and likeable haunt is the cosmopolitan drinker’s bar (the attitude not the cocktail). Its urbane founder Thanos Prunarus also established the Athens Rum Festival and Fine Drinking Magazine, a quarterly magazine that merges his two great loves: cocktail culture and travelling. Ask Thanos (or top bartenders Ilias, Phaidon or Nikos) to make you a Mai Tai. It will be the best you’ve ever had. Their daiquiris are also exceptional, naturally. Or go purist and check out the huge selection of rum (it’s among Europe’s largest). Choose one, choose two, take a sip and chase it down with the chocolate treat often paired with your drink.
Probably the most popular and innovative bar in Athens, The Clumsies is big, youthful and boisterous. Founding bartenders Nikos Bakoulis and Vasilis Kyritsis have steered their downtown cocktail bar into seventh place on the World’s 50 Best Bars list by always staying a step ahead of international trends. Their cocktails may look simple, but hours of R&D have gone into their creation. The drinks menu is dreamt up in a lab on the first floor, where they put ingredients through a rotary evaporator or sous vide. Adventurous palates should try the Clumsy Smash, a variation of the Basil Smash with dill instead of basil, vodka, vermouth, chocolate oil, matcha tea and lemon. You won’t believe how well chocolate goes with dill!
Don't miss Upopa Epops' bohemian-beautiful interior.
Courtesy: Upopa Epos
A bohemian rhapsody
A feel-good name for a feel-good hangout. Upupa Epops (inspired by the bright birds with distinctive crowns) is run by the energetic Marfi Bali. She’s one of the few—if only—female Greek bar-preneurs in Athens. Drinkers spread out across a string of three small, 1930s houses. One used to sell sugar and salt; another was a brass pots workshop (it’s now home to a large bar and impressive array of distillates); the third, is the former residence of a Mr. Analabidakis (his name’s still on the doorbell). The flamboyant fit-out is down to Alexandros Petrakis, the designer behind some of Athens’ most original bars like 7 Jokers, Noel and Briki. Order the Art Brut with strawberries, lemon, balsamic cream, herbal liqueur, peach, and vodka. Or the Amnesia with rum, fresh pineapple, lime, ginger, maraschino liqueur, falernum and absinthe.
Once you’ve tried one of Thodoris Pirillos’ cocktails, you’ll never forget it. The founder of A for Athens won the World Class cocktail competition in 2013. His eternally popular rooftop bar, overlooking Monastiraki Square, has one of the most amazing views in the city. It feels as though you could reach out and touch the Acropolis. But the view is only half the story at this award-winning bar. The most studious of bartenders, there isn’t a cocktail whose history Pirillos doesn’t know in micro-detail. As a result, his masterful concoctions are a blend of classic base and his own daring dash. His Odyssey menu, inspired by the 10-year journey of Odysseus, is a work of art. Sipping on a mythical cocktail underneath the Parthenon is an unforgettable moment for any Athens visitor.
With views this good and cocktails this delicious, you might never want to leave A for Athens.
Courtesy: A for Athens
A rare not-crowded moment at 7 Jokers.
Photo: Orestis Seferoglou
The bartender’s bar
Ever wondered where bartenders go for a nightcap and a chat after they knock off? In Athens, it’s 7 Jokers. There are few better spots to imbibe on the vibe of this city’s inexhaustible bar scene. At 2:30 am, you can barely squeeze into this narrow bar, a local’s favourite since the day it opened over a decade ago. It’s not at all posh. But it is theatrical, vibrant, chilled out and always plays great music (especially during their annual Rolling Stones party or when the amazing DJ Quentin is on the decks). You’ll find good classic cocktails here. But if you’ve got a thirst for a simple beer, nobody will judge. Their spirit selection features special editions, aged distillates, and rare brands.
If whisky is your spirit of choice, this is your happy place. Stefanos Psillakis, owner of CV Distiller, is a whisky connoisseur, devoted to his passion. There’s even a separate category on the menu with whiskies from distilleries that have ceased production. A large bar takes centre-stage underneath perfect mood lighting. Great music and top service from a wonderful bartending crew complete the recipe. Behind the bar, Thodoris Anagnostou, always polite, knows his whisky and rye. You can’t go wrong with any of the classic cocktails or rare malts here.
A cocktail bar where it’s always Christmas? It should be as tacky as a Mariah Carey festive special. But somehow it all works a charm. Many consider Noel to be the most gorgeous bar in Athens. Find it inside the Kourtaki arcade in the Historic Centre, named after the Kourtaki retsina family. (Urban legend has it that the patriarch of the family was married to a French belle who would park her Jaguar in the arcade and then ride her horse up to the Acropolis.) Made up of three interlinked spaces, it’s a showstopper of a spot to grab a coffee, cocktail or some food. Try the decadent Last Christmas cocktail with rum, ginger, lime, dark chocolate and brandy de jerez. Or go for the Spectacle with gin, mastiha infused with olives, lemon and white chocolate. This is a bar where you can bring the kids, too. They’ll marvel at the year-round decorations.
“People like you should drink with people like us,” is just one of the LED-mottos at this chameleon-like bar where the cocktails change daily—and even the location is up for grabs. Bar in front of the bar started life as a pavement pop-up with just a few stools on Petraki, a pedestrianised alley below Syntagma Square. The plan was to move on when the regular bar-in-the-making behind it opens. But now, its runaway success is making the owners rethink. After working for years in London in various drinking dens, the founders Alex and Konstantinos, along with partner Simeon, wanted to create something wholly unexpected: a cocktail bar that switches up its menu daily. Everything (from gins to bitters; juices and jams) is made from scratch by the trio themselves in their backstage lab. Choose from six idiosyncratic cocktails per day, created with a zero waste ethos (your Americano might contain left-over espresso machine coffee). They also wheel out two classics to remind younger drinkers—and themselves—of forgotten gems like Pina Coladas. Try their novel new age concoctions (perhaps a Negroni with oregano and sun-dried tomato) and soak up the electric pavement scene while you read catchy neon quotes borrowed from bars around the world. Get there before they up sticks and move.
This sophisticated cocktail bar in one of the city’s trendiest neighbourhoods, Koukaki, attracts a worldly crowd. Owner and bar manager Romain Krot, and his Greek wife Christina, came to Athens from Paris in search of a better quality of life. Krot, who worked at some of the best bars in Paris and London, brought the influence of this global travels with him. Everything here has a certain je ne sais quoi: from the safari-style aesthetic, to the cheese platters and croques to the top-notch coffee, and naturally, the cocktails. The drinks menu changes every season. From the current menu, inspired by Africa, do try the Bunkar New Fashioned influenced by the Tuaregs of the Sahara. It’s made with Monkey Shoulder whisky, raisin syrup, vermouth and Laphroaig single malt. You can also jump behind the bar and create your own cocktail with one of the master mixologists. If it’s good enough, it might even make it onto the cocktail list.
Just across from the Acropolis Museum, this down-to-earth tiki bar speaks of the 1980s—a decade held dear by owner Giannis Petris. With bamboo flourishes, leopard-print chairs and occasionally live music, it always feels like a tropical holiday in here. Zombies and Mai Tais are popular, as you’d expect. As you’re sipping your Deathwish or Hawaiian Room cocktail, don’t be surprised if Giannis pops out with a little snack that he just threw together in the kitchen. Come to chill out, dance, and maybe even flirt. Just like we used to in the 80s.
Probably the biggest hit on the Athens Riviera cocktail scene, Holy Spirit is the place to go for drinks in Glyfada. Xavier Misailidis, the owner and brain behind the business, is full of smart ideas. He was the first to start a cocktail delivery service to yachts moored in the nearby marinas. He also sets up a pop-up bar on Yabanaki beach in Varkiza during the summer. The playful and creative way in which the cocktails are served have created a buzz. Even locals who aren’t normally cocktail lovers come down to try Misalidis’ drinks. Imagine your drink coming in a little bucket with a shovel or in multi-coloured glasses. With live music and a young crowd, Holy Spirit is teeming with energy.
Get in on the global trend for caffeine-activated cocktails at this tribute to the old-world vermouth bars of Turin. Their Hidden Pieces cocktail looks like an iced espresso, but has the added kick of vermouth and gentian liqueur. It’s a best-seller, but you’d expect no less from this city of coffee addicts. Located on a lovely cobbled square, beside a Byzantine church, Odori is busy from late morning until late into the night. One of Odori’s perfect wood-fired pizzas makes the ideal drinking buddy. Favourites are the fungi and tartufo, spicy Vezuvio, or veggie Ortolana pizza.
Mr Peacock is a stylish place to go for a cocktail.
Photo: Orestis Seferoglou
The stylish suburban cocktail destination
This is one of those places that you could call ‘all weather’. Located in the northern suburb of Halandri, Mr Peacock is big space, with a nice garden, an impressive bar and stylish décor. Haris Darras, one of the owners, was the very first winner of the Greek Bacardi Legacy competition. If you want to come off as an insider, ask him for a Clandestino. He makes it with rum, pineapple, lime, champagne vinegar and Worcester sauce. Besides what’s on the menu, you’ll also find some cocktails on tap. Try the Peacock Mule with vodka, passion fruit syrup, and mango puree. Or get stuck into the Verano with tequila reposado, pineapple puree, agave and mango syrup, or the Mexicano with mezcal, martini rubino, Campari and cucumber soda.
Small but stylish, this grown-up bar hums with the morning coffee and brunch crowd. But it’s also a hit in the afternoon for aperitifs and after-work drinks. Locals love it for the well-executed classic cocktails and unpretentious atmosphere. Most nights, the friendly face behind the bar is Mario Basso. He’s all about the famous Greek filoxenia (hospitality), although he was taught by his Italian grandmother at an early age how to brew his own vermouth. Mario also ages cocktails in little barrels, amongst them the Negroni. If you’re sensitive to smoke, swing by at off-peak hours. It gets pretty smoggy as the bar fills up. A great choice for solo travellers, who will feel comfortable enjoying a drink here on their own.