Drinking in Iceland

First things first. Drinking alcoholic beverages in Iceland is a very expensive proposition. We knew that going into our trip and stayed away from ordering wine or spirits at dinner.

One advantage of flying into Iceland is that you can purchase at an INCOMING duty free store. All of the Icelanders on our flight left their luggage on the carousel and made a beeline for the duty free store to stock up on beer, wine, and cigarettes. The prices in the duty free store were approximately 1/2 to 1/3 of the price in Iceland. We picked up some cheap Icelandic vodka (approximately $5 for 500ml) and and a liter of the Icelandic “national drink” Brennivín. We knew it was going to taste bad as 1 liter was less than $10 but I did not have any idea how bad until we opened it and had a shot after getting home.


Brennivín is distilled from potatoes and is flavored with caraway seed. There is a reason it’s nickname is svarti dauði (the black death). It tasted like bad vodka with a musty overtone and no depth. Unless you count the mustiness. We have a liter of this stuff in the freezer and will dispense it to hapless visitors.

Beer in Iceland is an interesting animal. It can only be sold at full strength in restaurants, bars, and the state liquor store (as well as the duty free shop). The beer available in grocery stores is only 2.25% ABV! Weak sauce.


Full strength Gull at Icelandic Fish and Chips. Elyse thought it tasted like Labatt’s Blue. Generic lager taste. Clean and refreshing.


Viking “light” at Keflavik airport. This is the 2.25% ABV version and tasted like lager flavored water.


Malt. Another 2.25% version. This was quite tasty and really sweet.


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