As Athens continues to rise from the ashes, the Greek capital is seeing a cocktail culture boom with cool and quirky bars popping up in every district. From boutique wine bars to rooftop hipster hangouts and cocktail bars that boast Diageo World Class status, the Athenian drinking scene has been upgraded with something to offer everyone.
If you want a little taste of what Athens has to offer your drinking palate, then muse on this:
The trend of new-school Greek wine bars may seem innovative, but it digs deep into the country’s roots. Greece has been producing wine for over 6,000 years; it’s well documented that the ancient philosophers enjoyed a "creative boost" and ancient Athens was home to the annual celebration of Dionysus, the ancient god of wine.
Bar life in Athens — Photo courtesy of Hannah Grace Lodge
Recently, tired tavernas have been revived to bring the city a new flavor. Try Oinoscent, where young wine experts will talk you through four varieties of Greek wines for €6, or downtown Heteroclito, where each bottle carefully selected from local Greek producers is available to drink in the cozy bar or take home.
Ouzo is about as classic Greece as the Parthenon itself and many (understandably) avoid this anise-flavored aperitif that is traditionally mixed with water and ice or knocked back straight from a shot glass. However, bars like Brettos are shaking up traditional Greek heritage and making Ouzo cool again; the beautiful backlit display of traditional Greek ouzos and liquors coupled with a chilled pre-dinner vibe attract a crowd of young locals and tourists.
The cocktail boom in Athens may have come slightly later than in the other European capitals, but it is definitely making up for lost time. Skilled bartenders continue to migrate from cities famous for their cocktail scene (such as London and New York), and they’re not only bringing their bartending magic with them, but also following the crisis, they are able to buy the space to build new bars. This has fueled a unique, independent bar scene in Athens, where the city’s coolest bars are designed, run and owned by cocktail experts.
Negroni at A for Athens — Photo courtesy of Hannah Grace Lodge
The award-winning Baba Au Rum kicked things off five years ago by introducing cutting-edge mixology to the Athenian drinking crowd, creating exciting cocktails made using premium spirits as well as their own homemade syrups, bitters and liquors.
As the name suggests, Baba Au Rum chooses to specialize in rum, which in turn inspired a flurry of speciality bars to follow suit. Dos Agaves is Athens’ only tequila and mezcal bar and mixes up the best margaritas in Greece. Meanwhile, the retro-inspired Gin Joint boasts over 90 different gins, one of the best stocked gin bars in Europe.
It’s not just on the ground where things are looking impressive; the bar scene has gone sky-high with rooftop lounges offering a new perspective on cocktail drinking. 360 offers killer views coupled with a laid-back crowd who sip iced coffees by day and cheap cocktails by night.
Athens’ most iconic and highly praised bar A for Athens is a cut above the rest, literally, being perched up on a rooftop not far from the Acropolis. Recently awarded Diageo World Class status for bartender Thorodis Pirillos’ cocktail wizardry, A for Athens has set the bar high for the future of the cocktail scene in this glorious city.
Despite the prominent ruins, famous classical history and intrinsic ties with ancient times, when it comes to drinking, Athens is definitely not a city stuck in the past.