I love bars, cocktails and all kinds of drinks, so finding the best places to enjoy these is a personal goal of mine. All of my friends know that it will probably be me who decides where we drink, because I just happen to know the best bars in Helsinki. There are a lot of great ones to choose from depending on what you like, but I’ll try to make the choice easier for you by telling you about my favourites at the moment. There are many cocktail bars that didn’t make the list, but are still worth a visit – they’re just not the places I happen to visit often. And I have to admit that I still have a lot to see, taste and experience in Helsinki. Without further ado, I give to you my favourite cocktail bars in Helsinki.
Runar is the newest bar on this list, but it has already become one of my favourites. I have to admit that a big part of the reason I like the place so much, is the fact that three of my friends transferred there from two other bars on the list. Runar serves as the hotel bar of boutique Hotel F6 in the city center. The bar got it’s name from the owners dog called Runar, who is a frequent guest at the hotel and the bar.
Runar is a cocktail bar, which serves a bit abnormal, but delicious drinks with a good price tag (10 – 13€) and also a good variety of wines by the glass (or bottle). The atmosphere of the bar is relaxed yet sophisticated. The bartenders wear baseball caps, Finnish Karhu-sneakers and T-shirts and they treat the customers like their friends. They also play some funky music, so head on down to Bar Runar on Fabianinkatu and see one of the trendiest bars at the moment.
Hair of the Dog is one of my favourite drinks (if they still have it) and it includes chocolate cereal milk and bourbon, among other ingredients.
When I moved to Helsinki in 2015, Grotesk quickly became my home away from home. This was the bar that seriously helped me feel like I belong in Helsinki, so it is really special to me. The bartenders are great, the atmosphere is just right and the cocktails are amazing. If you like gin, this is definitely the place for you, because they have around 70 – 90 different kinds of gin available. No wonder I learned to like Gin & Tonics here.
Many locals have this idea that Grotesk is an expensive and posh place, which is just not true. Sure the cocktails aren’t the cheapest and you don’t have those drunken idiots here that most cheaper bars get, but it is a relaxing place with an excellent price to quality ratio. So you could think of this as a step up from the local pub, but not so much that you have to wear a suit to get in.
Drink tip: try the cocktail called Oilivia, which has olive oil, basil and black pepper in it (among others)
The name Lilla E comes from “little elephant”. It is the hotel bar of Lilla Roberts, which belongs to the same luxury hotel group with Hotel Kämp, Klaus K and Haven. Lilla E is the most expensive place on the list, but it is also very special, because this is the only cocktail bar in the world that concentrates on Nordic cocktails – and boy are they good.
The list will probably change with the seasons like in a good restaurant, so I cannot be certain what you will be getting on your visit, but these cocktails are like Finland in a glass, so they are a must for people visiting from abroad. One cocktail is derived from the idea of “freshly cut grass” when another one smells the same than when you throw beer on the hot stones of a sauna (this is THE ultimate Finnish smell – really good).
These guys know what they are doing, so I highly recommend to try this out, when you are visiting Helsinki. You won’t get these drinks anywhere else in the world.
100 DOGS / BOOKS & ANTIQUES
These are actually two bars that are right next to each other and have the same owners / staff. 100 Dogs is a Japan-inspired bar with weird and funky, yet delicious drinks that might come in a plastic smoothie cup, paper bag or maybe sometimes even in a normal glass. I recommend you try the MILF (Man I Love Fishing) -cocktail, which is one of my favourites (if they still have it on the list). Also if you like Whisky Sours, try the one made with rye whisky – it is like heaven in a glass.
If you feel like visiting a speakeasy bar, just ask the 100 Dogs bartender if they have space at Books & Antiques next door. If they do, they will take you to a special, dimly lit bar which serves classic coctkails with a twist. I like to come here especially at the beginning of the evening before heading out to places with louder music and more people. In BA you are transported to another world where gentlemen smoke pipes, wear bowler hats and open doors for ladies. Or at least that is the image that comes to my mind, when I visit this place. Just go there and relax.
Have you tried any of these out? If so, what did you think? Do you perhaps have some bars that you would like to add to a list like this in Helsinki? Let me know in the comment section.
As it happens, Liquor.com published a post on Cocktail bars in Helsinki just a day before I did, so if you want to read more about these and other bars, go and check their post out.