Basalt shot glasses in foreground with Brennivín bottle and hakárl speared with toothpicks.

Lava Shot Glasses: A unique Icelandic Souvenir

Brennivín, Iceland’s traditional clear, unsweetened schnapps, is a drink best served cold. At Hotel Rangá, we serve it at freezing temperatures in shot glasses that once were lava.

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Icelandic lava shot glasses with Brennivín in the background.
Hand carved Icelandic lava shot glasses at Hotel Rangá.

“We make them from basalt, Icelandic columnar basalt,” says stonemason Þór Sigmundsson. “They are handmade, carved with a hammer and chisel, so every shot glass is unique.” Basalt is a dark, fine- grained volcanic rock. Sometimes, it displays in column like structures such as the beautiful rock formations in Reynisfjara.

“The idea is that it looks like a crater and cliffs, there’s a wildness to it,” Þór continues. “The basalt drinks in the cold so when you put it in the freezer it gets frosty.”

Þór and his small company of six, Steinsmiðan, have been making these shot glasses twenty years. He says they don’t do all that well in tourist shops – people often mistake the glasses for candle holders. People have to see the magic in action like they do at Hotel Rangá to understand how exciting the glasses are.
If you love the shot glasses, you can even take them home! Ask your waiter during dinner or contact our front desk.

Þór actually gave the crown prince of Denmark a set of basalt shot glasses a few years ago. Þór had been tasked with fixing up the royal rocks at Geysir, which had been carved each time a king of Denmark visited Iceland, and the crown prince came for the celebration.

“He seemed to really like them, but he may have just hidden them away in a drawer somewhere,” Þór says with a laugh.

We like to think his royal highness keeps his shot glasses on hand for when he wants that fresh, cold taste in his mouth and a warm, fiery feeling in his heart.

In any case, at Hotel Rangá we keep our set in rotation so that you can have your Brennivín on the rocks, literally. If you love the shot glasses, you can even take them home! Ask your waiter during dinner or contact our front desk.

The lava shots are in our hotel store

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    A glass of red and white wine beside a vase of lupine at the luxury Rangá Restaurant.