The Top FIVE Bars in Oslo
In the wake of the 2nd Oslo Bar Show, MIXOLOGY author Andrew Wilkin took a look at the city of Oslo and asked a number of renowned industry experts for their favourite spots. Here are the bars you shouldn’t miss on your visit to the Norwegian capital.
Oslo, the ever-so expensive Nordic cousin of Stockholm and Copenhagen, was once overlooked by international barflies. Not anymore. Whether it’s the influence of Nordic cuisine, the fledgling Oslo Bar Show or just heightened curiosity – topics MIXOLOGY author Haley Forest looked into here – there’s one thing that’s certain. Oslo’s status as a bar backwater is one best confined to memory lane. Utilizing the the advice of some of the industry’s top figures, here’s the 5 bars you shouldn’t miss out on.
Himkok – a world of adventure
Kaldtbord is Norwegian for a buffet-style meal. It could also accurately describe Himkok. A two-floor multifunctional space equipped with two cocktail bars, a cider garden, a distillery and tapas kitchen, it’s a bar Richard Man, Bacardi Trade Ambassador for Sweden, described as a “theme park for bartenders”.
You can find HIMKOK hidden behind a hair salon. Jars of pickled fruits and vegetables line the front window’s a’la undercover bars during Prohibition. The white lab-coated team distil on-site their own vodkas, gins and aquavits and utilize hydroponic turbines to grow herbs. Himkok evokes both a Prohibition speakeasy and a wacky laboratory, but crucially has the drinks to match the high concept.
“It’s a rural place of high end drinks with different themes, including their own distillery, with a great selection of ciders, their own aquavits and amazing drinks,” assesses Thorsten Husmann, owner of the Liquid Consultant. Managed by the acclaimed bartender Monica Berg, Himkok is endlessly innovative, whilst offering up all the fun you would expect from the anointed “theme park for bartenders”.
Bettola – la dolce oslo
“A beautiful vintage cocktail bar with great drinks, decor and bartenders. If you are in Oslo and craving for a Negroni, this is the place,” exults Thorsten Husmann about Bettola. This Italian-style bar hits many proverbial nails on the head – it’s laid-back, has a top-notch wine list and offers up a mixture of classic and creative cocktails. The bartenders personalize drinks to the guests’ taste. And yes, Thorsten isn’t lying – this is where you can score Oslo’s top Negroni.
This acclaim spreads to the bar team. “I think James (Greig), who’s the new head bartender, is definitely one to watch, especially when it comes to up and coming bartenders,” said Monica Berg, Head Bartender across the city at Himkok.
Torggata Botaniske – in the tropics
Imagine a trip to the Amazon rainforest. Then imagine expertly-mixed cocktails were always available. Say hello to Oslo’s Torggata Botaniske.
The bright and airy bar immediately gives off a lush and welcoming feeling, adorned with hanging baskets of plants. “Enjoy the atmosphere of the green bushes while being indoors, providing the freshest air in a bar you will ever experience,” says Husman.
It’s not just visual foreplay either – the bar has a strong botanical focus, even employing its own house gardener for growing its own herbs. The seasonally-focused menu constantly changes, a testament to their imagination and innovation, with the Torggata Botaniske carbonated bottled drink the only mainstay. “It was a proper DYI project from the 3 owners, and you can really feel the love here,” says Monica Berg.
Fuglen – coffee n’ cocktails
Fuglen is a triple-pronged assault of excellence, described by Man as “a perfect hybrid of a coffee shop during the day and a cocktail bar at night, all dressed in well thought out vintage design”. Each component is managed by a different expert, neatly compartmentalized into daylife (coffee), nightlife (cocktails) and lifestyle (design).
Whilst the coffee and furniture is of high quality, MIXOLOGY is focused on the cocktails, for which Fuglen has been much-acclaimed since the launch of their bar menu 6 years ago. Monica Berg applauds Halvor Digernes, manager of the cocktail program, as “one of the leading bartenders in Norway when it comes to foraging, locavore and seasonality”. “I adore both their originality and commitment to excelling in what they do,” she says. Indeed, they take their foraging seriously here – the team have been known to scuba-dive for seaweed to make their homemade syrups and infusions.
The cocktail program has been known to surprise, with Husman advising to “expect the unexpected…”. And if you’re ever in Tokyo – they’ve opened up a 2nd bar to show Japan what Fuglen’s all about…
The Thief – not a crime
The Thief is arguably Oslo’s most opulent hotel, a crashpad for celebs, politicians and those with a generous expense account since opening up in January 2013. The hotel with the disarmingly cheeky name also boasts one of Oslo’s trendiest bars – after all, hotel need not mean stuffy – and comes with a deck adorned with a to die for view over the city.
“The drinks and hospitality in this awesome bar with the awesome view of the water will send you directly to heaven,” exults Husman. The likes of Simone Caporale, previously Head Bartender at London’s esteemed Artesian, have even done guest shifts here, a testament to its high standing with the international bartending community.
Alongside a large spirits selection, the bar serves up a cocktail menu incorporating classics, twists and creative newbies. Richard Man acclaims the bar for its “great cocktails”, noting particularly their “beautiful presentation”. His top tip? “Try the cocktail The Nordic Ninja and you will know what I’m talking about”.
Foto: Oslo via Shutterstock.