FUNKEN BAR HEAD bartender Sergii Kolomak describes his Evergreen cocktail as “a twist on a twist on a twist. It’s not something absolutely new.” He attributes its popularity to a standout ingredient for locals: greenery. Funken Bar is located on the first floor of Funken Lodge, a hotel just outside Longyearbyen, the northernmost permanent settlement in the world. On Svalbard, halfway between Norway and the North Pole, the sun sets in October and doesn’t come up until March. Longyearbyen, surrounded by glaciers, rocks, and snow, is beautiful but inhospitable, an Arctic desert where fresh food must be flown in. “I don’t want to exaggerate, but this cocktail is extremely popular here because of its fresh ingredients,” Kolomak says.
He chose Monkey 47 gin for its crisp and balanced profile, described by some as “a pine forest after the rain.” Egg white smooths the Evergreen’s sour edges. Additionally, Kolomak garnishes the cocktail with strawberry powder, which he makes by dehydrating fresh berries and grating them. It’s yet another way to capture fruit’s fresh, ripe flavor. “I’m a bit of a geek about the garnish,” he says. “I dry everything. I make slices and caramelize and grate. Even now I have 10 or 12 different powders.”
I’m a bit of a geek about the garnish. I dry everything. I make slices and caramelize and grate. Even now I have 10 or 12 different powders.
Kolomak describes Funken Bar as a little lobby bar, even though locals name it Longyearbyen’s number one destination for drinking. That might seem like a given in a place with fewer than 3,000 residents, but the town has a surprising number of bars, pubs, and nightclubs. It’s a hotspot for researchers and tourists on their way to or from nearby ice caves and glaciers. But make no mistake — they’re not roughing it in Longyearbyen. Despite its isolated coordinates, the town is cosmopolitan. Among the community’s attractions are the northernmost champagne bar in the world, several sleek Norwegian hotels, and some of the best restaurants in the country.
Svalbard is a Norwegian territory, but special visa rules apply that allow anyone from any country to live and work there. Kolomak is Ukrainian, and spent the last 14 years bartending around the world. He was working in Dubai when a friend invited him up to visit. His family relocated to Svalbard soon after. A town with unique customs and laws, there is no way to avoid a bit of culture shock in Longyearbyen. Many people travel by snowmobile. It is customary to remove your shoes at bars and restaurants, a tradition that dates back to the days when miners tracked in coal dust. Cats are banned to preserve the bird population.
It is also forbidden for residents to leave town without a “suitable method of scaring off polar bears.” Kolomak’s only close encounter came on New Year’s Eve 2019. At 3:30 a.m. he closed the bar, walked to his house across town, and went to bed. The next morning, he learned that a polar bear was spotted roaming the vicinity just minutes after he had left. “No joke, I’m still thinking about this,” he says.
Even so, Longyearbyen’s challenges are its most appealing features. Most winter visitors brave the polar night just to see the Northern Lights, but Kolomak cherishes the 24 hours of darkness. “You feel comfortable and cozy when it’s dark like this. You can’t see the ocean,” he says. “You feel like you are absolutely occupied with the darkness. And it’s just you and this place.”
- 6 cl Monkey 47 gin
- 6 to 7 basil leaves
- 3 cl lime juice
- 3 cl homemade sugar syrup
- 1.5 cl egg white
- In a shaker, muddle your basil and pour all ingredients on top.
- Dry shake (without ice). Then shake with ice.
- Double strain on top of ice in your glass.
- Garnish with fresh head of basil, a dehydrated lime slice, and strawberry powder.
Jessica Suarez Writer
Jessica Suarez is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.
Grant Cornett Photographer
Grant Cornett is a photographer and director based in upstate New York. He likes to take pictures of pristine detritus and austere moments.