Where to Taste Oslo’s Craft Cocktail Revolution

© Anne Valeur

A decade ago, the coffee shop-cumbar Fuglen started the cocktail craze by pairing heady liquors with Norwegian botanicals. These days, the bartenders serve drinks centered around cloudberries, birch leaves, pineapple weed, and locally distilled aquavit.

One of the current offerings, the Coffee Flower, combines ginlike jenever with the shop’s iced Ethiopian coffee and syrup made with foraged rose-hip flowers.

The space feels like a throwback—the interior of the original shop from 1963 has been kept intact—and sells many of the midcentury pieces it has on display. And, if you need any further convincing of the place’s style factor, it has another location in Tokyo.

Bottles of house-distilled spirits at Himkok. Knut Egil Wang/Moment/INSTITUTE

In Central Oslo, Himkok is a distillery and speakeasy-style bar— the entrance looks like an apartment door—where suave, white-coated bartenders guide guests through an illustrated menu that emphasizes traditional spirits like mead and seasonal aquavit (it makes its own), as well as earthy Nordic flavors such as chanterelle mushrooms, truffle seaweed, and the caramelized milk cheese known as brunost.

When you turn the corner at the back of the space, you realize Himkok is built like a warren, a labyrinth of sub-bars that include an alfresco beer-and-cider hall and a cocktail-on-tap room. There is also—in true hipster fashion—a barbershop. 

Four blocks away is Torggata Botaniske (Torggata 17B), where vines drip from chandeliers and the herbal-accented drinks have clever monikers like the Salva Hayek, which blends Mexican flavors of chili and mezcal with cherry-like kirsebaer and sage, and Me Love You Oolong Time, an Asian-Norwegian mash-up featuring jenever, rye, oolong tea, and bitters.

The Fjelltinktur cocktail, made with aquavit, chartreuse, ginger syrup, and cucumber foam, at Torggata Botaniske. Courtesy Torggata Botaniske

Merkur Bar, which opened in a ’30s-style space in the Gamle Aker neighborhood late last year, is dedicated to cocktails based on natural and traditional wines, like a Japanese peach umeshu with sparkling sake.

But Oslo isn’t only about experimentation. At Bar Boca (Thorvald Meyers Gate 30), in Grünerløkka, you’ll find well-done classics and seasonal Nordic concoctions in an intimate space.Next door is Oslo’s only tiki bar: Aku Aku serves volcano bowls of rum and chili-infused standouts like the Missionary’s Downfall.

For a more authentic Norwegian drinking experience, Bar Lardo, in Møllergata, dishes up cured meat platters alongside natural wines from unexpected parts of Europe.