What's shakin' in Oslo’s cocktail scene

Shake, pour, sip, repeat

What's shakin' in Oslo's cocktail scene 

Getting your bearings in the Oslo cocktail scene can be fun and unexpected.

Ingredients that were once thought of as only edible are jumping into our drinks, such as seaweed, cloudberries and brown cheese.

Himkok cocktail
Himkok cocktail
Photo: Sara Johannessen

One of the most popular and new concepts in Oslo is Himkok. Himkok, translating to "homebrew", is also an in-house micro-distillery. In 2017 it made the list of The World's 50 Best Bars. If you can manage to find the unassuming, dimmed entrance you will be welcomed by bartenders in white laboratory coats mixing drinks with micro-distilled vodka, gin, or aquavit. Outside you will discover a patio with a cider bar, backyard restaurant and an old-school barber shop upstairs. What is not to love about this place?

For an inside view of the Oslo cocktail scene, we talked to some of the leaders in the industry: 

Torggata Botaniske bar
Torggata Botaniske bar
Photo: Sara Johannessen

How have you seen the cocktail culture grow in Oslo over the past 5 years?

Jesper Lind
, owner and bartender at Grus Grus, "behind bars for over 20 years":

'Historically, in the late 90's there was a cocktail revolution in Oslo, using fresh juices. No one else did that. Bar Boca is the perfect example of a cocktail bar mixing up innovative cocktails. Starting in 1998, this cozy, local, 1950s styled bar has been leading by example. Television can sometimes drive the business. After Mad Men came out everyone started wanting cocktails. So the pressure was on. In the past five years, "taptails" has become more popular. Poured straight from the tap, using fresh and simple ingredients to create a perfectly blended cocktail, saving money and time.'

Anne Maurseth, bar manager at Khartoum Contemporary Art Center: 

'The cocktail scene in Oslo has grown immensely the past 5 years. The city is almost not recognizable when it comes to the different concepts, boutique bars and knowledge. We see a demand for a wider range of different places, and a more continental way of using the city. People go out for a good time during weekdays, not only weekends. This opens up a different market for the industry, making it possible for smaller businesses to come to life.'

Karin Dejeborn, manager and sommelier at Territoriet: 

'The cocktail culture has pretty much boomed the last few years. I'm not sure which came first, the interest for cocktails or better cocktail bars. At some point, new and awesome cocktail bars started popping up all over Oslo instantly generating a big interest for cocktails.'

What are your top cocktail bars in Oslo?

Jesper's top picks: 

Fuglen - coffee shop, cocktail bar and vintage design shop
Fuglen - coffee shop, cocktail bar and vintage design shop
Photo: Sara Johannessen

Bar Boca – The bar where it all started. Good bartenders. Purist. Show Norwegians what it was all about.

Fuglen – Innovative with various themes. Foraged ingredients and seaweed in cocktails is always a bonus.

Internasjonalen – First high-end volume bar in Oslo over 15 years ago. They were the leaders with the mission "get nice cocktails into people's mouths".

Grus Grus – my own

Anne's top picks: 

Bartender at Himkok
Bartender at Himkok
Photo: Sara Johannessen

HIMKOK – The only bar in Norway recognized in the international bar scene and it feels very non-Norwegian. They have created something no one else has and work hard with their menu and team.

Bar Lardo – A hole-in-wall bar. Focused on natural wines, see-through booze and actual lard. Low key, but high quality.

Robinet – An institution in the bar scene of Oslo. Over 15 years old, never compromises, and a good place for weird music and people. Usual hang out for artist, musicians and outcasts.

Khartoum Contemporary Art Center – An African-inspired bar with a built-in gallery focusing on art from Africa and the Middle East. It draws an artist's crowd, with its vernissages and experimental club concepts. Colourful and down to earth.

Karin's top picks: 

Torggata Botaniske bar
Torggata Botaniske bar
Photo: Sara Johannessen

Torggata Botaniske – Just love the way they made this place feel like a greenhouse or a garden even though you're inside. The cocktails are amazing and the service is quite quick.

Bettola – This is a place where you either can find your own little corner further in from the bar, sit at the bar and chat with the bartenders or find a more social seat around friends in the area close to the entrance. Cocktails are great and the environment feels "home comfy". A plus for having board games for the guests.

Pigalle – Beautiful bar in the Grønland neighbourhood. Great cocktails. The atmosphere takes you to another time and place.

Territoriet – Although it feels a bit weird to mention that as a favourite it is one of my favourite hang-outs. I'm proud of what Territoriet has created and I would rather not drink too many Gin and Tonics at other places.

As the cocktail scene continues to grow and uniquely transpire in Oslo, the demand is increasing not only from locals, but from curious tourists. Make sure to explore both the old and the new cocktail scene and discover the many unique local flavours that Oslo has to offer.

Written by Megan Guertner

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