The "Elizabeth Taylor" from Poppy.

The "Elizabeth Taylor" from Poppy.
photo provided

Oslo’s Top 5 cocktail bars

Cocktail Bar

There is a sense of worldliness to Oslo’s bar scene that has developed through the last decade. The Norwegian capital boasts of establishments highly placed on the prestigious The World’s 50 Best Bars list, such as Himkok, which currently holds the number 10 spot. Bartenders crowned best in the world by World Class, THE bartender competition on a global scale, also work in the city at the mouth of the idyllic Oslo Fjord.

Through a newfound sense of place in an international environment attracting people, food and drinks from across the world, bartenders in Oslo are excellent at utilizing ingredients, techniques and flavor profiles in order to serve the most interesting cocktails possible. Both locally educated bartenders, as well as mixologists from other countries, flock to Oslo to be part of a vibrant cocktail scene in a vibrant city.

Concurrently the local bars also offer guest spots and takeover shifts by other internationally renowned bars, in a fashion that almost guarantees an ever-evolving culture among employees and guests alike, constantly gaining new inspiration and insights to the world of flavorful beverages. The many collaborative efforts say a lot about the bar scene in Oslo and Norway. The world of cocktails is a convivial one, highlighting comradeship and friendliness inside the industry.

As such it’s not surprising to find Norwegian bartenders abroad, such as the world-renowned Monica Berg. She used to work at Himkok, and now runs the famous Tayēr + Elementary in London, alongside Alex Kratena, currently placed at number 8 on The World’s 50 Best Bars.

INTERVIEW WITH MONICA BERG

But never mind that for now. Read along to get acquainted with the Top 5 cocktail bars of Oslo.

photo provided

Himkok – Famous for a reason

Himkok surely is the most well-known cocktail bar in Norway. After entering The World’s 50 Best Bars list at number 42 back in 2016, it has risen to an impressive 10th place. Recently the famous bar won the 50 Best Nikka Highest Climber Award 2023, and it’s gotten several more accolades throughout the years.

Such praise does not come easy. Ever since Himkok opened its doors in 2014, its owners and staff have constantly seeked to improve the guest experience. It’s simply a warm and welcoming place with bartenders doing their utmost to serve memorable cocktails and make you feel happy to be there. One signature cocktail is named Birch and can best be described as a Nordic Dry Martini. You should try it for its perfect balance alone, and also for the sheer fun of it.

Entrepreneur Erk Potur, along with bar manager Maroš Dzurus and his brilliant team, showcase a program with its roots firmly placed in Norwegian tradition, culture and nature, with typical Nordic flavors like cloudberry, sea buckthorn and birch in the lip-smackingly tasty coctails. The name Himkok is Norwegian for moonshine, a humorous reference to the fact that the bar has its own distillery.

The cocktail bar is well-known for its creative and environmentally friendly approach to cocktail making, and its recycling philosophy has attracted attention both locally and internationally. In 2018 it was named most sustainable cocktail bar in the world by The World’s 50 Best Bars. The jury’s reasoning read like this:

Himkok is an institution that strives to embody Norwegian culture through the expertly crafted cocktails and spirits distilled on-site, staying true to the surrounding nature and local accessibility. Featuring a fully functioning distillery producing aquavit, gin, and vodka, Himkok creates drinks and products with an authentic Nordic taste, achieved through sustainable and empirical production methods.

The bar itself is divided into several areas. There’s a cider bar in the idyllic backyard, and on the first floor is a high-volume bar with a "happy night out" vibe. The actual speakeasy that is the heart of Himkok is on the ground floor, and this is where you can admire the distillery.

Himkok’s own gin, aquavit and vodka cannot be purchased bottled in the bar, but both the gin and vodka are available to buy at Vinmonopolet, Norway’s state-owned chain of alcohol shops. Vinmonopolet, simply knows as "Polet" (pronounced "pole" as the "t" is silent) by the locals, also offer Himkok’s canned ready-to-drink cocktails. Something to bring back home if you want the unforgettable bar experience to last a little longer.

Storgata 27
0184 Oslo
Norway
photo provided

Svanen/D.G.Æ – The most beautiful bar in Oslo

Located in a protected pharmacy with original marble columns, dark-wood paneling and apothecary drawers and cupboards dating back to Svaneapoteket’s opening back in 1896, Svanen is by far the most beautiful bar in Norway. Entering its doors you are immediately welcomed by the friendly staff and showed to your table, and because of the neoclassical surroundings any visit to Svanen feels like a journey back in time. It’s so stunningly beautiful you have to pinch yourself.

Of course, it’s only fitting to run a cocktail bar in environs such as these. Old bottles of potents and mixtures are the stuff of medicinal legend, and the line to high-quality cocktails is indeed a short one, if not insignificant. Owner Yunus Yildiz (formerly CEO at Himkok) and his team run by bar manager Karel Varga are well-known for their creativity in cocktail-making, and Svanen currently holds the 86th spot on The World’s 50 Best List. It’s most certainly one to watch.

This is not the first recognition Svanen has received, and it will not be the last. It was recently awarded "Best Cocktail Bar" and "Best Atmosphere" by Bartender’s Choice Awards, and additionally bartender Daniel Pappa was named "Rising Star".

The cocktail bar is certainly not a hidden gem, but ideally placed on Oslo’s main pedestrian shopping street, Karl Johans gate. For that reason, you will drink alongside a diverse range of guests, from the high-quality-seeking cocktail connoisseur to the "accidental tourist" (or local) coming in off the street, excited by, firstly, the beauty of the bar, and secondly, the wonderful flavors of the cocktails served.

Among Svanen’s signature cocktails are Stolen Apple, a warming drink featuring Bacardi 8, Roku Gin, green apple juice, Lapsang Souchong tea, ginger, shiso and oat milk clarification. If that is not to your liking, you may try the fruity and floral Rabarbra Spritz or the creamy cocktail with the irresistible name Banana Milkshake. Containing Tanqueray 10 Gin, Veritas White Blended Rum, marsala, banana, pandan, honey water, lactose free cream, egg whites and soda, it can’t fail to make you happy.

For the added touch of class, you should notice the glassware. All cocktails are served in Svev glasses, the bar’s own brand, and, as the guys say, these are made BY bartenders FOR bartenders.

Karl Johans gt 13
0154 Oslo
Norway
photo provided

Tjeld – Oysters with cocktail pairings is the best idea ever

Tjeld is among Oslo’s newest bars, established in the autumn of 2023 in the fashionable Tjuvholmen area by the fjord. Remember the name Yunus Yildiz? He’s the former CEO at Himkok, who went on to establish Svanen, and Tjeld is his latest brainchild. Notice that Svanen translates as "the swan", and to keep things in the world of beautiful, winged creatures, he chose the name Tjeld after the oyster-picking bird also known as the Eurasian oystercatcher.

The cocktail bar Tjeld is properly named as the brilliant concept oysters and cocktail pairings is what it’s all about. The oysters are delivered by David Hervé and regarded as something of a culinary treasure known for its succulent flesh and unique flavor profile. Paired with the fruity, nutty and velvety cocktail named Strawberry for instance, containing Bulleit Bourbon, Coconut Liqueur, strawberries, pandan and coconut cream, you will experience your oysters like never before. If you’re looking for more of a umami flavor, you should check out the Porcini cocktail, featuring Michter’s Rye, Hennessy, Martini Riserva Rubino, porcini and truffle.

There are also classic cocktails to be had for those not into oysters, and even beer, wine and a few snack servings.

Tjeld is run by Aleksandrs Sadovskis, one of Oslo’s most experienced bartenders who’s been working at both Himkok and Svanen, and his bar manager is Andreas Ording, another former Himkok employee. It’s already been named “Best New Cocktail Bar” by Bartender’s Choice Awards 2023, and more praise is sure to come.

photo provided

Pier 42 – where Norway meets America

You may not know this, but if you happen to be an American of Norwegian heritage, your history is likely forever linked to Pier 42 in the New York harbor as this was where the ships from Norway – Amerikalinjen – docked in the 19th and early 20th century carrying immigrants to the new world, the land of opportunity.

The bar Pier 42 is located inside the hotel Amerikalinjen – named after the Trans-Atlantic passenger cruise line – and is doing a very fine job of marrying cocktail cultures across the Atlantic, from the early days of mixology to modern-day techniques. Former Pier 42 bartender Adrián Michalčík was named the world’s best bartender in 2022/2023 by World Class, the most important bartender competition in the world.

This feat perfectly reflects the ambition of this friendly bar with its large windows fronting Jernbanetorget, one of Oslo’s most lively and busy hubs, and also the spot that you arrive in the city by train from the nearby airport at Gardermoen. Today’s bar supervisor is Daniel Dolezalek, and he knows his cocktails inside and out.

The philosophy of Pier 42 is combining the impact art has had on our lives as human beings with cocktails, in order to showcase art from destinations connected to the Norwegian America Line, namely Norway and New York City. The menu certainly reflects an astonishing creativity. It ranges from drinks inspired by everything and anything, from Edvard Munch’s most famous painting "The Scream" to Frank Sinatra’s signature song "New York, New York". And back again. There is also a cocktail named "Take On Me" after Norwegian trio a-ha’s breakthrough 1980’s hit. Needless to say, but if you are in doubt, Pier 42 has been handed several awards.

You should also be aware of the world’s possibly most expensive cocktail which was devised here. The American Eagle costs a numbing NOK 42,000 (the equivalent of 3840 USD or 3570 Euro), and contains Macallan M, maple syrup, Angostura bitters, strawberries, lemon, champagne, but also an 18 carat American Eagle coin. It’s described like this:

To pay tribute to the American heritage, we present the American Eagle cocktail, accompanied by an 18 carat American Eagle gold coin. The coin features two recognizable symbols of the United States; Lady Liberty and an eagle. The official motto of thirteen letters - 'E Pluribus Unum', which means 'Out of many, one' - represents the thirteen colonies that arose as one nation, where thousands of Norwegians will seek their fortune in the centuries to come.

Jernbanetorget 2
0154 Oslo
Norway
photo provided

Poppy – the new kid in town

Poppy is an intimate cocktail and wine bar in Oslobukta in Bjørvika, the newest development project in the city. The entire area consists of exciting architecture, high-rise buildings and more intimately sized apartment blocks, the National Opera building, the brand new museum dedicated to the works of legendary Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, as well as the new public library of Oslo.

You will find an abundance of shops, cafes, restaurants and of course cocktail bars in these wonderful and, for many visitors surprising, surroundings. Chief amongst them, newest and most ambitious is Poppy, run by former Andre Til Høyre bartender (another good cocktail bar) Xuseen Ramse-Miskell, originally from San Francisco, and his Norwegian partner Thomas. Until late 2023 the couple ran the cocktail bar Toypoodle together at Vippa, a popular street food hall by the fjord. For their newest venture they have teamed up with the well-known chef Kari Innerå who runs her restaurant close by, Brasserie Rivoli.

A perfect night out would be having dinner at the brasserie where you can sample Norwegian mussels or scallops, a nice beef tartare or a wonderful French Bresse chicken, then walk the five minutes to Poppy for cocktails.

Thomas and Xuseen specialize in an eclectic mix of handcrafted cocktails. From timeless classics to innovative new blends, their drinks are complemented by a selection of fine wines and snacks. Be sure to try their signature cocktail The Elizabeth Taylor. It’s purple! It was inspired by an old San Francisco friend of Xuseen from back in the day who used to say that if the famous actress were a cocktail she’d be a spicy Margarita. Xuseen’s creation contains butterfly peaflower infused tequila, Quaglia Violetta & Chinotto, Muyu Jasmine Liqueur, jalapeño syrup, lime juice and habanero bitters, and is clarified using coconut milk. You know you want it!

photo provided

Ready for a "bonus round"? Read on.

Posthallen – the place to spend the entire evening

This is actually the world’s first bar court, found in downtown Oslo. The city’s main post office was once located in this beautiful, protected building, and after years of neglect a number of Oslo’s main bar entrepreneurs got together to bring it back to life.

And what life they have brought! Inside Posthallen, under a dome-like high ceiling, eight high quality bars have been established. Amongst monumental marble columns and beautifully tiled floors and decorated ceilings, you can sample cocktails from several of Oslo’s best bartenders. The hall can host up to 350 people, meaning it can be a lively place if you happen to be there at the right time.

Here you will discover winners of prestigious bartending competitions like World Class, Bacardi Legacy and Negroni Challenge International. These profiles include individuals such as Tomas Ricciardi, Magnus Thorseth, Adam Batchford and talents from Norway's finest bars. To go with the drinks you might want food, and high-quality burgers and pizzas are to be found.

If then, you would like to spend a few hours or the entire evening, for that matter, at one spot, there is no better place to do it.

Prinsens gate 8
0152 Oslo
Norway

Don't miss out!

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Helle Valebrokk
Trendscout
Erik Valebrokk
Trendscout
Find out more