It’s rare that I dedicate a travel post to just one bar, but HIMKOK is worth a little exception. I had the good fortune to spend a night in Norway with the HIMKOK team for an up close and personal look at what this seriously sustainable bar is adding to both the Scandinavian and global bar scene. Hopefully I’ll head back to Oslo soon for a full recon and city-wide list, but in the meantime, here’s what’s to love about HIMKOK:
HIMKOK keeps it micro-local by distilling their own gin, vodka, and aquavit on site in gleaming copper stills, visible immediately upon entering the bar. In a nod to these home cooked spirits, “Himkok” means “moonshine” in Norwegian. It’s pronounced “HimKOOK” not “HimCOCK”. But anyway you say it, it’s still good.
The HIMKOK spirits are limited to those that work well for in-house distillation. For others, like whisky, they stock carefully chosen brands. Yet – with the exception of the spirits library – you don’t see any other branding, but rather the back bar is lined with aesthetically pleasing rows of homogenous bottles. Beyond the cool, tidy appearance, it’s also a visual representation of the tiniest of carbon footprints as the liquids have nearly no distance to travel and are stored in reusable bottles.
HIMKOK employs local ingredients to create cocktails that recall Nordic sentiments and flavors. The popular Bun cocktail, made with Buffalo Trace whisky and Sazerac, evokes memories of skolebrød, a typical norwegian sweet roll filled with custard, commonly added to school lunches (thus the name which translates to “school bread”) It’s even garnished with a tiny bun. The Birch cocktail, served with bleu cheese stuffed olive, is one of the best martini riffs I’ve had in a very long time. And they can certainly pull off a standard martini with aplomb. In addition to in-house options, they have a couple of excellent RTD canned cocktails: Oslo Mule and Oslo Paloma.
Beyond the cocktails themselves, the menu reaches into interesting tech territory. The current menu, a collaboration with multimedia artist and photographer Olav Stubberud, allows clients to scan the photos with their phone for additional details and information. You can also hear more about their earlier NFT menu in my Paris Cocktail Talk interview with Paul Voza.
HIMKOK taptails and cider garden
HIMKOK is located in a 19th century brick building with a decor that skillfully mixes the industrial and classic in its small and sexy cocktail bar that belies the full scale of this establishment. Beyond the cocktail bar is an outdoor overspill cider garden with a retractable roof that gives thirsty patrons a place to hang when the main bar is full. The second floor covers a large area and offers tasty cocktails on tap. Having multiple areas with different drinks programmes allows HIMKOK to fully – and very successfully – function at high volume. In addition they have a dedicated ice room and a lab. Oh, and an onsite barber shop.
Other Oslo Tips
With less than 24 hours I couldn’t go into major research mode but did visit a few other local spots worth sharing. I had a quick drink from Pier 42’s current artist inspired menu and a fly by nightcap at Norway’s first bar court Posthallen Drinkhub. Dinner at Sjomagasinet was a decadent and delicious seafood feast. After all the fun, I put my head on a pillow at Clarion Hotel the Hub, which is modern and comfy with a cool rooftop bar and, most importantly, conveniently located to all of the above.