Photo credit: Gitte Paulsbo
The drinking culture here in Norway has seen its fair share of ups and downs throughout the course of history. Early Viking laws categorically stated that it was illegal for armed soldiers not to consume beer at a celebration and not to be seen drunk in public was treated with a heavy dose of suspicion by anyone still standing! It was a common understanding that you drank to get drunk, a mantra that seems to have been adopted by centuries past to the present day in some European countries. Due to the restrictions put in place by the government in the early 1900’s, alcohol is now regulated in Norway and all sales go through government controlled stores, the Vinmonopolet. This, the reaction to the over indulgence of its people for well over 2500 years.
The consumption of alcohol by today’s binge drinking generation is often linked to the pressure and pitfalls of modern living, an escapism from the reality of the many spoilt and confused by the opportunities on offer in today’s society . But, with the ever growing cultural development in modern Europe, Oslo has seen the emergence of a generation intent on using alcohol as a way to express themselves creatively. For many years innovators such as Monica Berg, former bar manager of Aqua Vitae, Jesper Høst from Number 19, Benjamin Lee and Anders Bakke from Morgenstierne have all laid the foundations for others to follow. One such bar has picked up the gauntlet, enter Brooms & Hatchets.
Photo credit: AJ White
The bar is located inside of the luxurious Grims Grenka design hotel and the building itself has its own tale to tell in the history of the city. In the 1600s and 1700s, the dark and seedy streets of Kongens Gate was home to without question, Norway’s most infamous executioner, Nicolai Flyg. He single handily set about ridding the city of criminals, crooks and witches alike, butchering his victims in the very same building we see today. He is rumoured to have done all of this whilst rubbing shoulders with the upper class of Oslo’s high society. It is fair to assume that the rich saw him as some kind of working class hero, someone who dealt with villains that threatened the reputation of the city and someone who was willing to bloody his hands for the greater good. The name, Brooms & Hatchets pays homage to this historical event and they’ve tried to incorporate small quirks and references throughout the theme of their concept. The bar has seen a dramatic transformation from its previous stereotypical beginnings back in 2008, where guests could take a drink in a small lobby bar before heading out.
In early 2014, The Grims Grenka Hotel hired Stockholm based consultancy, Liquid Management ,who working closely alongside bar manager Mathias Alsen came up with an idea that would not only provide a cosmetic overhaul, but a dynamic concept that would give a true representation of where the cocktail and drink culture is at today. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Artesian and Nightjar ( currently 2 of London’s most forward thinking bars right now ), has resulted in a subduedly lit rustic environment, that still manages to maintain an edginess that keeps you intrigued and on your toes. Everywhere around you there are little reminders of the darker history of this building. From the tanned leather butcher’s aprons donned by the bartenders, to the wooden hammers that hang from the wall, perhaps none more so than the drink menu scribbled down on the chalkboard , Axe to Grind, Morning Star and Death by Flyg resinate.
This type of environment can often have an adverse effect on a bar, guests can feel intimidated and detached by the uniqueness, but not here. Brooms & Hatchets has a glow that beckons you inside, a cosy relief from dimly lit pavement and welcomes you, drink in hand. Keen to eradicate the snobby culture often associated with exclusive cocktail bars, B&H have set about creating a crossover between attracting industry people with those intrigued to discover more about drink and the mastery that surrounds it, but above all they want to make this experience fun. They’ve introduced a cocktail menu that is well balanced. Straight forward classics with instantly recognisable flavours are combined with interactive servings which require the customer to play his or her part in making the drink. A great example of this is a drink called “Pocket picked”, presented in a well crafted hip flask allowing the customer to adjust the liquorice powder to suit their palate. This creativity spills out into the hotel restaurant Madu, where both chef and bartender enthusiastically discuss flavour combinations and trade techniques which have added value to both parties. This collaboration is an important part of the process in order to achieve a constant progression within this project.
A huge attraction for me was its gritty location which truly adds a certain romance to this bar. Once you put this together with all the other elements, handpicked bartenders, attention to detail, a progressive foresight, the potential here is truly limitless. Brooms & Hatchets don’t hide the fact that it’s their intention to one day be the best bar in Norway and from where I’m sitting, who can argue with this ?
To find out more about Brooms & Hatchets, click on broomsandhatchets.no