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Getting high in Oslo

Oslo is best known for its picturesque fjords and easy access to world-class skiing, but don't overlook its city life.

travel Updated: Dec 20, 2011 18:23 IST

Oslo is best known for its picturesque fjords and easy access to world-class skiing, but don't overlook its city life. Norway's capital has a vibrant nightlife and budding cocktail scene. 

Some tips for the Oslo-bound business traveller: First, bring the corporate charge card. Norway is among the most affluent nations and its prices are sky-high, meaning $18 cocktails are common.

Second, do as the Norwegians do: Pre-party. Taxes on alcohol are high, and drinks are expensive, so many locals drink at home before heading out to the bars, a practice known as "vorspiel." (Bartenders may not appreciate my sharing this information. Sorry, guys.)

Third, expect to reserve tippling for the weekend, or be prepared to travel a little for a good drink.

"Oslo is a small city compared to international standards and weekdays are generally quiet, at least in the city centre where most hotels are," says Monica Berg, bartender at Oslo's Aqua Vita.

In the buttoned-up city centre, tippling is most likely to take place at business-friendly restaurants and hotel bars.

Berg's picks for business travellers include Theater cafeen located within the five-star Hotel Continental, the last of the grand Viennese cafs in the north of Europe, and the Bristol Bar within the Bristol Hotel, a classic hotel bar setting with well-made cocktails and an international clientele.

Next door to the Bristol is Icebar Oslo, made entirely of 60 tonnes of ice. Sip a playful drink served "in the rock" (translation: a glass made of ice) and then warm up next door at tiny Aqua Vitae, perhaps with a hot tea-based cocktail served from a teapot.

The bar's name means "water of life," which also refers to Aquavit, a clear Scandinavian spirit spiced with caraway and other flavourings which can be found in most bars throughout Oslo.

When her workday is done, Berg's favourite after-work spot is Fuglen ("The Bird"), which features serious coffee by day and serious cocktails by night.

It's also an interior sign hotspot; vintage items around the bar frequently are rented out as props for films or TV commercials, and the shop recently received an award from the Norwegian Design Council.

However, "If you really want to experience the local drinking culture," Berg advises heading to local bars outside the city centre." For example, head to the hipster neighbourhood of Gr nerl?kka to try out tiny, funky Bar Boca (Thorvald Meyers gate 30).

Recipe: King of Denmark Cocktail
Created at Fuglen by Bar Manager Halvor Skiftun Digernes
2 cl London Dry Gin
2 cl Norwegian Raw Apple Brandy
3 cl Lemon Juice
2 cl Anis Syrup

Pour all ingredients into Cocktail Shaker with ice, shake it and double strain into chilled Cocktail Glass. Garnish with lemon zest.

First Published: Dec 20, 2011 18:23 IST