aroš Dzurus Bar Manager of Himkok

Oslo-based Himkok’s Journey to Becoming a World’s 50 Best Bar—with Maroš Dzurus

Imagine getting your brand, company or bar’s name out into the world with no advertising, but based purely on the prestige of the spirits, quality and experience your clientele shares with the world.

In this interview with Maroš Dzurus—director of Himkok bar, six-year-member on the World’s 50 Best list—we sat down to dive into the fascinating journey that has led this prestigious bar to earn its title.

Picture of the bar area of Himkok interior

Let’s start with the origins of Himkok itself. What is the premise of this World’s 50 Best spot?

The bar was founded by Eric Potur, the owner of Himkok. We opened in 2015, focusing on Norwegian flavor and origin and culture and Aquavit, the Scandinavian national spirit, which is like gin without juniper—just more caraway, and based on potato.

Mostly what we focus on is the local ingredients, what we’re using in the cocktails. It can be a blessing and a challenge as well, because we don’t have that many local ingredients, and we have to reuse them again and again, but in different ways that are still interesting for our guests.

What is the inspiration behind Himkok’s cocktails?

We talk to our guests on a daily basis about what Norwegian culture is for them, what Norwegian flavor is for them, what are their memories from childhood. We then base our cocktail creations and research on this.

It’s amazing because you become more Norwegian because you integrate into the culture, because you do research and you fall in love with beautiful culture.

The inspiration is basically to create cocktails for our guests. Himkok actually means ‘homemade’ or ‘home-cooked’ (like moonshine).  What if they take a sip and they can taste Multekrem, for example?

Multekrem is a Christmas dessert made with the cloudberry, the Scandinavian King of berries. On Christmas Day they eat this traditional dessert with berries, whipped cream and waffles. I remember when I created a cocktail called Multekrem, the guest sipping was immediately brought to the Christmas table.

For us, this is the most powerful moment: to bring memories in our cocktails.

Do you have any processes or guidelines for what makes Himkok cocktails so unique?

We have three rules for our cocktails.

First, when we create the drinks, the name is always the main flavor. For example, if you have the Parsnip Bourbon and Maple Syrup, the cocktail is called Parsnip.

We want it to be very easy to understand for the guest, because our guest is not professional. They want to drink something they understand. Right? Calling a drink ‘Walking on the Moon’ is very confusing for the guest.

The second is: very simple presentation.

And third is: always to connect with memories, because this is the most powerful. What you see, then what you smell, then what you taste. You might not remember the drink, but you remember feelings it gives you.

Our distillery also produces 80% of our spirits in-house with the focus on Aquavit, but we also produce Vodka and Gin. But it’s actually not cheaper for us to produce it. With Norway’s with regulation and the tax of alcohol, it is very high.

But we still want to do it ourselves because we are control freaks and like to see what is going inside in our spirit and the freedom that goes with it.

Most bartenders create a cocktail based on the spirit itself, what is given to them, right? It’s already created. But what we can do is we can build spirits for the actual cocktails!

And this is another one level of the freedom that we can have with our distillery. For example, we did an Almond Martini for the last menu, and we produced an almond Vodka that was a perfect fit our 50/50 Martini.

Can you explain how your menu works, and describe one of your intricate cocktails?

We change our menu once a year. We have always on the menu 13 cocktails because 13 is the lucky number of our owner Eric.

Basically this is also a challenge for us because you have to think about what people will be wanting to drink in a year’s time. What would be preferable in the summer? What will be preferable in the spring or winter?

Himkok's mule on tap

The Beta cocktail is our legendary cocktail. It’s based on an adaptation of the Bloody Mary, but made with fresh carrot juice, Apple Vodka infused with horseradish and, ginger and lemon.

And also our Dry Martini, in which we use Vermouth infused by birch leaf, and use our homemade autumn Gin, which is a little bit different because we don’t add sugar.

Instead, we add meadowsweet that mimics sweetness, and we dilute after distillation with the birch sap that has a little bit Marzipan flavor and sweetness into it as well. Also—the birch is the Norwegian national tree.

What can you tell us about being 10 on the World’s 50 Best list means to you, and for Himkok?

Norway is the dark market for spirits. Generally there is no promotion for alcohol, not on social media, so no visibility for bars. There are a lot of restrictions because they want to protect consumers from being influenced to drink more.

It’s very hard because we cannot use social media to promote alcohol or cocktails or anything, because you’ll get a fine straight away. It is banned—advertising for alcohol at all. So for us to be number 10 in the world, in such a dark market, and in a small city like Oslo is an historical achievement, I think, for Norway.

Also we’re doing activation in different cities to bring awareness of Aquavit too, because everyone thinks it is just one kind, but it’s not true. There are 300 different brands. This is why we want to bring a little bit of awareness to this category, because it’s still something new globally.

Everyone is talking about whiskey, rum, tequila, mezcal, everybody knows everything, but no one talks about Aquavit.

We could never have achieved this without our team and the great people working every day and also the support of suppliers around as well. To see our vision and support us on all the projects. So yes. Incredible.

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