The two-day show, put together by Chris Grotvedt of The Thief hotel bar, featured an industry fair running alongside seminars from luminaries of the bar world such as cocktail historian Jared Brown, Jake Burger of Portobello gin, top bartender Monica Berg, Aquavit expert Halvor Heuch and Happiness Forgets’ Alistair Burgess.
Pop-up bars came courtesy of famous names Dead Rabbit, Happiness Forgets, American Bar, Bohemia Bar Mafia, Corner Club, Purfict, Monkey Shoulder, Bettola and Botranical Garden, while sponsors were The Thief Hotel, Nespresso, Voss water, Schweppes, Mr Iceman and Norengross.
Exhibiting in the fair were top names including Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Arcus, Eddington and Bache-Gabrielsen.
Quite a line-up for a first-time show and the fjord-side setting of the five-star Thief hotel was an added bonus.
Chris Grotvedt pulled the show together in just four months, but today begins work on next year’s – despite last night’s after-party with its Awards dinner – to make sure it is even bigger and better.
He recalled he’d had the idea some time ago, “but the country wasn’t ready”. He added: "The cocktail boom of the past two years has made it possible, especially now we are taking what the culinary world has done with the kitchen and bringing it into cocktails.
“Everyone is now a hobby chef or a craft brewer. After Madmen all these things are cool again.” And his timing would seem to be bang on, given the boom in fascination in all things Nordic across so many other countries.
Grotvedt didn’t want the show to be in a faceless exhibition hall and credits the five-star hotel location as bringing something unique. It was set across six floors and the 9th floor rooftop bar, bringing an intimacy and luxury to the event. Grotvedt found many friends and contacts were happy to agree to talk/exhibit at the new event - despite the “unfortunate” clash of dates with Imbibe in London.
“I like the set-up and we have had a super-strong line-up. We sold between 600 and 700 tickets and I am very pleased with that. I’ve been talking to a lot of the guest speakers from abroad and they are saying for a first show this is probably one of the best ever.”
Grotvedt’s aim was not only to educate bar professionals but to put a spotlight on his part of the globe. “I want the world to look at Scandinavia as a destination. We are up in the corner so can be forgotten. I want to showcase its amazing personalities and ingredients in the kitchen.”
Indeed, culinary ingredients were a highlight of this year’s show, with Monica Berg’s seminar on a Norwegian meal followed by Michelin-starred Evan Ramsvik’s five-course tasting menu with cocktails. Next year, Grotvedt plans to put even more focus on the kitchen influence. “We grab a lot of inspiration from the kitchen and the differences between these worlds are becoming smaller.”
Alistair Burgess of Happiness Forgets in London – who gave a seminar entitled: How to Run a Bar - High-End Cocktails, Low-Rent Basement – emphasised how important he thought events such as the Oslo Bar Show are for moving the industry on, saying that it took 15 years for the cocktail scene to take off in London but as the industry internationally gains increased access to established professionals’ expertise, things are moving much more quickly.
“What I am finding important is that this end of the industry has been confined to certain major cities throughout the world. What’s great about things like this show is that people who don’t get to travel the world and see bars that get a lot of spotlight are having us brought to them so they can learn from us first hand.”
He reckoned this kind of exposure meant that what had taken London 15 years to achieve could happen to Oslo in just three or four.
Botran’s ambassador for the Nordics, Robin Ogestadh, running the rooftop Botanical Garden on the second day, was impressed with the show as a start up and predicted “it’s going to be a really great show in the future”.
He said: “There’s a big opportunity for the Nordics and Oslo to grow in the bar market. We are capable of doing really great cocktails and I sometimes feel we are a bit forgotten.”
The enthusiasm of those attending the show proved how excited they were to be getting access to their international peers as well as to new products and shared experiences.
And their excitement and engagement was infectious. The Bitter Truth’s Alexander Hauck found himself giving his seminar to a fairly small audience, but pointed out he would rather be talking to four people who actually wanted to be in the room than 40 people who had been forced to be there. “I once gave a seminar in which one elderly man not only fell asleep, he was snoring,” he related.
And that was the buzz of the Oslo bar show - it was full of enthusiasm, vibrancy and innovation, and if Grotvedt continues in this vein next year’s will definitely be one to look out for.
“I hope to involve more of Scandinavia,” says Grotvedt, “do more with Denmark and Sweden but we have to have a good foundation.”