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Greetings from…Oslo, Norway!

Norway’s Royal Palace

Norway’s capital city, Oslo is the forgotten child of the three primary Scandinavia cities (with Stockholm and Copenhagen). Stockholm and Copenhagen have restaurants that global travelers revolve trips around. They have dynamic cultural and arts scenes. Outside of having the world’s most famous ski jump on the outskirts of town and being the site of where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year (of course Stockholm is where the other Nobels are handed out…), Oslo is best known for being one of the world’s best destinations to empty your wallet in record speed without even trying.

Trust me, this happened to us before we even realized we were in Oslo. A $250 USD taxi ride from the airport to the city center was a perfect introduction to the city’s best known trait. Hence, I have now coined the term, both verb and adjective, of “Osloing,” or to Oslo somebody is to charge an exorbitant fee… just because. Then shrug your shoulders.

A Big Mac in Oslo is around $8 these days. A main course at the city’s best known restaurant, Solsiden, is by all means almost always enjoyable and would go for the low to mid $20s USD in the U.S. Here, they are mid to high $50s USD. It’s the abundant oil money in Norway that everyone claims to make the prices so stratospheric (everywhere in Norway is expensive…Oslo is certainly not alone. It’s just most notable since it’s the major city). Then again, I was just in Houston and that city is no more expensive than a non-oil city, like Minneapolis.

Trattoria Popolare

Oil can be a reason for Oslo’s inflated prices. The real reason for Oslo’s inflated prices, which make the likes of Paris, Copenhagen, and Tokyo seem “cheap” by comparison, is because Oslo is Oslo. C’est la vie. (more…)

Cocktail of the Week: Trinidad Sour from Bar Boca, Oslo, Norway

When the bartender and co-owner of Bar Boca, a charming, quirky bar-coffee shop-cafe in Oslo’s hip Grünerløkka neighborhood, asked for my cocktail preferences, I talked about my dislike for crushed ice, how I enjoy something spirit forward, but a touch of sweetness. In other words, not a mai tai and not a Manhattan. She asks about bourbon. no problem at all.

Somehow from my vague preferences she crafted the perfect drink that seemed identical to what my palate seeked, but couldn’t put into words. The drink had just the right bourbon expression, with hints of spice, fruit, and nuttiness. And of course, served up.

Afterwards I requested the recipe and she enthusiastically wrote it down. The recipe was shocking.

4 cL each of Angostura bitters, orgeat syrup, and fresh lemon juice, with just 1 cL of bourbon (forget the type she used, potentially Knob Creek). Angostura bitters are usually just used for a finishing touch, merely a few drops. Orgeat syrup? It’s best known from flavorless mai tais and the artifical syrup in Starbucks almond flavored lattes. Lemon juice, now that’s a great ingredient anywhere.

Bar Boca’s Trinidad Sour on the right, a Hemingway Swizzle to the left

But, the bourbon, whose taste is clear in the drink, relegated to being just 1cL? It’s as if the Angostura bitters and bourbon swapped spots.

Either way, the drink is flawless. The orgeat’s almond notes provide smoothness to the bitters’ spice, and the smokiness from good ol’ bourbon. The drink channels Kentucky through the tropics, enjoyed in Norway. It’s a small, small world.

Yet the real shock is the revelation of how impressive Angostura bitters can be as a cocktail’s headline ingredient. After some research, the Trinidad Sour was first created by Giuseppe Gonzalez of Brooklyn’s Clover Club, one of our fine drinking country’s premier bars. It’s a variation on the Trindad Especial, based on pisco. Gonzalez’s recipe is 1 ounce each of Angostura bitters and orgeat syrup, 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice, and just 1/2 oz.  of rye whiskey. I can certainly seeing a peaty Scotch such as Laphroaig working too.

Everything works and even if it seems like the drink hides the bourbon, it doesn’t. Norway may have some fascinating beers to dominate your attention during a visit, but the mixology circuit from San Francisco to Brooklyn has now made it to Oslo, with an assist from Trinidad.