The definitive guide to the finest drinking experiences

The World Class 50: The Definitive Drinking Guide features 50 of the most innovative and talented bartenders from across the globe. Each bartender showcases the perfect location, the most inventive cocktail and the finest of ingredients and spirits that define the 'must have' fine drinking experience in their city.

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Monica Berg’s Top Of The Hops

Monica Berg represented Norway at the World Class Bartender of the Year final, 2013

It’s hard to be the coolest venue on the block when you stand next door to Icebar Oslo, with its crystal clear ice-block architecture and a permanent temperature of minus five Celsius. Monica and her team took a year and a half to fine tune every detail in the planning and development of Aqua Vitae, and perhaps it’s because of the particularly long gestation, or maybe it’s rubbed off from its frosty friend, but it certainly gives its neighbour a run for its money in the chilling stakes. It’s friendly, fun and inviting, populated with a good mix of regulars; the cosy, dim-lit space is bedecked with street-style/graffiti pieces by local artists, which are changed regularly and available for sale.

The Bartender

Monica Berg, has enjoyed working in the hospitality industry for the last twelve years. Doing many jobs at all sorts of venues, Monica, 31, is having a lot of fun in her current role as head bartender at Aqua Vitae. ‘I love working with people and I love working with flavours,’ she explains, ‘bartending combines the two perfectly, and I’ve been lucky to have worked with many amazing people.’ Collaborating with chefs has influenced her palate greatly, while the camaraderie of fellow bartenders has helped her develop a style which she describes as ‘quite minimalistic, maybe a little quirky’.

The Drink

Top of the Hops is a scion of the Old Fashioned family, made using homemade cedar-wood syrup in place of the sugar cube and the ‘Above and Beyond’ Hefeweizen wheat beer especially brewed by Monica with fresh ginger and lemon peel. A Zacapa reduction is added to the beer after fermentation and before bottling, and the bottle is rested for a fortnight.

‘The first time I made it was for the tapas challenge at the World Class European Finals and I couldn’t check it before getting to Madrid.’ she explains, ‘It was a risk, but fortunately it worked really well.’ She wanted to incorporate sherry into the recipe for the Spanish event, but found that sherry vinegar worked better as it added structure and worked better when paired with food.


The Technique

Ron Zacapa 23 • 45ml
‘Above and Beyond’ Hefeweizen (wheat beer can be used as an alternative) • 50ml
Cedar-wood syrup* • 2 barspoons
Sherry vinegar • 1 dash
Peychaud’s Bitters• 1 dash
Contains 18 grams of alcohol per serve

Monica makes her homemade cedar-wood syrup by placing 500g of castor sugar in a bowl, adding 3 drops of cedarwood essential oil (food grade) and then stirring to combine. She then leaves the mixture to rest for 5 minutes before adding 250g hot water and stirring until the sugar is dissolved completely, before pouring into a bottle to cool before use.

Throw all the ingredients with ice. Top up with Hefeweizen (wheat beer). Pour into a sherry glass. Serve with a small beer glass of the same Hefeweizen.

Top of the Hops was conceived as an accompaniment to tapas. If you are having it in Aqua Vitae take the first seat at the side of the bar as you enter, which has the best view across the venue.

Monica’s drinks take the best modern ideas from kitchen and bar, introduce a level of experimentation and craftsmanship and result in avant garde concoctions that are delicious and unique.

Monica’s Insider’s Guide to Oslo

Place to stay
Continental Hotel

Place to eat
Lille Herbern (a hidden gem)

Place to relax
Frognerparken (for a picnic)

Place to lounge
Fuglen café bar

Place to Dance
Anywhere by Kollektivet

Place to shop
Grünerløkka district

Place to visit
DOGA museum

Place to see
In summer, the islands

Images by Ina Wesenberg, Wstudio