Locals said the weather was actually quite good, but let’s be quite honest: it was a bitingly cold early March day in Stockholm and our ears, all red and turning blue, were about to fall off when we entered Tjoget and asked where Linje Tio — n° 32 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list — was. Once the fog on our glasses subsided, we discovered a nice space with chequered floor and vintage metal bar. And above all, a great mediterranean-inspired food and drink program.
« We did a Mediterranean concept because it’s the opposite of our ten months of darkness », co-owner and founder Andreas Bergman told us. « Like many Swedes, that’s where I or Joel <Söderbäck, childhood friend and business partner> go on vacation, that where I want to retire ». No kidding, Andreas! After our little adventure, we sort of do understand… In practical terms, this means food from the whole mediterranean (« Most ‘Mediterranean’ restaurants do Southern European food. We do Middle East and North Africa too »).
The drinks follow the same blueprint, with a seasonal twist that, Sweden being, well, Sweden gives it an added Scandinavian edge: « We’re so far North it’s hard to get hold of fresh produce from the Mediterranean. We’re the last stop. It’s still okay but it’s expensive ». Many of the ingredients are sourced locally in the warmer months and dried, pickled or fermented. « The Scandinavian and Nordic part of our cocktail program is linked to some of the flavours and spirits we use but also to its simplicity », Andreas explains. Tjoget opened seven years ago as a multi space venue. There was a barbershop (!), a wine bar, a restaurant and a cocktail bar — Linje Tio, although from now on the whole concept will be called Tjoget to avoid confusion. Last year, the barbershop made way for a beer bar, making for an even more convivial space — you can’t really have beers in one room and snooty bartenders in the next. « Our policy is that we serve and welcome everybody who welcomes everybody in society ».
Since 2016, Tjoget has been on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, making it the first and so far only Swedish entrant. Although the place was obviously very successful already, the impact was almost instant. « We went from serving 350 cocktails on weekend nights to 500 or 600. And if you know anything about the business, you want to sell booze, not food… », he confides. Being the only Stockholm bar on the list has also turned Tjoget into a must visit for anyone in town for a meal at one of the Michelin-starred restaurant. « Every foodie coming to Stockholm ends up at our bar, which is wonderful because they help spread the word ». But Andreas doesn’t wear rose-tinted glasses. He sees some negative around the 50 Best buzz. « In a way, it can kill creativity. ‘I want to stay on the list, so I shouldn’t change much’. But it’s important to change. » Also, he adds, clients now come with expectations of what a 50 Best Bar is. « You come in at 2 am on Friday and we have a DJ. People dance. It’s a good vibe. But some people want ’50 Best’ and we have that program but they expect something like the top 10. Those are large projects spending money to get there. We never did that. We were just like ‘if it happens, it happens’ but I just want to have a full bar seven nights a week and people leave with a smile on their face ».
Interestingly, Andreas told us, Tjoget is « a Swedish measurement » meaning twenty. « We knew when we opened the bar we wanted to run it for at least twenty years ». And that’s why the party vibe he was alluding to earlier is so important. « We have young people who come to us because of the DJs we book and we serve fun cocktails. It’s like a gateway drug for them and it’s a way to build the next generation of guests. We think that if you come to party when you’re 22, you’ll come with your date when you’re 25 and so on ». This is certainly an attitude that holds true for Andreas and Joel themselves, as they launched Paradiso, an Italian restaurant / rum bar in a space where they used to drink when they were kids. « It’s the bar where I spent the most time in my life and I feel so privileged to own my old hang-out. » They’re also about to launch a third bar, inside NK, the city’s landmark department store. Intriguingly, this very tiny aperitivo concept will not be located in the food mall. « It’s in the men’s department, between Gucci and Burberry. We’ve never done a project in such a luxurious environment. It will be fun. » And it might just foster a new generation of very different drinkers for Tjoget and Paradiso.