Travel and Discover: a Bartender’s Wanderlust

Monica Berg profile

One of the biggest privileges of my life, has been that from a very early age, I was exposed to traveling – and already as a child, I was always drawn to the unknown; the flavours, the places and most of all – the people. I remember spending summers exploring the fjords of southern Norway – I recall the day I learned how to harvest mussels like it was yesterday ( I also remember how cold the water was ), I still remember the first time I tasted parmesan cheese (I was 9, and did NOT like it) and I remember the first time I went to a place where I didn’t understand why things were different from what I was used to; culturally, politically and generally everything; I was 15 – and ever since, I’ve always felt this restlessness or urge to travel and explore, to feel lost and unfamiliar, sometimes even uncomfortable.

Over the years, bartending has allowed me to travel the world, to see more than most would in a lifetime, and I always think back to these experiences as the most precious moments of my life. During the pandemic, more than anything, it made me realise how lucky I have been, and how much these travels have impacted me as a bartender, and how much they have influenced the way I am today. Being unable to travel made me realise how much I miss the feeling of going to a place I’ve never been before, tasting something I never tried before – or discovering something utterly unfamiliar and surprising.

It made me think of all the amazing people I’ve had the fortune of meeting, the beautiful places I’ve visited, and it made me want to share some of these moments with you all – so in no particular order, here are some of my favo moments on the road from the last decade.

Traveling around Oaxaca is pure magic. I always remember this moment, because it was the exact moment in time, where I understood the value of instinct and experience. There is so much knowledge, tradition and heritage in this image (no thanks to me, but if you know, you know, as they say).

There are so many things to say about Seoul, and for obvious reasons I will always have a special bond, but this dish represents discovery more than anything to me. The dish is called Mul Naengmyeon, and it is a cold noodle dish served with (ice cold) beef broth and radish water kimchi. The first time I had it, I was blown away by the combination and sensations, and to this day, it’s still one of my favo things to eat!

If my soul had a home, it would be Peru. I love this country enormously, and it’s a place that has meant so much to me over the years. This is me having a local “aperitif” of masato – in a community outside of Tarapoto. Masato is a local drink made from yuca, which is boiled, chewed and then left to ferment a few days – but what made this one slightly different is that it’s chewed with a local berry, which gives it a distinctive strawberry note.

My first trip to Kuala Lumpur, and the pineapple of my dreams. I only spend 56 hours or so here, but I am obsessed with the vibrance and intensity of flavours! I’m already dreaming of going back – the markets alone are worth it!

I was never a tea person until this moment in Taipei. It was the first time I tasted Oriental Beauty, and the first time I really understood the ritual of drinking tea.

The expression “sometimes you cannot see the forest for all the trees” ha s never been truer. This beautiful piece of cultured butter from Fannremsgården in Trønderlag made me fall back in love with all the wonderful, regional and traditional flavours of Norway.

Back to Peru, this time to the mountains. Here I am toasting with a cup of chicha in the Sacred Valley, a traditional fermented drink and another magical place. (What the picture won’t tell you, is to listen to cumbia whilst enjoying).

Don’t judge, but this is my favourite pickling shop in the world! I love it so much and everytime I travel to Istanbul, I make sure this is my first stop! This place is amazing, please, if you go, have a glass of everything spicy, and just thank me later.

Last but not least, I want to finish with one of my favourite brand visits a few years ago; before we went to Tales of The Cocktail in New Orleans, we stopped by Avery Island and the home of Tabasco. I was such a surprising experience, because when they took us through the steps of production, I realised it’s actually a handmade product, but because they seem to be everywhere, I just assumed it was an industrial production. This is the barrel they opened for us to taste, and it forever deepened my love for Tabasco (particularly the Raspberry Chipotle).

I’m super excited about my next travel to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail and to premier our first episode of Perspectives in the USA, but if you can’t join us in person, look out for our daily highlights here or follow us on Instagram for more real time updates. See you in the stories!