Monica Berg is not your average bartender. She is a multi-award-winning entrepreneur, innovator, and leader who has made a name for herself in the global drinks scene. She is the co-owner of Tayēr + Elementary, one of London’s most acclaimed bars, the founder of Muyu liqueurs, a line of natural and sustainable spirits, the co-founder of P (our), a nonprofit symposium that promotes drinks education and social responsibility, and the co-creator of Back of House, a digital platform that empowers hospitality workers to report workplace issues. She is also the first woman to win the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award at The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2019, a recognition that reflects her peers’ admiration and respect for her work.
But what makes Monica Berg so loved as a bartender and what sets her bar apart? We spoke to her to learn more about her bartending style, philosophy, and influence.
One of the most distinctive aspects of Monica Berg’s bartending is her use of fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients. Growing up in Norway, she developed a deep appreciation for nature and its bounty. She recalls how her family would take her hunting, fishing, and mushroom picking as a child, experiences that shaped her palate and creativity.
Monica recently said in an interview with The Mixer:
At Tayēr + Elementary, Monica works closely with local farmers to source organic fruits, herbs, and vegetables for her drinks. She also incorporates elements of her Norwegian heritage into her cocktails, such as aquavit, lingonberries, and juniper. Some of her signature drinks that showcase her respect for nature are:
- The Nordic Highball: A refreshing and aromatic drink made with aquavit, elderflower cordial, lemon juice, soda water, and dill.
- The Muyu Vetiver Gris: A complex and elegant drink made with Muyu Vetiver Gris liqueur (a spirit infused with vetiver grass, timur pepper, patchouli, petitgrain, and cedarwood), fino sherry, white port, tonic water, and grapefruit peel.
- The Elementary: A simple and delicious drink made with vodka or gin (depending on your preference), soda water, and a rotating selection of seasonal syrups.
Collaborative and Accessible Approach
Another key feature of Monica Berg’s bartending is her collaborative and accessible approach to cocktail creation. Unlike many bars where each bartender has their drinks on the menu, at Tayēr + Elementary, Monica works with her team to develop simple, elegant, and enjoyable drinks for everyone.
“We don’t have any egos or agendas at Tayēr + Elementary,” she says. “We work as a collective effort to create drinks that are delicious, balanced, and easy to drink. We don’t want to intimidate or alienate our guests with complicated or obscure drinks. We want them to feel welcome and comfortable.”
To ensure that her drinks are accessible to all kinds of drinkers, Monica uses a test called “Would you serve this to your mother?” to decide if a drink should make the menu. She explains that this test helps her gauge if a drink is too strong, bitter, sweet, or weird for the average consumer.
“If I didn’t serve it to my mother, I wouldn’t serve it to anyone else,” she says. “My mother is not a cocktail expert or enthusiast. She likes simple and familiar drinks. So if I can make a drink that she would enjoy, I know I can make a drink that anyone would enjoy.”
Monica also values feedback and communication with her guests and staff. She encourages them to share their opinions and preferences with her so that she can tailor her drinks accordingly. She also listens to their stories and experiences so that she can connect with them on a personal level.
“I think bartending is not just about making drinks,” she says. “It’s also about making people happy. And the best way to do that is to listen to and understand them. That’s how you create memorable moments and lasting relationships.”
Innovation and Experimentation
A third aspect of Monica Berg’s bartending that sets her apart is her innovation and experimentation with technology and techniques. Monica is not afraid to use modern equipment and methods to enhance her cocktails’ flavor, texture, and presentation. She believes that technology can help bartenders achieve new levels of creativity and quality.
“I think technology is a great tool for bartenders,” she says. “It can help us extract, infuse, distill, carbonate, clarify, and manipulate ingredients in ways that we couldn’t do before. It can also help us reduce waste, save time, and improve consistency.”
At Tayēr + Elementary, Monica uses a variety of devices and gadgets to create her drinks, such as rotary evaporators, centrifuges, carbonation machines, sous vide machines, and ultrasonic homogenizers. Some of her signature drinks that use these technologies are:
- The Tayēr: A futuristic and flavorful drink made with Tayēr vodka (a spirit distilled with botanicals such as lemon verbena, lemongrass, and ginger), clarified lime juice, clarified grapefruit juice, and carbonated water.
- The Bergamot Negroni: A classic and refined drink made with bergamot-infused gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters. The bergamot infusion is done using a sous vide machine to extract the citrus flavor without adding bitterness or acidity.
- The Old Fashioned: A timeless and smooth drink made with bourbon, sugar, Angostura bitters, and orange peel. The bourbon is aged in a barrel with charred oak chips using an ultrasonic homogenizer to accelerate the maturation process and impart a rich and smoky flavor.
Monica also challenges the conventions and boundaries of bartending with her creativity and curiosity. She experiments with different ingredients, formats, and styles to create drinks that surprise and delight her guests. She also collaborates with other bartenders, chefs, artists, and scientists to explore new possibilities and perspectives.
“I think bartending is a very dynamic and evolving craft,” she says. “There is always something new to learn and try. I like to push myself and my team to be more creative and adventurous. I also like working with others who inspire and challenge me. I think that’s how you grow and improve as a bartender.”
Contribution and Leadership
A final aspect of Monica Berg’s bartending that makes her stand out from the crowd is her contribution and leadership in the industry and beyond. Monica is a successful bartender and entrepreneur and a generous and influential figure who has positively impacted the drinks world.
One of her most notable achievements is co-founding P (our), a nonprofit symposium that aims to expand drinks knowledge and support communities producing regional ingredients. P (our) organizes annual events where bartenders, chefs, farmers, producers, academics, activists, and journalists gather to share ideas and insights on sustainability, diversity, ethics, and social justice.
Another one of her remarkable initiatives is co-creating Back of House, a digital platform that allows hospitality workers to report workplace issues anonymously and safely. Back of House helps employers identify and address problems such as harassment, discrimination, bullying, violence, or theft in their venues. It also provides resources and support for employees who face these issues.
Monica also became the creative director of the Campari Academy in 2020, a global education program for bartenders. She oversees the academy’s curriculum and content, covering topics such as history, culture, production, and mixology of Campari and its portfolio of brands. She also mentors and trains the academy’s ambassadors, who deliver the courses to bartenders worldwide.
“Campari Academy is a great opportunity for me to share my knowledge and passion with other bartenders,” she says. “It’s also a great opportunity for me to learn from them and Campari’s amazing heritage and craftsmanship. I’m very honored and excited to be part of this project.”
With her passion and vision, Monica inspires and mentors many other bartenders, especially women. She is a role model and a trailblazer for the female bartending community, which is still underrepresented and undervalued in the industry. She advocates for more diversity, equality, and inclusion in the drinks world and encourages women to pursue their dreams and goals.
“I think women have a lot to offer to the bartending profession,” she says. “We have different skills, perspectives, and experiences that can enrich the craft and the culture. We also have a lot of challenges and barriers that we need to overcome. I try to support and empower other women in the industry as much as I can. I also try to challenge myself and others to be more confident and ambitious.”
Monica Berg is a bartender who brings nature, innovation, and community to London. Her peers and guests love her for her delicious, balanced, and easy-to-drink cocktails that use fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients. She is admired by the industry and beyond for her collaborative, accessible, and experimental approach to cocktail creation that uses modern technology and techniques. She is respected by the drinks world for her contribution and leadership in various projects and initiatives that promote drinks education, social responsibility, workplace safety, and female empowerment.
To experience Monica Berg’s bartending, visit Tayēr + Elementary in London or try one of her cocktails at home. You won’t regret it.