Paloma brings the day-bar to Denmark

Not your typical coffee shop

Sometimes a great idea comes to you uninvited. You can be sitting in your shop trying to sell a couple of tequila bottles and suddenly the butcher from up the street barges in, trying to convince you to open a coffee shop. Albeit such a fortune would be absolutely awesome, it is not an easy decision to take on a whim. But for Carl and Jarek (who are also behind local hotspots Barking Dog and Shoppen) it was a challenge that although unexpected was enticing enough for them to pull the trigger. And thus Paloma Vermut Cafe was born.

The cafe opened its doors to the public in late June 2018 and immediately provoked the attention of both the bartending community and local residents. Friends of Carl and Jarek were curious as to what the duo was gonna cook up next, while the families in the neighbourhood welcomed a new retreat with open arms. But going from a bar to a cafe proved a bit more tricky than one might expect.

Morten Bach Nielsen

“People don’t drink coffee the same way they drink cocktails.” explains bar manager Morten Bach Nielsen, who’s been running the cafe from day one. “You don’t go to people and ask if they want another latte and generally the motivation bringing our guests in is vastly different,” he continues. As such, the team has had to find answers to entirely new service hurdles seemingly crucial to the functionality of a cafe. “The learning curve in being able to accommodate a new crowd has been quite steep but I think our guests enjoyed seeing us get better and improve the place,” says Morten and you really start understanding the whole concept.

The Vermut Cafe label only helps the customer recognize what kind of establishment they are walking into. “In Denmark cafe usually means ‘coffee and burgers’, right across the border in Sweden it’s ‘coffee and pastry’, while for example in France or Italy it’s ‘coffee, pastry and refreshing drinks’,” Morten explains. “We are trying to go with a southern European style which allows us to be affordable and closer to the people. This was never meant to be geeky or exclusive.”

Paloma is an all-day cafe, where service starts with coffee and breakfast and runs into the late evening with a tapas style dinner and delicious cocktails. The window front surrounding the cafe provides locals and visitors alike with a cinematic panoramic view of Nørrebro-life. The urbanesque scenery is complimented inside. Home-made concrete tables and exposed brick walls, emerald green plants and leather-bound menus all come together to form a vibe that is both cool, yet calm. Everything you get served is carefully selected and prepared on site. From coffee beans roasted locally courtesy of Copenhagen Coffee Lab to delicious Bloody Mary meatballs, everything undergoes long prep in the kitchen. “Without a chef in the house, it can get busy and waiting times may occur, but we really pride ourselves in the fact that even the bread is made in-house,” says Morten. Despite all this, what really separates Paloma from other Copenhagen cafes is the zoom-in on vermouth.

Carl Wrangler making Perfect Negroni

Back at the Barking Dog, attempts at getting guests to try out vermouth always foiled, leaving half-consumed bottles to slowly ferment on the shelves. But with Paloma an opportunity arose. “Not serving alcohol in our establishment would go against our handwriting. Vermouth worked perfectly with the cafe concept,” Carl explains, “if you see a cafe, chances are there is going to be a Martini or Campari umbrella outside.” Focusing solely on vermouth means that Paloma can increase their base products without having to worry about wastage. And that leaves customers with a wider range of both rare and familiar selections. “Keeping a broad selection is a big aspect of running a good cafe,” adds Carl.

And while vermouth may be the main driving concept,  it is not the sole agenda. As Morten puts it, “Vermouth is not a gospel we are trying to push. It’s more important that people like the place as a whole.” Although the vibe resembles that of a bar, the simple truth is that it’s not. Paloma has been built with service in mind, cutting the time spent on making cocktails down with pre-batching and simple serves. More time for talking with guests leaves a warm and welcoming atmosphere that fits with the urban stone-wall interior. And unlike your common cocktail bar, Paloma is kid-friendly and full of natural daylight from the floor-to-ceiling windows. You are also gently nudged into disconnecting from social media. While there are no rules forbidding you to sort out your e-mails in the morning, the lack of wifi and a limited number of sockets for charging send a clear message.

It is clear that Paloma is doing something right. With another vermouth-focused venue, Rudo, right down the street and a similar booze-meets-coffee newcomer, Yellow, across the road, the cake is only getting bigger. As more people flock to the neighbourhood in search of high-quality experiences in a family-friendly environment, Paloma looks to flourish. “We have learned a lot over the last couple of months and it only helps us realize how much more lies ahead of us. Now it’s time to level up everything – knowledge, execution and service. We want to continue being a local spot but we always strive for the best,” wraps up Morten as we get ready to taste some vermouth.

If you are fans of specialized spots, Barking Dog is not far away. And if agave is not your favourite flower, try some grapes or perhaps the treasure of Scandinavia? Stay tuned for more vermouth content and don’t miss out any new by following us on Facebook and Instagram.

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Jiri Malis
Pretending to be a flamboyant aficionado behind the bar during the weekend, pretentiously scribbling about cocktails the rest of the week. Is your cocktail not good enough? Add more port wine!