Pharmarium - healing, beauty and magic
Stockholm is a city with a rich history, and a lot of it took place in Stortorget, the bustling heart of the city since its very earliest beginnings in the 13th century.
When Sweden's very first public pharmacy opened in 1575, Stortorget was the natural location. Today, Sweden is a byword for rationality and scientific progress, but in the dark ages, pharmacies offered not just medicine but poisons, perfumes and potions, with ingredients from the far corners of the world, from peacock's eyes to opium essence. People came to the pharmacy to feel better, in every way, from the physical to the spiritual.
Stortorget is now the centre of one of Sweden's most popular tourist sights, the Old City of Stockholm, and while the area attracts hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic international visitors, the locals do not regard it as a good place to go for a drink or a meal. While the previous restaurant, which catered to tourists, did fairly well at the location, at least in summer, it was considered a really difficult location if you wanted to attract a loyal following of choosy locals.
In addition, the building itself was a Grade II-listed historic property, located smack in the middle of one of Sweden's most valued historic city environments. This put some very strict limitations on what could be done to both the exterior and the interior of the building.
"A pharmacy, a business of healing, but also of magic, beauty and pleasure, filled with stimulants, scents and sensations, is a very rich source of inspiration," says Stylt Trampoli VD and founder Erik Nissen Johansen. "We really felt that we could create an experience with a genuine historical foundation that would appeal to modern sensibilities, in this unique place."
You can get a taste of this world, literally, at Pharmarium, the cocktail bar that now occupies the same building. With healing, pleasure and beauty in mind, the mixologists have taken a leaf out of the old pharmacopoeia and they nightly re-create the magic in every glass they fill. Recipes call for nettles, absinth, powdered gold, cardamom, roses, seaweed and wild strawberries, among other things.
The bar, which also serves some carefully selected dishes of food, grows its own herbs and is not afraid to use them, unusual though some of them are. When did you last see some fragrant woodruff on your plate, for example? And of course the real alchemy happens when you combine the food and the drink in the exact right way.
"This is a unique place with a unique history," says Nissen Johansen. "We have tried to create an experience that honours that story, and the proof is in the pudding - or in this case, in the potion."
Despite being a cocktail bar rather than a full-scale apothecary's shop, Pharmarium is the latest incarnation of a tradition that reaches back over 400 years. People still want to feel better, and they still search out pleasure, beauty - and magic.