Owner of the prestigious bar Le Lion in Hamburg, which was awarded the best new cocktail bar in 2008 by the New Orleans bar show Tales of the Cocktail. With his Bitters Blog he features daily news and happenings of the bar sector.
Why are you coming to the Bar Convent Berlin and what do you expect from the panel discussion with the DBU (German Bartenders Association)?
The BCB is in my eyes the most important event for the bar trade in Germany and has managed to become one of the most important bar shows in Europe within only one year.
The BCB has taken a different, more interesting approach than other German bar shows, who have just copied the once path breaking bar show in London.
The concept of the BCB is quality before quantity. Moreover, I have followed up the planning of the first French bar show (Cocktails & Spirits). Thierry Daniel was influenced significantly by the BCB.
However the to me most important reason to visit BCB is the private exchange with national and international guests. BCB offers a range of professionals that can withstand any international comparison.
I am truly looking forward to the panel discussion with the DBU. However I want to highlight that it is not about a controversial discussion with the DBU. It is rather about the future of our trade. Where is the bar business heading?
There is no doubt about the importance of the DBU as a trade association; on the other hand there is no doubt that currently the DBU is not fulfilling the expectations. I am curious if we will be able to stimulate a change with our discussion. Nevertheless I am really looking forward to it.
How did you start bartending and what where the most important stations in your career?
I’ve been growing up in our family business, a small country guesthouse in Lower Saxony. The first station in my career at the age of six or seven was therefore the bar of a public house. It was certainly the cornerstone for a hospitality and especially a bar career.
A good bar gives its guests the opportunity to escape for a night from everyday life and just have a good time. If everyday life is a farmer’s wife with a rolling pin, a small public house in the countryside can be the best “bar” in the world…
The two most important stations of my career have been in front of a bar not behind one. My first mentor was Peter Kallweit, at the time bar manager at Harry’s New York bar in Hamburg. He recognized the interested apprentice Meyer and taught him during less occupied evenings.
I started collecting everything about bars that I could get a hold of. In ’95 internet access opened up unforeseen sources. I have always tried to read as much as possible about bar related matters, but even more important I have visited countless bars and bartenders.
Some time after my apprenticeship I met Peter again, he was club manager of the just opened Havana Lounge and a week later I worked there at the bar. Later, when I have been already joint partner of Atlas Restaurant & Bar in Hamburg, I have discovered the Old Fashioned bar and got to know Achim F. Eberhardt. Once or twice per week over several years, I have been a guest of this exceptional bartender. In my opinion it was the best, but also most costly apprenticeship as a bartender that one could find throughout Germany at the time.
In my vita as a bartender I haven’t worked in a foreign country, but I suggest every young bartender to do it. Yet keep in mind that international experience only doesn’t make a good bartender, there are other necessary key qualifications…
Your bar „Le Lion de Paris“ has won the price for the worldwide best new bar at the tales of the coktail. What can we expect from le Lion in the future?
The award „Best New Bar 2008“ has really knocked us for a loop. We did not expect to be able to bring this internationally recognized award back home to Germany.
What can you expect from the lion? First of all maintaining the set standards and staying critical! We strive to give every guest the feeling that he or she had a good time at the lion.
However there are some projects fort he next year.
1.) International guest bartenders. Beginning in October we will give foreign bartenders the opportunity to work for 4-6 months at the lion and to find out more about the German bar trade.
2.) Wake up the good lion from aestivation. Many of our guests don’t even now the little brother “Le bon Lion”, but here everything has started two years ago. When opening “Le lion” we have closed the good lion, but we will open the bar again with a few changes this autumn to make it accessible for advanced drinkers.
3.) Commis de Bar – In our opinion the best apprenticeship for a bartender still is a one-year work as a commis de bar in an upscale, classic bar. We plan to offer a position in 2009 to teach bartending the classic way, without trade school and trade association.
Which bar has impressed you recently the most and which is your favorite spirit or cocktail?
I don’t have favorite bars, spirits or cocktails. I am interested in a wide variety.
Nevertheless I have been impressed by the „Lebensstern“. Its impressive herb garden has a huge potential. Also the “Trinkhalle” in Munich impresses me during every visit in their creative, but laid back way to serve exceptional drinks.
Furthermore every visit at “Schumann’s” in Munich is stunning; there is no other bar in Germany that has been such a cultural and societal center of a city.
The “Shepheards” in Cologne is also quite remarkable – a classic bar at its best, in my opinion one of the best in Germany. Moreover there is the outstanding “Rubinrot” with Tom – punk rock bartending with exceptional drinks. All of those bars work on the development of our bar culture night for night.
With spirits the situation is quite similar. No matter what spirit we look at, there are fantastic ambassadors for each. This doesn’t always mean the newest (and most expensive) one, many products that we have at our backboards have an enormous potential, we just don’t take advantage of it.
For drinks it is also the same. Many classics aren’t recognized, as we don’t put in the effort to produce great drinks following the often quite simple recepies. I am fascinated by simple drinks: Few ingredients, but rather fresh and of high quality.
I do like to drink a Gin Tonic or a Whiskey Sour and my all-time favorite is a glass of champagne.
Thank you for your detailed answers, Jörg!
BCB speakers portraits: