A second night of bar-hopping in Berlin takes us to Rum Trader and Lebensstern.
Last night I continued my investigation into Berlin bars. Our first stop was Lebensstern, a bar in the upstairs of a mansion that once belonged to a silent film star. On the ground floor is Café Einstein, a Viennese-style café and restaurant. Upstairs spread over about 5 different rooms and a small balcony is Lebensstern.
There is one bar in the former men’s parlour that serves the rest of the rooms, which are furnished with a variety of plush seating. Throughout the rooms are spread display cases that hold alcohol, and not only are the bottles used for drinks at the bar, they are for sale as well. (I made a point to not look very closely lest I overfill my suitcase and drain my bank account.) The huge variety of liquor from around the world earned it the World’s Best Drink Selection award at Tales of the Cocktail in 2010.
I had a Mai Tai made by a nervous bartender (he learned that I wrote the huge Mai Tai story in the current issue of Mixology) with Renegade Rum, but he shouldn’t have worried: it was one of the best Mai Tais I’ve ever had. I followed this drink with the Insomnia, made with saffron gin, Punt e Mes, maple syrup, and peach bitters.
This I followed with a drink called something like the Bookeroni- Booker’s bourbon, Aperol, and Carpano vermouth. The current most trendy classic cocktail in San Francisco is the Old Pal (bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Campari) so this made me feel right at home. I did not get to sample their most popular cocktail, the Kartauser Martini, made with Booth’s gin, Green Chartreuse, Dolin dry vermouth, and Chartreuse Elixir Vegetal.
At Lebensstern they add several very high-quality touches to the drinks: When squeezing a lemon peel over a drink, they also squeeze it on the stem of the glass so the aroma sticks to your fingers. They also seem to freeze all their glassware, even the old-fashioned glasses, so drinks stayed cold with no almost dilution from the ice throughout the drink.
I could have stayed here all night, but we had another wonderful bar to see.
We next headed to Rum Trader, a tiny little bar with about 8 barstools and one table. The bar was run by one bartender dressed like an undertaker and host Mr. Scholl. They serve cocktails in fussy, mismatched vintage glassware and have a range of liquor to drink (much of it gin and rum) that is no longer made. Mr. Scholl also showed us a selection of vintage bar tools that belonged to the previous owner, including an old ice scoop, port strainer, and a muddler that was at least 30 years old (but looks just like the muddlers of today). We were also privileged to visit the basement, through what looked like a series of catacombs, where Mr. Scholl stores his supplies in several rooms.
I had a few drinks including a Demerara Manhattan and a Gin and Tonic, and though the drinks were tasty, here the star is the atmosphere and the host. This is the kind of bar you dream about retiring to run for the rest of your days. That is, if you have the personality of Mr. Scholl to pull it off.
Stay tuned for more bars and more drinks: Bar Convent Berlin starts tomorrow!