David Wiedemann, the Golden Mixologist
Owner of Berlin bar Reingold and the renowned Barschule, David Wiedemann is a man who pulls no punches. Andrew Wilkin talks to him about micro-clubbing, his hospitality upbringing and the drinks he holds dear.
“It’s not VIP. I hate that word!” David Wiedemann leads me from the familiar amber palette of Reingold to a small room, still under construction but with its DNA well intact. Regular denizens of the Mitte mainstay won’t know it yet, but hidden behind the giant mural of Thomas Mann’s children, Klaus and Erika, lies a secret space, accessible only by code, aiming to take his 1930’s-speakeasy experience just that little bit further. What’s clear is this – in this room where liquor bottles hang laboriously from the ceiling (á la Melbourne’s dearly departed Der Raum and Torstraße’s Butcher’s Bar, where Wiedemann once was involved) and where also a tight dancefloor waits dormantly for its awakening, Wiedemann is about to give his golden kid a micro-clubbing spin.
And when Wiedemann says he vehemently opposes the VIP tag, he’s being honest. Right from the entrance where doorman Mario greets all with a smile, it’s always been obvious that Reingold is glamorous, but minus the fear that afflicts many a high-heeled newbie to Mitte’s snootier straßen. And the new club? It’s simply a place for freunde of Reingold, so to speak, to give their night a welcome extension. “But this isn’t Berghain!”, he laughs. “Lets call it a micro-club.” There’s no name yet and its opening is TBA, but it’s a welcome addition to Wiedemann’s repertoire, a man who doesn’t like to rest on his laurels. Quite the contrary, Wiedemann refutes the term workaholic, but there’s no denying he’s a man who constantly likes to mix things up.
The Tex-Mex Effect
Wiedemann’s past underlines his current ambition. Hospitality is a word hot on his lips, and justifiably so. It runs right through his blood. From his beginnings, over twenty years ago, to his Berlin bar empire of today – including Reingold, die Barschule and the training base at Baroom – it’s an industry that’s shaped his entire world-view.
David’s parents made their living in the restaurant business, owning one of Berlin’s biggest restaurants in Steglitz and his first working experience was at nineteen in a West Berlin hotel, but Wiedemann explains that it’s his step-father who was the greatest influence. A restaurant entrepreneur and owner of Berlin institutions Nolas am Weinberg and Schnitzelei, David elucidates further on his experience at his stepfather’s ‘Tres Kilo’s, one of Berlin’s first ever Tex-Mex restaurants. “Stefan is a true businessman. He said to me: ‘You have to start your career in this industry at the bottom! Cleaning the dishes. You don’t skip to the second or third steps here!’ And what I loved about it was that the great atmosphere spread throughout the entire restaurant, from the bar to even the dishwashing area!”
The advice aspiring bartenders should take from this? Learn your trade – from the very bottom. And since finding out that dishes don’t necessarily equal doldrums, David’s done it all. Working on a cruise ship, spending time working in the Ibizan sunset and of course, the Sage Club.
The Birth of the Barschule
“In terms of modern bar culture, this is undeniably what was most important for me.” Known for hosting the lascivious KitKat, Sage is a name which gets pre-Easy Jet set clubbers lips quivering with excited nostalgia. “I was very in with Jack and Nico, who ran the club, and they taught me a lot, away from just the restaurant business. And then sometime in 2001, we decided to open up our own bar school!” From then on, the rest, as they say, is history. He left to Barschule Rostock to do his Masters in 2001, and by May 2002, the Barschule was born. Then followed some years of specialist flairbartending, even writing the Flair Report for our very own MIXOLOGY! Hotels, bars, restaurants, clubs all over Berlin, by the time of the Barschule’s birth, Wiedemann was ready to teach a whole new generation the ins-and-outs of hospitality.
Gastro family De Jour
Fast-forward to the modern day, whizzing straight past the opening of Reingold in 2008 and his Baroom in 2011 and you’ve got a family, which Wiedemann smiles, is “pretty damn cool”. That long history of hospitality is continuing on with defiant aplomb. “You can add another business to the list, as my wife runs the coffee shop Stulle & Brot by Savignyplatz, but I stay away from that. Zero time! And of course my stepfather, Stefan, still runs six restaurants!” David then goes on to neatly summarise them all: “I do drinks, he does food and my wife does coffee”. If you want to define a family as gastronomic, here’s one that fits the bill. It’s somewhat a relief for David to spend time either with his daughter or his two best friends, both with no gastronomic background, fixing up his Chevrolet El Camino 72.
Drinking in the Dark
It’s 11 p.m. on a Friday evening in May and heading back into Reingold, it’s clear that the upbeat swing and motown soundtrack betrays the darkened shadow the long bar lies in. It’s here where Wiedemann lets rip on bars exuding too much light, something he learnt from Gregor Scholl of Rum Trader fame. “Bars should be like caves! After all, at the beginning of human existence, we lived in caves. For drinking, you want to to be somehow lost in time. All darkness and red lights.” And what do Reingold’s regulars say about this? “I often get complaints it’s too dark! But bars for me have to be like that!”
It’s Gregor Scholl, aficionado of the bar-as-cave theory, that Wiedemann has most praise for. “He’s no nonsense and that vintage style that’s currently so big in Berlin, he started this around 20 years ago!” Marcus Wolff of Kreuzberg’s intimate Bar Marques is one you can add to his list too, a younger mixologist he prides for his discipline.
The Surprise Drink?
Beer, champagne, tequila and rum, not a surprise given his adulation for Scholl, are his top four base drinks. And as for cocktails? He’s a big fan of The Last Word and all types of Manhattan.
But it’s his next admission that will surprise many a MIXOLOGY reader. He adores Red Bull. And it’s a definite passion he has for the flighty energy drink. “I’ve loved mixing Red Bull since I was very young. It’s the best brand around, with the best advertising. It’s stayed by my side my entire career.”
A Micro-Clubbing Future
Drifting back into Reingold’s backroom, just waiting to be adorned with it’s very own Klaus and Erika paper mural, it’s clear Wiedemann is ready to add clubbing to his gastro world. Sometimes reserved for private events, sometimes not, it’s a space with a flexible verve. He isn’t worried that there isn’t space for dancing in Mitte, even with the recent news of Cookies’ closure. And of course, code notwithstanding, it’s definitely not VIP! But what’s next?
Right now, he talks of working with ARD on some TV. He pauses, “lets remember that Reingold was born at 3 in the morning! I’m not one for making long-term plans, but I’m addicted to changing things and making things happen. Something will happen.” It’s a claim, given his past history, that isn’t too hard to believe.