One Trick Pony: The Freiburg Bar With a Whole Bag of Tricks
One Trick Pony set a new record at this year’s MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS, with six nominations and three award wins. Based in the small German city of Freiburg, it’s a bar that prioritizes both fine drinking and fun.
One thing that’s notable about Germany’s bar scene – and the country in general, for that matter – is the decentralization of great venues and great talent. The best bars aren’t concentrated in Berlin – there are a number of major cities with lots to offer. In the UK, in contrast, a quick look at the winners of this year’s Class Bar Awards shows a list entirely dominated by London bars. That level of concentration just doesn’t happen here. In fact, even smaller German cities like Bamberg are receiving national and international attention.
Another regional German wunderkind is One Trick Pony, a cocktail bar in the small city of Freiburg. Owned by Boris Görner and Andreas Schöler, One Trick Pony has created a buzz in Freiburg since opening just over a year ago. The bar has won a slew of awards, including the top prize at The House of Thomas Henry in May. Most notably, though, One Trick Pony picked up six nominations and an unprecedented three awards at this year’s MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS, for New Bar of the Year, Bar Menu of the Year, and Mixologist of the Year for head bartender Jan Jehli.
One Trick Pony: A tale of three bars
The bar’s name hints at Görner and Schöler’s story. Both had previously worked at a hybrid bar-club-art-gallery in Freiburg named Passage 49 – a venue that, while popular, came to an untimely end. Having both previously worked at Freiburg’s Hemingway Bar – the only place pre-Pony to get a good cocktail in the mid-German city – they decided to try opening a bar of their own. But it would just be a bar. No more fusion concepts. When it comes to their bar, they’re one trick ponies.
While it was tricky to find a place – space in the small city of Freiburg is at a premium – they came across one of the oldest locations in the city, a former nightclub. “The previous tenants had problems with neighbors and noise,” says Schöler. After more than a year of wrangling with the authorities, they managed to get approval for One Trick Pony, so long as it remained just a bar. Since, in Schöler’s words, that’s what the pair are good at, it was the perfect fit.
Fine Drinks and Diving
One Trick Pony has the tagline “fine drinks and diving”, but it’s casual about it. “To open a successful bar, you need to know your customers,” says Schöler. “And for our customers, we learned not to be too geeky about it.” Freiburg, with its 230,000 inhabitants and tiny craft cocktail scene, wasn’t exactly ready for a cocktail geekfest. The locals, to borrow Schöler’s phrase, were used to big drinks at small prices, and were hardly well-versed in Daiquiris and Dry Martinis.
“Most [Freiburgers] assume it’s a stiff upper lip place…white tablecloths and bow ties, but we want to change that,” Schöler says. One Trick Pony is definitely a fun bar, low-lit and cosy with big leather sofas to recline on. There’s psychedelic wallpaper – “a jungle on acid” – and a host of vintage sound equipment, with Italian disco, African funk, and a whole lot more blasting from the decks. There’s no chance anybody who’s been inside would call One Trick Pony stiff.
One Trick Pony’s Hidden Geekery
The menu of 24 drinks is filled entirely with Görner and Schöler’s own inventions, featuring many quirky options. They may not want to intimidate their customers with cocktail geekery, but that doesn’t mean they’re afraid to get experimental. The pair redistill spirits with a rotovap, and use centrifuges, enzymes, and wine-fining agents to clarify their juices. Try the Applejack cocktail, one of the most popular drinks on the menu, which mixes redistilled whiskey with carbonated and clarified apple juices.
Schöler reels off a list of other methods the One Trick Pony team uses, including fermenting honey with ginger and turmeric root, creating a red habanero distillate vodka, and storing gin in big glass vessels with beeswax. They also go local, procuring quinces from nearby farms. Even more impressive: all this is put together by a small team of just four full-time staff – including the two owners and head bartender Jan Jehli – and a few part-timers.
Things have changed a lot since the triple win at the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS in October. “It was such a surprise, as nobody expected so many nominations,” says Schöler. “Well…people had suggested that maybe you will get nominated.” He followed this mantra: don’t wish for it, to save yourself from the inevitable disappointment.
After One Trick Pony’s record-breaking night at the ceremony in Berlin, the popularity of the bar has exploded. “Beforehand, on a normal day, it was 70% to-order cocktails, and we had wine, Gin & Tonics and beers too,” Schöler says. “But since then it’s just been cocktails – it’s all we can manage.” Since the awards, more and more people are coming from other cities – and countries – just to check out the bar. Why does Schöler think One Trick Pony is so appealing? “We’ve got a true and straight concept,” Andreas says confidently. He also puts it down to the neverending quest for new experiences. “People nowadays want unusual ingredients, or to try a drink with Parmesan,” Schöler says, with a smile.
One Trick Pony is the perfect example of the diversity of Germany’s bold and innovative bar scene. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
Foto: Photo via Baschi Bender.