The Top Five Bars in Berlin
Berlin is a booming European tourist destination. Many visitors come for the famous Berlin nightlife, the capital’s clubs and bars. Callia Amer asked a number of renowned bar experts where they would send their friends.
This past Easter weekend, a record-breaking 2 million tourists spent the night in Berlin. With a plethora of bars endeavoring to fill visitors’ desires to take a sip of the city’s infamous nightlife, you may find yourself in need of guidance. To help you with this cocktail crisis MIXOLOGY has asked international bar managers and drink experts to reveal their favorite Berlin drinking dens. Despite their very different personalities the five cocktail houses that excited them most have one thing in common; they surpass others in Berlin with their exceptional drinks.
Lebensstern – A journey to heaven
Calling it a bar “with interesting guests, and simple, classic, subtle drinks,” international consultant Phillip Duff hails Lebensstern (Kurfürstenstraße 58) for its understated excellence. Located above Einstein Cafe, this formal cocktail lounge attracts a mature crowd. With an impressive spirit collection consisting of 1800 varieties including the largest gin collection in Europe, it’s no wonder that this bar is a favorite of many international mixologists. Lebensstern also makes its own syrups and aromatic sprays and boasts an in-house herb-garden terrace.
If you are a peated whiskey lover like I am I recommend trying a cocktail with Lebensstern’s smoky syrup, made by replacing the customary water with Talisker whiskey. The drink’s sensation will linger until long after your last sip. The “flight” section of the menu offers a tasting of their astounding spirit collection. Whether you order off of the menu or are in the mood for something specific, the bartenders indulge patrons’ individual desires and take you on a journey, happy to permit you to tour the space through the gin room to “heaven,” where the rest of their exhaustive collection lives and where you will likely feel yourself to be, once you’ve enjoyed a few of their enticing creations.
Lebensstern, Kurfürstenstraße 58, 10785 Berlin
Edit 15.05.2014: We’ve just received information that unfortunately Lebensstern will be closed all summer this year. Bar manager Thomas Altenberger and most of the team have left.
Amano Bar – Contemporary and Cultivated Cocktails
A trendy watering hole located in the lobby of the eponymous hotel, Amano Bar (Auguststraße 43), attracts a younger crowd. The spacious and modern Mitte lounge is equipped with both a generously sized bar as well as couched seating areas suited for small hip groups. Don’t be fooled by the scene-y crowd. Amano’s well-trained staff delivers consistent excellence when it comes to serving cocktails.
The playful menu offers a wide variety of intriguing mixtures, each with its own flirtatious tagline. “The Tin Tin”, (tagline: Good Morning France), is made with Hennessy, lemon and lime, simple syrup, absinthe, maraschino, and egg white and is one example of the many creative and delicious creations. It comes as no surprise that Cihan Anadologlu, renowned bartender at Schumann’s Bar in Munich makes sure to stop by here when he’s in Berlin only a few times a year “to have great drinks.” One of his favorite Berlin cocktails was served to him here by treasured bar-manager, Philip Bischoff, who led his team to win Mixology’s Bar Team of the Year award in 2013. Its stylish charm and unsurpassable cocktails make this the place to go when you are craving excellence on a night out with friends.
Amano Bar, Auguststraße 43, 10119 Berlin
Rum Trader – Time Travel to Rum Paradise
This tiny bar with its pre-war interior is a true Berlin gem. It is hard to imagine Rum Trader (Fasanenstr. 40) without famed bar-manager Mr. Scholl who international consultant Philip Duff calls “one of a vanishing breed.” Upon your entry, Mr. Scholl gazes at you through his half circle glasses and asks you several questions about your preferences before making your first drink. Using a few fine ingredients, such as an out-of-production Jamaican dark rum whose bottle he’ll be happy to show you, is the approach of this no-frills, purist bar. I recommend trying the “Mai Tai”, which is available in three different strengths. The classic rum cocktail which is served neither in a tiki glass nor with an umbrella will have you understanding why international pub managers such as Markus Blattner of Old Crow and Stefan Gabanyi of Bar Gabanyi hold Rum Trader in the highest esteem.
A combination of Rum Trader’s size as well as Mr. Scholl’s hospitality will likely have you conversing with the delightful regulars who come for the quality cocktails. “One always meets the most interesting people there” (Philip Duff). One patron tells us he “prefer[s] drinks that were invented before prohibition,” going on to complain about other Berlin pubs and to point out that the drinks at Rum Trader are probably as strong as a 7cl drink at your average bar. A dreamy relic and according to Mr. Scholl “the oldest bar in town,” Rum Trader is truly unparalleled.
Rum Trader, Fasanenstraße 40, 10719 Berlin
Buck & Breck – A Daring Pre-Prohibition Adventure
International cocktail authorities asked to name their favorite Berlin drinking dens often respond with Buck and Breck (Brunnenstraße 177). Stefan Gabanyi of Bar Gabanyi in Munich says “they have the best drinks in town” and calls the its manager, Goncalo de Sousa Monteiro, his “favorite barman in Germany.” The dark, narrow lounge has a modern, punk-y feel to it. The bar is the only seating area, creating an intimate vibe and allowing you to watch the skilled mixologists as they mix your drink to perfection.
Firmly rooted in cocktail history, Buck and Breck shares its name with a cocktail that dates back to the 1860s American administration of Buckanan and Breckinridge. The drink, which contains cognac, bitters, a dash of absinthe, champagne, and lemon juice, is a good representation of the complex and refined selection you can expect here. Manager of both Le Lion and Boilerman in Hamburg, Jörg Meyer, can recall having one of his favorite Berlin cocktails, “The Clover Club,” here. It is a gin-based cocktail also dating back to the 1800s, which he tells us “Goncalo has his own way of making.” A bar “with lots of love and passion” (Erich Wassicek of Halbestadt Bar in Vienna), this is a Berlin must for any serious cocktail lover.
Buck & Breck, Brunnenstrasse 177, 10119 Berlin
Becketts Kopf – Theatre of the Innerve
Ring the bell and you will be escorted into a a cozy dark red and green interior with a strong ambiance. At Becketts Kopf (Pappelallee 64) “the drink is just part of an excellent, technically perfect and personally warm and friendly way of doing things,” Philip Duff tells Mixology. Its intimacy and speakeasy vibe make it a favorite of many other experts, including Old Crow of Zurich’s Markus Blattner, and Stefan Gabanyi of Bar Gabanyi in Munich.
Becketts Kopf has an attention to detail that sets it apart. Here you can expect to be served a perfectly mixed drink with the ideal garnish to enhance it. Whether your cocktail is served on a spherical ice-cube or made with fresh-squeezed juice, you can be sure that its fine points have been well thought out. Aromatic sprays ensure no sense is left unexcited. Bartenders are happy to answer questions and share their drink knowledge. Try their “Lusitanian”, a classic to be found on their monthly menu. It’s a rich cinnamon cocktail made with Portuguese brandy, tawny port, homemade cherry liquor, a dash of bitters, and a homemade cherry. This bar’s superior service and attention to detail make it ideal for relaxing while being pampered with a fine cocktail.
Becketts Kopf, Pappelallee 64, 10437 Berlin
From an upscale lounge with a wide array of spirits to a tiny rum joint that will make you feel like you have traveled through time, these five cocktail dens are the favorites of international mixologists. Whatever you are craving, they will quench your thirst for cocktail perfection.
Foto: Berlin via Shutterstock