A far cry from the rowdy Bierkellers that have come to be associated by many with the German bar scene in the UK, Germany in fact has a long and distinguished heritage of sophisticated cocktail joints and talented bartenders. Its reputation for combining classic drinks and bar culture with innovative approaches to mixology has earned many of its venues world-class status and renown.
Here we take look at five of Germany’s current best bars – it’s by no means an exhaustive list but it at least has the makings of a fun road-trip…Prost!
Buck and Breck, Berlin
Coming in at number 16 in the World’s 50 Best Bars 2015, Buck and Breck is the highest ranking German establishment currently on the list. Named after a Champagne cocktail dating back to the era of 1860s US president James Buchanan and his vice-president John Breckinridge, the tiny hidden bar in Berlin’s Mitte is concealed behind the frontage of what is seemingly an art gallery and accessed only by ringing a bell.
With just 14 seats, all arranged around the long black bar, the stylish but understated interior is designed by Swiss architects, Bask, and influenced by bartender-owner’s Gonçalo de Sousa Monteiro own architectural training. The concise menu focuses on historical cocktails, with a few subtle twists here and there, served in beautiful copper brass cups. The venue prides itself on impeccable service – you are welcomed by a doorman, escorted to the door on leaving and attended to throughout your visit with an old-school attention to detail.
Gin-lovers should order: Clover Club – The bar has its own special way of making this gin-based cocktail, which dates back to the 1800s.
While it might also be a small, hidden bar in Berlin, Fairytale offers a very different night out to what you’ll find at Buck and Breck. Inspired by the Fountain of Fairy Tales (Märchenbrunnen) in the nearby Volkspark Friedrichshain, the bar embraces its magical, wonderland theme with gusto and is filled with curiosities and surprises.
The décor is reminiscent of Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland, with face-painted and costumed bar staff, ‘Drink Me’ potions, a bathroom mirror that turns your eyes square and a menu hidden in a pop-up fairy tale book. Thankfully, the cocktails live up to the extraordinary surroundings – despite only opening last year, it has already picked up a gong for Bar Menu of the Year at the Mixology Bar Awards 2016.
Gin-lovers should order: Froschkönig (The Frog King) – This green-hued concoction, inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, combines gin, lime and cucumber syrup.
Le Lion Bar de Paris, Hamburg
Despite what its name might suggest, Le Lion is in fact located in Hamburg, where it has been serving up first class cocktails since 2007 – and winning awards for almost as long. This classic cocktail bar, owned by renowned bartender Jörg Meyer, currently clocks in at number 19 in the Worlds 50 Best Bars list and is one of only five bars in the history of the poll to have been listed seven years in a row.
The bar’s small, luxurious lounge has a gold lion as its centrepiece and a menu that focuses on perfectly made classic cocktails and champagne. Meyer himself describe it thus: “You don’t enter a bar, you are entering our extended living room where someone has put a bar at the end. And a big lion. Hopefully you are not afraid of lions.” As long as the lion doesn’t get between us and the cocktails, Jörg, we think it will be fine….
Gin-lovers should order: Gin Basil Smash – A cocktail that caused somewhat of a sensation when it was created at the bar by Jörg Meyer in 2008, don’t miss the opportunity to try this modern classic on its home turf.
Schummans Bar am Hofgarten, Munich
This legendary Munich bar, named after its equally legendary owner, master bartender Charles Schumman, has retained its reputation as one of the world’s best bars for over 30 years. Located in the city’s historic Odeonsplatz, the venue opens right through from breakfast to late night drinks (there is a restaurant so you don’t have to drink the whole time). The bar specialises in perfect classic cocktails, with a large range of Campari-based drinks on offer.
The décor is refined and low key, with plush red leather banquettes surrounding the wood-panelled bar. In the same building you’ll also find two other Schumann venues - specialist Campari bar, Camparino, and Japanese-themed bar, Les Fleurs du Mal, which has a huge offering of sake and Japanese whisky. All in all, Schumann’s can be relied on for a sophisticated taste of the old school. “Every year for 33 years, we’ve tried to get better,” Charles Schumann claims – and it shows.
Gin-lovers should order: Clarito Maria – Charles Schumman’s own creation, Negroni fans will love this gin and Campari-based twist on a classic martini.
Bagging the titles for both German Bar of the Year and Mixologist of the Year in the Mixology Bar Awards 2016, as well as Best new International Cocktail Bar at the industry-renonwned Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, Volker Seibert’s eponymous Cologne venue has been turning heads since it first opened its doors in 2014. The venue has the feel of a grand hotel or private members club, with chandeliers, Chesterfield sofas and heavy red curtains – as well as a tranquil, heated rear courtyard.
The bar is known for its wide variety of rare spirits, which it combines with unique homemade ingredients created in the in-house ‘Liquid Kitchen’. The drinks are not only delicious, but also beautifully presented in stylish glassware and decorated with petals and served faultlessly by the skilled barstaff.
Gin-lovers should order: Three Wishes Gin Tonic – This magical concoction of gin, dried 1970 Campari, grapefruit zest, lemongrass, green cardamom, lemon myrtle, thyme and red Szechuan pepper is macerated through three chambers of a Cold Drip tower for six hours before serving. Not your standard G&T…