Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Boozy Berlin

We wrapped up our German adventure with 4 nights in Berlin, a city I had been eagerly wanting to see for years. The city's juxtaposition of buildings survived by the war and modern glass architecture, starting with the train station, was stunning. The east & west sections now open to each other continue to have distinct personalities. We saw a lot which I do plan on posting about but one of the things that shone most brightly about Berlin was its incredible cocktail culture.


Thanks to our friend Mike Meinke we were in for quite a tour of the cities best bars. It started on our very first night at Mike's own TrioBar. Trio is a secret museum of liquor with an unpublished address and open only a few days a week. To gain entry you'll need to call the number and answer some questions. If you gain admittance you'll be wowed by the staggering inventory of over 900 (many old and rare) bottles of things like the original Kina Lillet, 100 year old Old Tom Gins, Black Tot, etc. There's no menu, this is the ultimate candy store for cocktail nerds.

Mike invited us over along with another friend of his who was entertaining some guys in from San Francisco, one who turned out to be the CTO of Mozilla. Rare liquor & techy big wigs? Dayne was in heaven to say the least.
Our Tasting of Rare Old Tom Gins

There's a small connecting room that Mike co-owns called Rum Club which is a members only type of set up. Serious collectors of either establishment can rent lockers for their prize bottles and visiting bartenders can work one night a week or so in exchange for a free room.

The next night we did a mini bar crawl starting at Lebensstern which won the award for World’s Best Drink Selection at Tales of the Cocktail in 2010. This comfortable little bar upstairs from Cafe Einstein has not only a delicious cocktail menu but the glass display cases of liquor are lovely to browse and they are also all for sale. Shop & sip? I like it!

Mike then had our cab take us to Fasanen 47 which even though he told us not many people knew about, was packed with fun loving regulars. At one point the tiny bar ran out of ice so Mike called his bar & had them send over some in a cab! Turns out almost none of the bars have their own on site ice machines instead buying it from others and then keeping it in their freezers.
The Boys Plotting...
We left Fasanen 47 and walked a short way down to Rum Trader where Herr Scholl has been in command for quite some time. After buzzing in to confirm we had a reservation we were allowed entry to this tiny 20 seater. Delicious drinks crafted exceptionally in the small kitschy bar with some seemingly unspoken rules gave it a " Soup Nazi" feel that I enjoyed (I do realize that may not be the best analogy to give but fans of Sienfield should understand). Gregor Scholl is actually an ultimate host and has one of the best professional bartender reputations in town.

Another night we met Mike at Becketts Kopf, a quiet classy little place doing perfectly made classics. The owners are a wonderful couple who give their bar manager full reign and enjoy just being customers.


And perhaps my favorite bar of the week was the wild west themed Stagger Lee. Outfitted like an old fashioned saloon with its swinging doors, collection of antique whisky bottles and peanuts in the shell for cracking. Stagger Lee offers an awesome cocktail menu with over 40 choices, somehow us American's felt right at home there.

Even our hotel bar at the Acor Velvet served up delicious drinks once we started chatting with the bartender. We made it a habit to stop in nightly before turning in to speak to Uwe about our day and our evening and the various places we visited. He was so excited about our interest that he gave us a "friends and family" discount each night and on our last sent us up to pack with minis of champagne on the house.

I would venture to say that Berlin is one of the best places I have visited for cocktails in the last 5 years!

All Berlin photos here

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hamburg, Take Two

We left Bavaria behind and took the train from Frankfurt to spend the weekend in Hamburg. We had reserved in advance but when we boarded the train we found someone else in our seats, they had been double booked. Dayne used his high school German with the conductor and soon we were in 1st class. It wasn't all clear sailing though as the conductor told us that if someone boarded in one of the other cities with our seats we'd have to move again. Luckily that didn't happen and soon we were checking into the über hip hotel The George.

We grabbed a few pre-dinner drinks in the hotel bar which does more than a just passable cocktail and then headed to Carl's out on the harbor for dinner. I really like this area of Hamburg, it's actually very similar to what's going on in London's Dock Lands (post coming). And the food at Carl's was a nice change from the big heavy Bavarian dishes we had been eating for the past week+.

After dinner we met our friend Cirsten at The Four Seasons in their "Luggage Room" Bar.

This tiny, 2 level bar tucked inside the elegant hotel is rumored to have once been a luggage storage area. Not a lot of people seem to know about it (besides the locals) and it's got a real speakeasy feel without being one at all. Great service and cocktails- Dayne took this photo standing in the doorway.

The next morning we went and did a bit of shopping at Weinquelle Liquor Store. This store was amazing, carrying a huge selection of things we can't find in the states and even giving us tastings (at 10:30am) of rare gins and whiskeys. Among other things Dayne picked up an amazing bottle of gin aged in Isley Scotch barrels.

We then met Forest who came over from Paris to join us for the night. And after lunch another friend Liz, met up.  Unlike us this was Dayne's first time in Hamburg so we went for a little sightseeing cruise around the harbor area.

One of the ships we saw was the Eclipse, the world's most expensive yacht being built for Roman Abramovich. It's 558 feet long, has nine decks, pool, cinema, 20 onboard jet skis, 4 boats, 2 heli pads and supposedly a missile defense system. All that and more for $500 million. 


Also in port at the time was the Maersk Sheerness which at 1,099.1 ft and carrying 8,000 20 foot containers, is one of the largest cargo ships in the world.

After the cruise we strolled around charming Hamburg for the rest of the afternoon.
That evening Forest, Dayne and I met our friend Cirsten at the wine shop she use to work at for champagne before before heading out to dinner at VLET. This is a wonderful restaurant which puts a modern spin on many classic German dishes and also uses some French influences.

No trip to Hamburg is complete without cocktails at Le Lion, where we headed to after dinner and stayed late into the night/ or early into the morning- however you like to look at it!

All photos from Hamburg are here.