Just down the street from Checkpoint Charlie in what used to be known as East Berlin, is a quickly growing area of new bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Contrary to its long term austerity during Soviet occupation, it has become a young, hip and vibrant community of art, architecture and, of course, craft cocktails. We, your humble servants at the Consumatorium, set out to find the best places in town so you can just enjoy them when you get there.
Berlin is yet to become a New York, London or San Francisco when it comes to cocktail culture. Thus, several of its leading craft cocktail bars are located in hotels. In general, we find that hotel-based bars are sometimes lacking since unlike dedicated bars, the bartenders serve more customers who don’t appreciate craft drinks than those that do. That said, if you find yourself in Potsdamer Platz, The Curtain Club at the Ritz Carlton Berlin is worthy of your time. While the place is full of Americans, if you hang at the bar and speak with the German bartenders, they will build you some excellent cocktails. I had multi-Amari, rye-based concoction that was excellent.
On the small, independent side of things, a popular craft bar that is getting a lot of attention is The Newton Bar which is about a 15 minute walk from Brandenburg Gate. The place is trendy and a bit small so you may have to wait for a seat. It’ll be worth it though. The cocktails are inventive and tasty.
Our favorite stop was the Windhorst. Just a few blocks northeast of Brandenburg Gate and down a not particularly well lit side street (it made us recall films of cold war espionage) is a small establishment with a single bartender making terrific cocktails. As with many Berlin bars, you’ll have to put up with smoking in the bar, but trust us when we say that the drinks are a fair trade for the few days you may shorten your life.
In a twist we didn’t expect, when we asked for recommendations from the bartender, he steered us to his tiki drinks. So, our first round included a Mai Tai and a Planter’s Punch variation. In the next round, we moved to an Old Fashioned and a Sazerac. Both were superb and a bit different from the standard with the bartender’s own twist on the cocktails.
We’d suggest that along with your drinks, have a few bar snacks. The nuts were terrific, but the bar back will happily go and shave slices off a cooked pig at the end of the bar. Delicious, if you’re into that sort of thing. The whole experience is highly recommended.