"TRENDS ARE HOKUM,” declares Hamburg bar Le Lion’s Jörg Meyer – whose bar regularly makes the World’s 50 Best list – in a lengthy blog post. He may not like the media’s hunt for trends, but the entrepreneur has definitely started some all by himself – the most famous probably being the world’s first ‘internet cocktail’, Gin Basil Smash.
Currently Meyer is making heavy use of two apps. One is Meerkat, a live streaming service connected to Twitter where cocktail lovers can watch his team preparing for a night at Le Lion or enjoy being taken on a tour through Hamburg. The other is Swig (formerly known as Shindig) which is pretty much an Instagram for the drinks industry. Following Meyer’s example, bartenders from around Germany have been flocking to the service. Scrolling through their profiles you can get a
first-hand impression of what kind of cocktails and ingredients they are imbibing and using.
Another visible drinks segment in the German Swig community is craft beer. Hamburg’s Andrej Busch, bar manager of Boilerman bar, for example, has been posting images of Hawaiian Kona Longboard Island Lager and Hamburg start-up Buddelship Mitschnagger Pilsener.
In Berlin’s Bar am Steinplatz Christian Gentemann is riding the new German beer wave, too. He’s just opened a craft beer pop-up store next to his bar and is playing around with beer as a cocktail ingredient: “We have a Bloody Mary with mescal on the menu, where we make use of an India Pale Ale. Another ingredient is tomato essence that works extremely well with the aroma of the beer.”
Beer syrups they’re producing are nothing new to the scene in his opinion. But Gentemann currently enjoys using beer ice in cocktails: “It’s very simple to make and with all the different beer styles now available you can produce interesting effects.”
When talking to another Berlin bartender, Roger Breitenegger, who has recently left Monkey Bar to open pop-up bar Taped, craft beer and mezcal are mentioned once again: “While we still have a gin hype here in Germany, mezcal seems to be a favourite of the bartenders. But a trend that is very real definitely is craft beer.” He has created five signature cocktails combining craft spirits and craft beer and says customers’ response to these specials had been very positive.
While German bartenders seem to rediscover their love for local beverages, the presentation of cocktails is changing as well. “Mixed drinks used to be very minimalistic with only a tiny strip of lemon peel on top, but now you can find very opulent garnishes in German bars,” says Dietmar Petri from Schumann’s bar in Munich. “It’s much more about the whole package today and customers obviously like that extra bit of show.”
A lot of that new showmanship can be found in new Berlin bar Lost in Grub Street, run by former theatre director Oliver Ebert. No bar counter can be found in this drinking den. Instead the bartenders move around with a bar wagon, serving punches and a small selection of short drinks. Asked why he chose the Punch theme for his new bar, Ebert mentions the social aspect: “We didn’t want customers watching the bartender shaking. We wanted to avoid the classic stage feeling. People should be able to engage with each other without any distraction.”
Lost in Grub Street serves cocktails with German fruit brandies and herbal spirits. The stars of his new cocktail creations are not vodkas, tequilas or gins, but rather Waldhimbeergeist (forest raspberry distillate), Vogelbeerschnaps (rowan berry schnaps) and Iva Geist (Swiss musk yarrow distillate).
To achieve the perfect temperature, drinks are only chilled from the outside during preparation. The bar makes use of a mix of dry ice and crushed ice. As there is no natural dilution happening, water is added to the mix like an ingredient.
If you summarise the feedback you get talking to German bartenders, the future of the German cocktail is regional. And even Jörg Meyer, who despises talk of trends, concedes that he enjoys drinking “fruit eau de vies and distillates” more and more.