City Guide to Berlin

As we continue our journey through the best city bars in the world, Helmut Adam from Mixology magazine, investigates the German capital

If you’re looking for a symbol to stand for the Berlin of the moment, it would probably best be a construction crane. Though Berlin has been in a constant transformative process since the German unification in 1990, the number of new construction sites has visibly been shooting up again over the past couple of years.

In a recent PWC study, Cities of Opportunites, Berlin, for years attributed with a “poor but sexy” image, was ranked 15th, appearing for the first time alongside heavyweights such as New York, Tokyo, Sydney and London.

It’s not only the body, the physical substance of Berlin, that is currently getting a massive face lift. The ‘brain’ of the German capital, the city’s famous creative class, is experiencing an incredibly strong influx from abroad too – with no end in sight.

The native language of these new Berliners is very often English, with an east coast American accent. But sitting on the counters of Berlin’s bars, you’ll run into an increasing numbers of Brits, French and Spaniards as well. They all share a common goal – to be part of the rise of the German capital.

While these new citizens have already had an impact on the city’s gourmet coffee and craft beer scene, they are starting to have their own bar places, too. Not a month goes by without a new expat drinking den opening up. So far none of these has made the top 10 list. But it’ll only be a matter of time.

The most recent developments of note in Berlin are, however, the first signs of a big comeback of the capital’s western part. Since the wall came down almost all interesting restaurant and bar openings have happened in central or eastern districts. This seems to be changing. And the first visible sign is the western Monkey Bar making the top 10 list as a newcomer. Enjoy!

Monkey Bar @ 25 Hours Hotel, Budapester str. 40, Berlin

The 25 Hours hotel chain has opened a number of design-led venues in central Europe over the past couple of years.

But probably none of them got more media coverage than the opening of its latest Berlin venue Bikini.

A lot of that has to do with the rooftop Monkey Bar. It’s been stormed since its opening.

A smart cocktail offering, a playful interior and a stunning view of the city skyline are part of the successful formula.

Why the name Monkey Bar? You’re sipping your cocktails right next to the zoo and its monkey enclosure.

We doubt you’ll spot one of the furry animals though. With Roger Breitenegger and Cordula Langer you’ll find two experienced mixologists behind the stick.

Buck & Breck, Brunnenstr. 177, Berlin

Named after two infamous American politicians, James Buchanan and John Breckinridge, Buck & Breck is what you could call Berlin’s most ambitious mixologist bar.

The place is tiny, tucked away behind a window display curated by Berlin artist Theo Ligthart and is near to a police station.

Calling in for reservations is recommended as the bar has quickly been adopted by serious cocktail lovers and Berlin-Mitte glitterati since it opened back in 2010.

There are only 14 seats available at the massive black table counter that fills up most of the tiny space.

Drinks are composed with unparalleled precision and served in small glasses.

You won’t see many brands in this cocktail oasis. In order to save space on his mixing station, owner Goncalo des Sousa Moneiro has developed a colour-coding system for a small standard pouring bottle. So if you order off the menu, it’s a bit of a mystery as to what goes into the glass. But be assured – it will be a drink of the highest quality.

Becketts Kopf, Pappelallee 64, Berlin

Another Berlin bar that worships classic mixology. Becketts Kopf has won numerous awards over the years.

Owner Oliver Ebert used to work as a theatre director before entering the liquid business. You can still feel his past when you pick up one of the menus – Samuel Beckett novels with cocktail and spirits recommendations pegged into it.

Most cocktails on the list are his own creations based on classics. The spirits offering is very much off mainstream.

Ebert is known for hand picking his pouring spirits and for playing around with out-of-fashion ingredients such as sherry or port.

He does also collaborate with Berlin Michelin-starred chefs from time to time.

So if you’d like to pick up a dining out recommendation you’re absolutely in the right spot at Becketts Kopf – another oasis in the bar desert that is Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district.

Lebensstern, Kurfürstenstr. 58, Berlin

The ‘star of life’ is one of Germany’s most well known bars abroad and has won numerous awards for both its spirits collection and its talented bartenders.

The former villa of German silent movie star Henny Porten is a culinary gem. While the mezzanine floor hosts a famous Viennese style coffee house, you’ll find the real definition of a living room bar in the former private rooms of Porten upstairs.

Renowned bartenders such as Ricardo Albrecht (now at Immertreu), Thomas Pflanz and Thomas Altenberger have run the place in the years since it opened.

However, ups and downs seem to be the fate of Lebensstern. The talented bar team that was running the place for a number of years just left weeks ago.

The management has now announced that the bar will stay closed for the summer. We’re hoping for a grand reopening in autumn as this place definitely belongs in Berlin’s top list.

Reingold, Novalisstr. 11, Berlin

The famous libertarian siblings Klaus and Erika Mann are the dominant feature of this beautful Mitte bar. Sitting on the wall they’re together watching the place fill up night after night.