World's 50 Best Bars editor Hamish Smith has been to Hamburg - here is his bar guide.


IT’S HARD to say where the top bar scene in Germany is  – the best venues are pretty evenly spread around its cities – so let’s just venture that Hamburg is up there. This is not a definitive list but if you happen upon Hamburg in need of refreshment, these bars won’t disappoint.  


Neuer Jungfernstieg 9 20354 Hamburg

A cubbyhole of dark woods which spirals over two floors at the entrance of Fairmont Vier Jahreszeiten hotel, Jahreszeiten is tiny but has a lot going for it. Here we’re talking classical styling – both in décor and drinks. In Germany, bar outings tend to be an evening affair, so it’s nice to have a sophisticated spot in the centre of town for that late afternoon stiffener. Barkeep Enrico Wilhelm will likely be there, manning the small serpentine bar at this venue’s centrepiece.


Eppendorfer Weg 211

20253 Hamburg

Jörg Meyer’s Boilerman is an expression of self-contradiction. “We wrote a list of everything we did for Le Lion and did the opposite,” says Meyer, as if dismissing the blueprint to one of the world’s most famous bars is the logical thing to do. But, like the Michelin star chef who eventually just wants to
open a brasserie, Meyer wanted a no-nonsense neighbourhood bar.

Le Lion has shaken cocktails, Boilerman does not shake any drink. Le Lion has one beer on the menu, Boilerman has 10. Le Lion is in the centre of town, Boilerman is a neighbourhood place, with neighbourhood prices. It’s a busy, no-pretence volume bar with skilful but simple drinks – most of which are highballs, using pre-batched recipes, all of which are served with two specially frozen ice balls. The drinks can be served in 10 seconds, which has to be a plus.


Hein-Hoyer-Strasse 7-9

20359 Hamburg

Freudenhaus translates to ‘house of pleasure’ – which obviously has connotations in other areas, but here the titillation is all in the liquid. Bottles festoon the place, like a model train set of a millionaire child’s bedroom. The 387 bottles of whisky, 266 of rum, 187 of gin and just one of vodka give a little insight into the proprietor’s sense of the spirits hierarchy. Beer is also available in a place that feels somewhere between a church and a bar. That is to say, a holy combination.


Taubenstraße 13

20359 Hamburg

An agave bar in Hamburg – this might seem a little out of place, and it is. But so is an agave bar in any other part of the word that’s not Mexico. Bettina Kupsa – formerly of Le Lion – is behind the venture, which opened in autumn 2015, so the drinks are right on the money.

Inside, it’s a green affair with an agave feature silhouetted on the wall, high tables and a bar stocked with the finest tequilas and mezcals available in Germany. It operates a tasting menu, which means you ‘chug’ a mini-drink (a couple of shots of cocktail) and move on to the next. It’s a concept borrowed from fancy restaurants which works well in liquid form. It keeps the tempo high and means more interaction with some of Hamburg’s most engaging bartenders. If you’re in northern Germany and you’re agreeable to agave, this is the place to slake your thirst.


Rathausstraße 3, 20095 Hamburg

With a gold lion as its centrepiece, Le Lion Bar de Paris is a gleaming beacon of the Hamburg bar scene. Not coincidently, Le Lion has been a constant fixture in The World’s 50 Best Bars since the awards began. More often than not its larger-than-life founder/owner Jörg Meyer is in attendance, orchestrating the lounging sophistication. The walls are velvety, the couches low-set and difficult to extricate yourself from, even if you wanted to. The floor has the kind of carpet that makes you wonder if you should take your shoes off at the door. Essentially, Le Lion is a hotel bar, missing the bedrooms. The bartenders wear suits – not least Meyer, who is hard to picture without braces, tie and suit. He is a consummate man of hospitality.

This is the financial powerhouse of Germany so customers are the smart, moneyed type who drink champagne like it’s the soda. But cocktails are what this place does best, especially the neo-classic Gin Basil Smash. If you weren’t sure Le Lion was the cradle of this green refresher, you know when you arrive – it’s proudly displayed on the bar front. Upstairs the recently opened Pine Room doubles capacity for the busier periods, offering a more charged, mostly standing environment. You might think pine would bring a lighter, fresher feel, but Meyer stained it a dark hue. “I didn’t want people walking into a Ikea showroom,” he says.