November 29, 2011 / 9:14 AM / 7 years ago

The Spirited Traveller: Berlin's booming bar scene

Kara Newman is the author of “Spice & Ice: 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.” The opinions expressed are her own.

A man takes a picture with his iPad of the Brandenburg Gate as it is illuminated during the Festival of Lights in Berlin October 12, 2011. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

By Kara Newman

NEW YORK (Reuters) - If you’re Berlin-bound, I sure hope you’re well rested, because you might not get much sleep while you’re there.

“Nightlife is booming,” declares Helmut Adam, the Berlin-based editor of Mixology magazine. “You have more and more classic and upscale cocktail bars, but Berlin has always been famous for its massive underground. Bars still pop up on every corner with second-hand furniture and bottled beer and shots as the main staple.”

He adds one more urgent note: “Berlin has NO curfew. You can go 24/7.”

In many ways, it seems like Berlin is making up for lost time. From 1961 to 1989, the city was divided by the Wall, marking the Cold War standoff between East and West. Now, the former East Germany's central bank building has been transformed into the swanky Hotel de Rome, and its Bebel Bar (here)

is among Adam’s recommendations.

The space is grand and high-ceilinged, with separate rooms for discreet conversations. A plus for deal-makers: “It’s open in the afternoon.”

Meanwhile, the once bomb-damaged Mitte area has been rebuilt into a vibrant district full of exciting bars and clubs, such as trendy Tausend (

Whether East or West, what to drink? “If there’s an iconic drink, it’s Mampe,” Adam advises, a bitter liqueur usually consumed as a shot, and identified by the elephant on the logo. Some Berlin bartenders even sport an elephant tattoo as a tribute.

Elsewhere, keep an eye out for the Buck & Breck cocktail, made with Cognac and absinthe. It’s a fairly obscure drink and likely only has a presence in Berlin because cocktail historian Dave Wondrich mentions it in his book Imbibe!

It's on the menu of Becketts Kopf (,

an after-work spot known for its excellent drinks and impeccable service. Lauded new speakeasy Buck & Breck (

even takes its name from the drink. It is also a prime spot for impressing clients if you can score one of the 14 precious seats.

Still awake and ready for more? Head over to the legendary Berghain (, "the most famous club with the toughest door in Berlin," Adam recommends. "Don't go there before midnight."

RECIPE: Buck and Breck

(Adapted from Imbibe! By David Wondrich)

The name is derived from the popular epithet given to the 1856 Democratic Presidential ticket of James Buchanan and John C. Breckinridge. Wondrich cites as the original source Cocktail Boothby’s “American Bartender, 1900.” Water Superfine sugar 1.5 ounces Cognac 2 dashes Angostura Bitters 1 dash absinthe Champagne Rinse the inside of a Champagne flute with water and swirl to coat inside of glass. Discard liquid. Fill flute with superfine sugar, coating inside to make glass appear frosted. Discard excess sugar. Fill glass with Cognac, bitters and absinthe. Top with cold Champagne.

Editing by Peter Myers and Paul Casciato

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