That short, three-letter word pretty much sums up my time in Germany this past week. From the beautiful, contrasting city of Berlin and the amazing bars that litter the city, to the fascinating Bar Convent Berlin and the many wonderful people I met, it’s hard to think of a single unhappy part of the trip. Except perhaps the mornings – but more on that later. Unlike my fellow blogging cohort I had neither the discipline, nor the internet access, to write whilst away and now the trip is all over it’s hard to know where to begin. I guess day one would be a good start…
After a frighteningly early start and an uneventful flight I found myself in Berlin near the eastern banks of the river Spree at my hotel. I spent the afternoon wandering along the graffiti covered remains of the Berlin Wall, and around the centre of Berlin with its rich and contrasting architecture. The weather was beautiful, with not a cloud in the sky, and before I knew it I needed to head back and find my way to the Mixology Magazine offices where a small pre-BCB gathering was being held.
When I arrived I was greeted by the now familiar sight of Jeffery Morgenthaler, G&T in hand, along with our gracious host and overall organiser of BCB Helmut Adam. It was then I saw the incredible Mixology Magazine offices, or rather the Mixology Magazine bar that happens to have a few offices attached to it. Seriously – with its luxurious leather sofas, beautifully decorated bar and a spirit selection that rivals most real bars, I’m not really sure how they get around to producing a magazine.
After a few G&Ts made with the lovely Finsbury gin, some enjoyable locally-themed cuisine and chat with some of the finest cocktailian talent from around Europe, Helmut gave a few of us a tour of the rest of the building. I was already impressed by what they had behind the bar at their offices, but was then ushered in to a room that must have contained hundreds, if not thousands, of bottles of every kind of spirit you could imagine. From luxury vodkas, to rare rums, it was an Aladdin’s Cave of booze and as if that wasn’t enough, Helmut quickly provided tasting cups so we could try some of the bottles out. Strangely enough, Jeff turned up shortly after.
Having acted like kids in a candy shop, we all returned to the main bar area where thoughts were turning to the next destination for tonight – the Traveling Mixologists party at Reingold. Not ones to hang around when another bar beckons, Jeffery and I quickly piled in to one of the first departing cabs with Phil Duff and soon found ourselves in the crowded but beautiful Reingold bar.
The Traveling Mixologists were mixing up a menu of drinks from bartenders around the world including Jeff’s own Richmond Gimlet plus, amongst others, Jörg Meyer’s Gin – Red Basil Smash, the incredible (and I say this as someone who isn’t a fan of Scotch) Penicillin by Sam Ross of Milk and Honey, and even a classic drink from Harry Craddock, the Hesitation Cocktail, which made great use of the new Swedish Punch from Forgotten Flavours (a review of which is long overdue and forthcoming).
In addition to enjoying some great drinks, I was able to chat to many great people, some new and some familiar, and I even managed to finally run in to Simon Difford after several close calls in New Orleans. As he is want to do, Jörg Meyer broke out the champagne as the evening wound on and it was at this point I found myself with a cocktail in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other. Not an unenjoyable position to be in, and one I would rarely complain about, but looking back a definite sign as to how the evening was heading.
I was eventually lured away from Reingold by Jeff, the Martin Miller’s Gin team and Simon Difford, with the promise of more of the amazing Berlin bars I had already heard so much about chatting to people over the prior few hours. We started off in the Bristol Bar, a typically laid out hotel bar of the Kempinski Hotel Bristol with perfectly fine drinks, and then attempted to visit Q! Bar, a members only affair that had relaxed its door policy during BCB provided you knew the magic words.
Sadly being a Sunday the bar had closed, so Simon then led us on a trek across the city to find the next bar on his endless list of places to visit. After a long walk, and with several of our party having bailed, we arrived at Universum Lounge, where I enjoyed several Martinezs (is that the correct plural?!) with both sweet and dry vermouth. The bartender tended to make them fairly gin heavy in either case, but the results were pretty decent.
By this stage it was getting late and a combination tiredness, lack of food, and lets be honest here rather a lot to drink, meant it was time to stumble back to my hotel room. The first day of BCB awaited me the the morning…
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