Mein Kopf tut weh

October 9th, 2008

Bar Convent Berlin kicked off at 11am with a session on cachaca with Jared Brown, Anistatia Miller and John Gakuru, but unfortunately my arrival wasn’t until a little later in the day. The previous nights drinks and the fact I don’t really function well as a human being in the mornings meant the day was a late start, and with forecasts predicting pretty dire weather for the rest of the week I decided to make the most of the sunshine and explore some more of Berlin while I had a chance.

I eventually made it to BCB late afternoon, just in time to mill about some of the tasting bars set up around the building and catch the very interesting “In an Absolut world” discussion panel on the main stage. I was also interviewed by the media team covering BCB, where I think I managed to put together some vaguely coherent sentences on why I blog and what I think of Berlin. I hope I did anyway.

Bar Convent Berlin

For dinner I headed west to Schnitzelei for a gathering of bartenders and other related persons that Jörg Meyer was kind enough to invite me along to. Over some delicious tapas and Weiner Schnitzel, and no small amount of wonderful German hospitality, I absorbed the conversation and, with the help of some large German beers and after-dinner schnapps, slowly started coming back to life.

After finishing the meal everyone piled in to cabs and headed for Lebensstern, a bar I had heard much about since I arrived mainly owing to its gin collection. When I arrived I wasn’t disappointed – the back bar contained just about every gin I had ever heard of, and a few more besides. It was a collection that puts any bar in London, the original home of gin, to shame, and one that excited me enormously.

Unfortunately we weren’t the only group to have thought Lebensstern was a good idea, and the place was pretty rammed meaning cocktails were off-limits and Gin and Tonics were the order of the day. I enjoyed several with various exotic and not so exotic gins, whilst discussing the wonderful spirit with Gonçalo de Sousa Monteiro and testing his near-encyclopaedic knowledge of gin ABVs.

I also got a chance to check out the bars famous terrace and herb garden, which now features a huge bare patch where red basil once resided. Even on a damp September evening it wasn’t hard to imagine how nice it must be out there on a hot summers day. Hopefully one day I’ll get a chance to compare imagination to real life.

Rum Trader

The next destination was Rum Trader, a tiny little bar that must seat twenty people at a squeeze. That photo above shows about two thirds of the length of the entire room! The bar is ran by the legendary Gregor Scholl, and is without doubt the most authentically classic bar I’ve ever been to. Like at Lebensstern we weren’t the only people who had headed for Rum Trader that evening, an even bigger problem given how tiny the place was, but thankfully spilling out in to the street didn’t appear to be a problem so Rum Trader temporarily quadrupled in size.

Behind the tiny bar three bartenders worked together in perfect harmony, like one seamless cocktail-making machine, turning out drinks with speed and elegance. It really was a sight to behold. I stuck to G&Ts to keep life simple, and received a drink made with Booth’s dry gin, which I’m not sure is even produced anymore? It was delightful, but be warned Rum Trader serves a generous pour – Gregor is a staunch Royalist and serves his G&Ts roughly half gin to half tonic, the same ratio the Queen Mother reportedly enjoyed.

By now I was feeling back to my usual self, but the nagging thought of getting up the next morning wouldn’t escape my mind. While I would have loved to have stayed longer, and continued the party at Club Maxxim which was the eventual destination that evening, I decided to call it a night, ensuring I would make it to BCB at a more respectable hour than I had managed earlier in the day. I left the bar content in the knowledge that, whether on this trip or a future one, I would definitely be coming back to Lebensstern and Rum Trader again.

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Posted in Berlin, Out and about

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Photography by Jay Hepburn
Artwork by Craig Mrusek

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