10 Things a Perfect Bar in Berlin Needs

photo: Natalia Kepesz

At a certain point, you know the difference between sitting at a Späti, at a Kneipe next door and at a nice bar. All three of these places demand a certain willingness to let go of your everyday routine but in a slightly different way. The Späti-night will first seduce you with being totally unpretentious and only a short term affair, a temporary solution. But after spending all night there, you know how your head will hurt like it was hit by a „Bierbank“  the morning after. The adventure to a Kneipe is a more serious challenge. The funny Kneipenlady you’ve heard rumors about will get all of your attention with all her dirty secrets, but while you are there, sitting at the counter, you realize that you are trapped like in the rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland. You can’t escape as long as her shift or your finances end.

Last but not least, entering a fine bar is a nightlife pleasure of a special kind. A bar and its bartenders are a place of illusions and fantasies. And where fantasies and nightlife meet for a drink, I want to be there too (just to write down my experiences for this blog of course… ;-))

Therefore I was more than happy to represent the digital media world as a judge at the World Class Competition 2016 in Berlin. Hosted by the Diageo Group the event took place in several locations in Berlin. 17 Bartenders from all over Germany competed with each other for one spot to go to Miami to the World Class Global Final competition. I had the pleasure to not only observe their skills from up close but also to taste some of the most fantastic drinks in my entire life. Being the judge of the hospitality challenge, I had to pretend to be a guest at a bar for a whole day and try out drinks from all 17 different bartenders. What sounds like a funny theater play was quite the intense job where a lot of accuracy of observation was required. But as each of the bartenders made their appearances in front of my judging seat, I had to wonder:

What are the special ingredients that make a bar a place of such magic and enchantment? My deep insights from this dive into the bartender world in a not-so-serious listical after the jump.

1. The Bartender is the King/Queen

After judging 17 of the best bartenders in all of Germany, I can reassure you: The bartender is the king/queen of his/her bar, and you will know how he/she rules his/her kingdom from the first step you take into it. The three finalists of the World Class Competition were as different in their personality and their charisma as the protagonists of Game of Thrones. The winner of this German World Class is Noureddine Elmoussaoui, who combined exquisite style with humor and creativity. But it was his excellent storytelling skills that were most convincing to me. The runner-up, Andre Pintz, was like a magician, perfect in all gestures and with all kinds of special accessories to complete his potion. The female bartender Meike Zimmermann also deserves an honorable mention as she made it into the final three, proving that women know how to makes great drinks, too. Cheers to that.

Noureddine Elmoussaoui

Meike Zimmermann

Andre Pintz

2. Lights and Shadows are the friendly Charmers

When entering a bar I always observe how the lights and shadows play around the room. It is the right lighting that transforms the glasses and bottles filled with colored drinks and ingredients into jewels and gems glowing in the night. Also, who does not look good in the penumbra of candle lights and toned down spotlights.

3. The Music is the Dancing Soul

Dancing is not always possible in a packed bar. But with the right music you will see the fingers of the guests tipping on the counter, the feet shaking and the eyes sparkling. Without music, the bar would have no soul. I prefer all kinds of ambient, dark and mellow music for a bar night out. But depending on the night and the mood an unconventional music choice can always be a pleasant surprise.

photo: James Petts / CC

4. The Interior Design is the welcoming Host

Design is a tricky thing. Some people love it fancy and sophisticated. Others love it simple and clean. Either way, the interior design is the charming host of any bar. Making you feel in the right place or not.

5. The Bar Counter is the hungry Lover

Touch it, feel it, stroke it, caress it: the counter wants to be touched by you. Sitting at a bar counter with a lovely surface is always upgrading my bar visits. I am a huge fan of Bar Central who’s counter has a nice mix of different materials. Soft wood meets cold marble and shiny brass that all responds so well to my inappropriate touch.

6. The Glass in your Hand is the whispering Ghost

Did you ever notice that in fine bars the glasses always have a unique quality? Like they were alive? I always imagine that inside any of these fancy glasses sits a spirit whispering stories about previous soft lips and strong beards touching his surface. Having an excellent drink in the right glass is not only a taste experience. It is like reading a captivating story in an old book.

7. The Ingredients are the basic Chemistry

Seriously, a bar without good products is not a bar. It’s a glorified Kneipe. Tasting all kinds of different single malts during the World Class Competition, my taste buds learned to tell the difference. I never thought I would dream about Talisker Skye Whiskey or Tanqueray Gin, but here I am telling you that even the fanciest drink needs good basic ingredients.

8. The Guests are the perfect Extras in the Movie

The right bar is like a set of a film of the 20s. The other guest are like silent extras, looking good but never in the center of attention. Sometimes you are a bit jealous when the bartender spends to much time with the guest on the other corner of the room.

9. The Smalltalks are the unexpected Dive

Getting into a good small talk with the bartender is like hitting the bonus point box in a video game. You feel extraordinary and exceptional for getting so much attention by the king of the reign that it feels like diving into a pool of adrenaline.

10. The Drinks are the Love Potions

Did  it ever happen to you that you tasted a drink so marvelous that you wanted to kiss the bartender? Not that I ever did that of course, but a well-prepared drink, that fits your mood and your expectations is like a good flirt. It stays in your mind forever and makes it hard to forget all your fantasies around it. The World Class Competition had not only the best bartender but also the best drink: the „Vert de Terre“ (green of the earth) is based on Tanqueray and green bean juice. Sounds strange but taste delicious. Check out the recipe and how to make it.

If you are in the mood for a drink after this post, you can check out our list with all our favorite cocktail bars in town.

This post is a collaboration with the World Class Bartender Competition. Thank you for having me as a judge.

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<a href="https://www.iheartberlin.de/author/cr/" target="_self">Claudio</a>