Martini Diplomacy- Part 1: Berlin

IMG_8432If the Martini is one of the pinnacles of Western Civilisation, then surely finding a good one on your travels is a cultural journey too.

Recently I travelled to Berlin and then onto the Sultanate of Oman for pleasure. Naturally I didn’t want to go thirsty on my trip but was also mindful that the latter was an Islamic country and had rules about alcohol.

But Berlin is renowned for its nightlife and had some highly regarded bars, plus some excellent Gins (more on those in another post).

So in my mind I had a plan.

IMG_8125It started well, with an unexpected upgrade to Business Class (thanks Etihad)… they liked my style apparently and knew I wouldn’t mess the place up.

So to celebrate I found an acceptable Martini at the Ludlow Bar once through customs in the international terminal (a wet Tanqueray with a slightly limp lemon twist), better than nothing, but a good omen.

For the record Melbourne airport, well all of them really, need a decent cocktail bar this side of customs etc.

So once in Berlin I had a list of several bars to visit, including this one,  in particular Buck and Breck that many had recommended. Note, their website has just an address, hence the link to a more informative site.

Time was limited, just a week, and it was also below freezing, plus I was en famille, so bar hopping all night was out. What became apparent was that the scene was cosy, discrete and they seemed to go out of their way to not be obvious.

Bars are small, on bar with little cafes (compared to ours), so you’d be lucky to get 20 people in some of them.

Beer obviously, mulled wine variations, wine, but there isn’t the Gin moment you get here in Australia generally.

Fun fact: you have to ask for a MARTINI COCKTAIL, not a Martini, otherwise you’d get a glass of Vermouth, as Martini is a big brand still there.  If see Gin, it is going to be Bombay, Gordons or Tanqueray.

So, since I was staying in Mitte, not far from Buck and Breck I broke loose from the family after dinner one Friday night and went off to try Berlin’s best Martini.  I had the address, but my phone map refused to work, but it was a straight-line and how hard could it be right? Wrong.

Thanks to both the quirkiness of the street number system and some bum directions from a local I walked for over an hour in below 0C temps, and FINALLY found the joint, disguised as an art gallery entrance.

OK, collect oneself, they don’t take reservations, seat 12 people only, but I had introductions, and had come a long way.

Push door to the outer entrance. Locked.

The sign said CLOSED.

IMG_8311Friday night, 9pm, Berlin, Germany, CLOSED.

I can’t write what I said for the next 10 minutes.

So not to be obviously, and only one night left.


The next day I explored the Luftwaffe Museum outside Berlin (I have many interests) and walked kilometres in an Arctic wind, and had arranged to meet my wife and brother in law at a cafe near the flat we’d rented later that day.

Again I got lost in the winding streets (normally my internal GPS is outstanding just so you know and I never get lost!), but when I found the place, Alte Europa in Mitte I was cranky, late, cold and tired.

Double Cognac bitte. Down in one gulp. Better, much better,

Then I saw it, Noilly Prat and Tanqueray.

On the same shelf in the same room.

Imagine a cosy wood floor locals joint. Curtains to keep the cold out, candles on each marble table, benched chairs, unkempt laconic Berliner working the bar.

No pretensions and despite the dark at 4pm, just us and a couple of others, not promising but a welcome harbour.

Gin Martini Cocktail Bitte mit Olive. Fingers crossed for luck.

IMG_8466And there it was.

A properly stirred mixed Martini, just when I’d given up hope in the least likely place.

My flight to Oman was 2 hours away, but I didn’t care, I had finally found a perfect cocktail in Berlin.