Drinky Poo: Berlin’s Best Gin Martini Hotspots
As winter sets in and the city shifts into a soft stupor, bars are filling up with cold and thirsty locals. Searching for the perfect martini in these conditions can be gruelling especially when the makings of the speakeasy special are so highly contested. The style, the method and the twist often fought over – olive or rind? Dry or wet? Neat or dirty? - and gasp, the worst of all, gin or vodka? To set the record straight, I’m searching for the best dry, gin, neat, olive martini in all of Berlin, of course within the friendly local price bracket.
Coming from a city with some of the best (and most expensive) cocktails in the world and with a talented live-in martini expert, I am a harsh critic but I believe what I’m looking for is out there in this city. Here’s what I found.
First, distinguish what you want. Explain the cocktail called a martini is different from a shot from the martini bottle. This is a crucial error that is terrifyingly easy to make. If met with a head tilt and slight wave of confusion from the bar tender, leave immediately.
Second, dictate the specifics. A vodka martini with a twist is sadly much more popular these days and so if your tastebuds differ, stipulate your gin requirements very clearly. You may also want to reiterate your request several times.
Third, determine hotspots. By knowing which of the cities many bars and restaurants to go to helps ensure you’ll get what you need every time and prevents long bursts of bar hopping in the cold. Here are my top three suggestions.
The Bars:Parker Bowles in Kreuzberg
This sophisticated, stylish British restaurant is a jewel amongst stones standing proud near Moritzplatz in Kreuzberg. Carefully curated décor matches the delicate menu yet despite the shiny façade, Parker Bowles is extremely well priced offering the best value for money. The martini is served with absolute precision by proud and well-trained bar staff. Arriving on a wooden tray, the French Champagne glass is iced and filled with three olives skewered to a cocktail swizzle. Also on the tray is a bite-sized glass bowl for the ideal, discrete removal of olive pips. Upon request, a thimble of brine (to make your martini dirty) can be arranged giving you control over the flavours. The martini is well balanced, light and measured. Served with Tanqueray Gin, Noilly Prat and Olives, Hendricks and Gordon’s Dry gins are also available for 8.50.
Schwarze Traube in Kreuzberg
A hidden away, seemingly dark, inconspicuous affair near Markethalle Neun is a great winter retreat for those searching for quality spirits and bartending. Playing into each note necessary for a speakeasy bar including leather armchairs, walls laced in black and gold, a shady entranceway, patrons surrounded by a haze of smoke and with no menu, Schwarze Traube mean business. The aim here is to inform the staff of your favourite flavours and/or drink and they concoct something from the well stocked bar. Served again in a French Champagne glass, the choices of gin including Tanqueray, Hendricks, Monkey 67 and The Botanist as well as a selection of local, smaller brands make all the difference in texture, colour and zest in this martini. Although the bar does not stock olives, I was surprised to find my insistence on lime paid off and was less offensive than a strong orange rind making this martini perfect on a hot summer night. Served with your choice of gin, and a twist for 9.00
Scotch and Sofa in Prenzlauer Berg
Located in the heart of Schwangerberg, this popular locals-bar is well known for its beer and whisky selection. With a cosy, pub-style-feel thanks to confortable leather lounge chairs, coffee tables and 1930’s music Scotch and Sofa has a homely charm. Getting a table can be difficult but is perfect for a long night of quiet drinking and relaxing with friends. The martini is served in a traditional cone shaped cocktail glass, Bond style. Gin options are restricted to Gordon’s, Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire, however it is served with a perfectly pitted cocktail olive. At times it can be served with a touch too much brine but otherwise, is a well-rounded and full-bodied martini. Scotch and Sofa do have a tendency to add ice to all of their cocktails so it is worthwhile asking for no ice. Served with basic gin and one pitted olive for 7.00.
By Ella King