Berlin is notorious for raucous nightlife but the slew of techno clubs, after-hour dives and independent bars are joined by a comprehensive cocktail bar scene. Read on for hidden hipster hangouts and polished lounges for city slickers…
Bebel Bar and Lounge
Set inside Berlin’s ultra-swish Hotel de Rome on Bebelplatz, itself a former bank, the Bebel Bar is open to the public and impresses instantly with high ceilings, original stucco work and leather armchairs. Drinks are expensive but excellent, and the clientele accordingly well heeled. The long bar features over 60 different cocktails, many made with obscure spirits sourced from small businesses around the world.
Hotel de Rome, Behrenstraße 37, 10117 Berlin (030 460 6090, www.hotelderome.com). U6 Französische Straße. Open from 8pm daily.
Hidden away above well-known Viennese restaurant and café Einstein, this intimate spot has a classic vibe. One small bar services several different rooms, furnished throughout with wooden panelling, plush seating and glass cabinets teeming with colourful bottles of alcohol. The range of drinks is as impressive as the tasteful detail with which they’re constructed and served.
Lebenstern, Kurfuerstenstrasse 58, 10785 Berlin (030 2639 1922, www.lebens-stern.de). U1, U2, U3, U4 Nollendorfplatz. Open from 7pm daily.
The creative spirit of fashion photographer Helmut Newton – to whose memory this bar is dedicated – is underlined by a series of the snapper’s 18-foot nudes, which occupy one whole wall. As if this wasn’t eye candy enough, take a seat in one of the red leather chairs and you’ll get views over stately Gendarmenmarkt. Popular with businessmen, diplomats and others who draw decent annual salaries, the bar also has an upstairs cigar lounge for a more private rendezvous.
Newton Bar, Charlottenstraße 57, 10117 Berlin (030 2029 5421, www.newton-bar.de). U6 Französische Straße. Open from 10am daily.
Fluido might be set on a sleepy street in Prenzlauer Berg, but it draws a young and discerning crowd, who come to enjoy the late night ambience. The dimly lit interior is filled with comfortable sofas and banquettes and the mind-boggling menu boasts around 200 items, including absinthe and sake concoctions and over 80 whiskies.
Fluido, Christburger Straße 6, 10405 Berlin (030 440 43902). U2 Senefelderplatz. Open 8pm-2am Sun-Thu; 8pm-4am Fri-Sat.
This was a cutting-edge hangout when it opened a decade ago, and now the Greenwich Bar remains a trendy and upbeat place to enjoy a cocktail, especially at weekends. There’s no sign outside but there is usually a bouncer filtering the clientele; the action inside is blocked by window shutters. The interior is NYC chic, all long bar, illuminated fish tanks and staff in black t-shirts. Drinks are decent and the electro soundtrack angles it as a warm up for a night out.
Greenwich, Gipsstraße 5, 10119 Berlin (030 2809 5566). U8 Rosenthaler Platz. Open 8pm-6am daily.
Slick newcomer Shochu serves an array of classic cocktails, long drinks and champagne, but its unique selling point has to be its cocktails made from the eponymous Japanese liquor – the best of which are mixed with exotic ingredients like such as jasmine or bergamot. Adjacent to the (very good) Uma restaurant, the long granite bar is a great spot for an aperitif or post-prandial quaff. DJs are on decks at the weekends.
Shochu Bar, Behrenstraße 72, 10117 Berlin (030 3011 17324, www.ma-restaurants.de). U55 Brandenburger Tor. Open 6-11pm Mon-Sat.
With a slick interior crafted by local designers Murat Top and Alen Aronov, 'Six Forward' is a premier hang out for West Berlin’s young creative scene. There are dozens of vodkas on the drinks list as well as some killer cocktails, and the electro and house soundtrack is matched to the minimal interior and fashionista clientele.
6vorne, Hektorstraße 11, 10711 Berlin (016 3593 6666, www.6vorne.de). U7 Adenauerplatz. Open 8pm-2am Mon-Sat.
Part cocktail bar, part art space, part architectural delight, the glass cube known as Babette (formerly KMA) adds a dash of chic to Soviet-style Karl Marx Allee. The building used to house a cosmetic salon, and now the bar is habituated by a fashionable, thirty-something crowd and hosts regular art and DJ events.
Babette Bar, Karl-Marx-Allee 36, 10178 Berlin (0176 3838 8943, www.barbabette.com). U5 Schillingstraße. Open from 6pm daily.
Gainsbourg, Bar Americain
Inspired by French singing sensation Serge Gainsbourg, this cosmopolitan bar is neither as American nor Parisian as the name suggests, although on the right nights it can get raucous as punters jostle for space in the itsy interior. Even when super busy, the staff take care to craft memorable drinks, which include whisky and champagne-based cocktails.
Gainsbourg, Bar Americain, Savignyplatz 5, 10623 Berlin (030 313 7464, www.gainsbourg.de). S-Bahn Savignyplatz. Open from 4pm daily (summer); from 5pm daily (winter).
There are plenty of Russian-themed joints in Berlin, but this one is a sure contender for best long drinks and cocktails. The place has big mirrors and charming lights, table service and a location that’s perfect to explore the rest of Mitte’s myriad watering holes. Humming with conversation, drinkers often burble out onto the pavement corner.
Odessa Bar, Torstraße 89, 10119 Berlin (0171 8398 991, www.neueodessabar.de). U8 Rosenthaler Platz. Open from 7pm daily.
One of the city’s longest-serving and best-loved cocktail spots, the Victoria Bar recently celebrated its tenth birthday. It has a long, wooden bar and walls covered with satirical artworks by the likes of Sarah Lucas and Martin Kippenberger; owner Stefan Weber has won several awards for his drinks and runs the School of Drunkenness for budding mixologists. A reliable haunt any day of the week, its Happy Hour is from 6.30-9.30pm.
Victoria Bar, Potsdamer Strasse 102, 10785 Berlin (030 2575 9977, www.victoriabar.de). U2 Potsdamer Platz. Open 6.30pm-3am daily.
This Schöneberg institution, run by playwright Fritz Müller-Scherz, has been a favourite local haunt for the last 15 years. Don’t be fooled by the drab exterior – behind those shabby curtains you’ll find a knowingly retro and entertainingly kitsch interior with checked wallpaper, old telephones on the bar and framed ‘family’ photos. The cocktail list stretches to fill a book and features monthly specials. In summer the action spills onto the pavement.
Green Door, Winterfeldtstraße 50, 10781 Berlin (030 2152 515, www.greendoor.de). U4 Nollendorfplatz. Open 6pm-3am daily.
Reingold’s speakeasy theme is backed up by bartenders in braces, a large mural of Thomas Mann’s children (Klaus and Erika) and a soundtrack tilted towards US jazz from the 1930s. The bar’s location, slightly off the main drag for Mitte bar-crawls, attracts a mix of office workers and hipsters. German bar snacks are at hand to go with expertly mixed drinks and on warmer nights there’s a pleasant patio to enjoy.
Reingold, Novalisstraße 11, 10115 Berlin (030 2838 7676, www.reingold.de). U6 Oranienburger Tor. Open 6pm-4am daily.
This tiny bar has a big history. With roots that allegedly stretch back to the prohibition era, it consists of just one table, several bar stools and a small bar, commandeered by the smartly attired Herr Scholl. Drinks are served in vintage glasses and made with old school paraphernalia (strainers, muddlers and scoops) and the menu is heavy on gin as well as, of course, rum.
Rum Trader, Fasanenstrasse 40, 10719 Berlin (030 8811 428). U3, U9 Spichernstraße. Open 7pm-1am Mon-Fri; 9.30am-2am Sat-Sun.
Scotch and Sofa
Despite its location bang in Mitte, this retro bar has a pleasant, neighbourhood feel. The flocked wallpaper, 1950s TV sets and mishmash of sofas and chairs makes for a charming environment in which to sample a decent whisky or gin-based cocktail. A fun pit stop before moving on to one of the many nearby dance floors.
Scotch and Sofa, Kollwitzstraße 18, 10405 Berlin (030 4404 2371). U2 Senefelderplatz. Open from 6pm daily.
Würgeengel’s strange name, meaning ‘Exterminating Angel’, is derived from the film by Luis Buñuel. The bar’s inviting old-world interior includes leather booths, candles and wooden tables and is a firm hit with locals and scenesters alike. The drinks menu has lots of delicious, well-made cocktails as well as whiskies and wines and is complemented by a selection of tapas.
Würgeengel, Dresdener Straße 122, 10999 Berlin (030 6155 560, www.wuergeengel.de). U1, U8 Kottbusser Tor. Open from 7pm daily.
Bar Nou occupies a cellar that’s livened up by a wash of coloured lighting, mostly reds and oranges. The rectangular room has vaulted ceilings, comfy beige sofas and a bar that churns out an array of drinks from beer and wine to champagne, including over 150 cocktails.
Bar Nou, Bergmannstrasse 104, 10961 Berlin (030 7407 3050, www.bar-nou.com). U7 Gneisenaustraße. Open 8pm-4am daily.
Look for the eerily glowing photo of Samuel Beckett’s head in the window, then the discreet doorbell, which you’ll need to ring to gain access to this quiet but excellent Prenzlauer Berg bar. Two darkened rooms, one of them perpetually smoky, feature chesterfields and a low-key ambience. Clued up staff serve drinks from the menu, ensconced in a book of Beckett’s plays, as well as seasonal and improvised specials.
Beckett’s Kopf, Pappelallee 64, 10437 Berlin (0162 2379418, www.becketts-kopf.de). U2 Eberswalder Straße. Open 8pm Tue-Sun.
Buck & Breck
This ‘secret’ bar – located next to a police station in Mitte and cunningly disguised as a storage room or gallery space – consists of just a small room with black walls, most of which is taken up by a square, black bar. There’s enough space for around 14 people, who sit on stools and watch the owners craft exquisite drinks from a menu packed with arcane cocktail history. Reservations recommended.
Buck & Breck, Brunnenstraße 177, 10119 Berlin (0176 3231 5507, www.buckandbreck.com). U8 Rosenthaler Platz. Open 8pm-2am daily.
The fact that owner Günter Windhorst is a dedicated jazz and Latin music fan is evident as soon as you walk into this charming one-room establishment: clock the paintings of musicians on the wall and the vinyl collection behind the bar. The cocktail list runs to 52 pages and features plenty of classics alongside some house specials. A reliable spot for pre and post-theatre or opera drinks.
Windhorst, Dorotheenstraße 65, 10117 Berlin (030 2045 0070). U6 Friedrichstraße. Open from 6pm Mon-Fri; from 9pm Sat-Sun.