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Drinking In Berlin

BierIn Berlin you can drink on the streets, subways, pretty much anywhere you please, day or night. The beer of choice (and it’s always beer—though I did spy a group of possible Brazilians [there aren’t a lot of black or Portuguese-speaking people in Berlin] sharing a bottle of Jack Daniel's on the subway platform) is Berliner Kindl, not this generic bier that I couldn’t resist buying for the label.

You can also drink that green beer, but I didn’t get the chance to. While killing 20 minutes before my 10pm reservation at an American-ish burger restaurant (it had to be done) I stopped into a nearby bar and ordered the first beer I saw on tap. Only after I settled in did I notice Berliner Weisse, rot oder grün scrawled at the very bottom of the chalkboard above the bar. I never encountered those sweet words again.


You can drink Glühwein spiked with rum (or kirsch) from a little ceramic boot at one of the gazillion Christmas markets. You could also drink schnapps from strangers, but they might dose you with liquid ecstasy. Maybe that’s your scene?


If not, you’d better stick to talking, animatronic moose.


At Christmas markets you can also drink hot caipirinhas. Santa and heated Brazilian cocktails make perfect sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if hot mojitos existed somewhere in Germany, as well. From what I gathered caipirinhas are having a moment in Berlin, and bottles of cachaça (Pitu brand) were behind most bars. Good for them. In Puerto Rico I kept getting served caipirinhas made with rum because no one stocked cachaça, so no one should assume that geographical proximity has anything to do with authenticity.

You can also drink at a houseboat-like structure jutting out over a river. You can also eat quesadillas there, now a global bar snack, with a blanket on your lap while smoking in the heat-lamped but still freezing back room that’s open-air in the warmer months. New Yorkers are way less resilient to rain and chill.

Ankerklause front

Ankerklause menu

WatermelonYou can drink something called a Watermelon Man, which as a melon-hater wound me up unnecessarily. I thought it was a fluke when I first noticed it on a menu at Ankerklause, then realized it clearly a standard when it also appeared at a chicer café and was mentioned in club reviews in around town guide in the hotel room. The vodka and watermelon liqueur cocktail seems to be a ‘90s holdover much like our dated cosmopolitan. Supposedly, Bar am Luetzowplatz invented this "classic."


You can also drink at a tiki bar where they only other patrons might be a couple drinking tea and a young man nursing a beer while reading at the bar and the music is off-decade big band and ragtime. You might also get booted out at an unreasonable 11:30pm and when you order an old fashioned it will arrive in a giant tumbler gussied-up like a tiki drink. Of course, Watermelon Man is also present.


You can drink champagne bearing the name of the department store you’re in, while eating oysters. Can you imagine Bloomingdale’s champagne or a raw bar upstairs?

Becketts kopf

You can ring a bell, luck out that there are two free stools because you didn't make reservations on a Saturday night, and drink serious cocktails described only in German even though the names are all in English at a speakeasy with only a picture of Samuel Beckett as signage. You could try a classic Blood and Sand or a more unusual Scotch-based drink softened with cream, the Bonnie Prince Charles (which is nothing like the similarly named beverage at Mary Queen of Scots).  I had an apple-y Widow's Kiss.


You could drink at another serious, i.e. Watermelon Man-free, though less subdued bar, Reingold, right after eating at nearby restaurant named Reinstoff, and wonder how many Rein prefixed establishments might be in the area. I did not encounter anything particularly German about any cocktails I tried—most were very much in the American canon—so I was happy when German language covers of Ozzy and Santana came on while sipping my Martinez. Punks and their parents were welcome. And obviously, smoking was too–I just realized there's an ashtray in practically every photo here.

Cccp tadpoles

You can drink in a Soviet-themed bar next to tank most definitely not filled with fish. After a while the albino tadpole-like creature might grow on you.


And the paintings.


You can drink a Hamburg pilsner just because the label is cute. The sports bar where it was imbibed, a British chain, attached to a hostel, was less cute but maybe you acquiesced out of curiosity and to appease a boyfriend’s wish to see the Redskins game (the only American football game was Cincinnati). I bet they served a Watermelon Man. They definitely served Jager shots.

The Philly Phanatics

Philadelphia Milka

Kraft’s attempts to integrate cream cheese into dishes where it has no right being has not been lost on me, nor Businessweek. (Do I really have to call it Bloomberg Businessweek?)

What I didn’t realize was that all this kraftiness has the makings of an international incident. Cream cheese is not just being recommended for our All-American soups and casseroles—the white plague originated overseas!

In 2008 the brand realized that its biggest users in Western Europe weren’t just treating the product as spread, but as an ingredient, so the company solicited user recipes, which resulted in freakshows like “Thai Spiced Philadelphia Prawns” and “Middle Eastern Lamb Pies.”

Now it all makes sense. We are feeling the repercussions of cuisines that put quark in their curries, as in the recipe found in the German women’s magazine I read on my flight back from Berlin. Frankly, I’d rather we borrow from nations that put corn and mayonnaise on their pizza.

Just be thankful that Philly Indulgence, a cream cheese-chocolate spread already available in Europe, will arrive here next month instead of other Kraft experiments like grapefruit smoothies and a Vegemite blend.

Photo: German Snack Mania

What’s In a Name?

Maybe I’m just blanking-out, but I can’t really think of a slew of bars and restaurants in NYC named after famous people (Jack Dempsey? Chez Josephine?). In Berlin, homages run rampant. I’m certain there are many more than what I encountered during my brief visit because it wasn’t like I was seeking them out, I just stumbled upon them.

I ate at Renger Patzsch (flammkuchen!) named after a German photographer Albert Renger-Patzsch and had cocktails at a ring-the-doorbell speakeasy, Becketts Kopf, with the only identifier being a picture of Samuel Beckett in the window.

Also: Tarantino’s Bar, Jules Verne, The Oscar Wilde, Diener-Tattersal (Franz Diener was a German boxer), Newton Bar (as in Helmut), and Joseph-Roth-Diele (Jewish Austrian writer).

This is all I have time to say about food and drink at this very moment (other non-food-related Berlin generalizations are here). There are always photos, of course.


Henne facade

Fried chicken is not the first (or the second or third) foodstuff that springs to mind when I think of Berlin. Yet Henne, basic in menu (chicken, potato salad, cabbage salad, and meatballs are just about it) maximalist in décor (all of aged dark wood, stained glass, antlers, and steins Americans associate with Germany) turned out to be one of my favorite meals. I love excess and outré combinations, but sometimes simple is the way to go.

Henne potato salad

You have to drink Bavarian landbier in a chunky ceramic mug. You don’t have to order individual potato salads or the cabbage salad at all, though you might get a funny look from your waitress and you'll definitely be in the minority among fellow diners. One mayo-heavy kartoffel was plenty to share, I thought.

Henne chicken

Do order your own half chicken, though, because that’s the whole point. Even knife-and-fork-crazed locals tear through the crackly, heavily salted skin into the juicy meat with their hands. The chicken manages to be different—hunkier and lighter—yet just as good as my favorite fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House.

Henne interior

I did wonder here and elsewhere  if the number of seasonal tchotkes (though it's not evident in this photo) and touches like the red tartan tablecloth were just for Christmas or permanent fixtures.

Henne * Leuschnerdamm 25, Berlin, Germany 

Planet Hollywood, Thinly Disguised

Libations101While I should be excited about Demi Monde, a real cocktail bar, opening kitty-corner from my office, my curiosity was also peaked by reports (ok, my boyfriend who also works in the neighborhood) of a new food court bar.

And indeed, Earl’s Court, home to a Billy’s Bakery, The Original SoupMan, and Earl of Sandwich, does have a lounge: Libations 101. Soothingly generic with  sparsely populated communal tables, mostly $7.50 drinks, and happy hour specials, it’s not any worse than the ubiquitous Irish pubs that make up the majority of nearby drinking options.

There was something distinctly chain-y, or possibly Asian mall and/or hotel-ish about the curtained-off room (the food court isn’t open for dinner) and I was proven semi-correct when the bill for my two blue cheese-stuffed-olive martinis was dropped off. Planet Hollywood!

I should’ve known. The Earl of the court and of the sandwich, happens to be restaurateur Robert Earl. Per last month’s press release: "As the public's taste in food court offerings evolves beyond burgers and reheated pizza we have created a modern alternative with a diverse array of progressive and innovative eateries.  There is no place I would rather debut our first Earl's Court than New York City."

Mostly I liked that despite the inoffensive electronic music lending the Asian mall/hotel vibe, that in the bathroom the Bosom Buddies theme song, a.k.a. Billy Joel's "My Life" was loudly playing.  Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone…