Germany’s beer gardens grab lots of attention, but did you know they’ve also got some very cool cocktail options? German bartenders employ an attention to detail that makes for some superlative drinking experiences. So, if you’re heading to Hamburg, here are my five favourite cocktail bars:
Le Lion: Home of the Gin Basil Smash
Le Lion was pretty much THE forerunner on Germany’s speakeasy-inspired craft cocktail scene, as well as ground zero for the modern classic Gin Basil Smash. This sophisticated cocktail lounge delivers 5 star service and drinks, securing this tight team an internationally-recognized rep as some of the best in the biz. In the last few years as cocktails move more mainstream, they’ve expanded into the upstairs space with an ambience that’s a bit more lively, proving they’re still garnering enough attention to grow and they’re shifting with the times. Ring the bell at the imposing black door for entry (call ahead of reservations!) Bonus: their martini one of the best in town with a topper-upper served alongside it on ice plus a dish of deliciously huge olives.
Tipsy Baker: Beer, Bread & Craft Cocktails
This relatively new bar took over what was once a bakery and gives a nod to that past by keeping some of the more interseting wall design elements as well as serving up locally baked bread with their suggested beer and schnaaps pairings. Along with a fun selection of brews and booze, they make some interesting cocktail creations with unsuaul base spirits like Kummel or Dill Advavit. They pet a more presonalized spin on classics – like miing up their old fashioned with Eau de Vie. And it’s all brought to you by approachable and friendly staff in a small, laid-back space. Word is they may start baking their own bread on site, so keep an eye out for that!
Boothaus: Custom Cocktails & Grilled Steak
The bar in this modern, stylish steakhouse has no menu, but is headed up by a savvy bartender capable of mixing up whatever your mood dictates. In addition to their bespoke options, they’ve got some excellent aged cocktails on the go – currently the boulevardier or negroni. Both bar and restaurant staff are most excellent and provide some top food and drink recommendations. Sip these tasty creations while enjoying a view of the Elbe river while in the bar, but do make an effort to head to make reservations for dinner here, too. Their charcoal grilled meat is the best – and they bring you a selection of different steak knives to choose from!
Atlantic Lobby Bar: Classy Cocktails in a HIstoric Hotel
Head to this historic high-end hotel bar for something a little more special. The Atlantic has been standing for over 100 years and was originally built to welcome passengers arriving to this port city on luxury ocean liners. And, it still serves as a go-to for Hamburg’s high society. The bar covers most of the large and spacious lobby, with comfy leather arm chairs and loveseats packed with guests quietly chatting or just silently sipping while listening to the live piano. Their selection of signature drinks includes the refreshing and well-balanced Admiral Schley with an interesting melange of both bourbon and cachaca. Classy touches include crunchy cocktail snacks served in silver dishes and sophisticated (eco-friendly!) glass straws.
The Chug Club: Tiny Tequila Cocktails
This cool dark bar is a bit dingey in all the right ways. The CHug Club might be described as a Mexican style speakeasy, but it’s so much more. Agave is the main actor in this bar and you’ll find tequila served in everything from their house margarita (which involves buttermilk!) to something more fleeting like their Chug of the Day. What’s a ‘chug’, you say? It’s a mini-cocktail, about a third the size of the regular, which is a brilliant way to get more variety in your night’s drinking without over consuming. The high shelf surrounding the little bar is covered with tequilas in various states of infusions. Plus, the owner, spent some time at Le Lion before opening on this tiny tequila spot, so there are some serious skills behind the enterprise. And guess what? They have a chug taster selection of five mini-cocktails with a little beer break midway and it’s the perfect way to work through a few.
As I always say: Favorites are subjective. If you’re in Hamburg, do check out my top picks. But also do some research and find your own favorites. A few places I also liked but didn’t make my personal top five: Bar Noir at the Tortue, Ruby Lotti Hotel Bar, Boilerman Bar, the Fontenay, Salt & Silver and Christiansens Fine Drinks & Cocktails. So these might be worth your while as well.