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Beer in Germany? Nah … these are the three drinks that rule Berlin’s cocktail scene

The Mexikaner

Germans love beer. With an average yearly consumption rate at a thirsty 106 liters per person, Germany is a beer producing, beer swilling, beer worshiping culture. But the cocktail scene in Deutschland (and especially Berlin) has been on the rise for some time now and the ever increasing international imbibing crowd is more and more interested in drinks not just from the tap, but from the shaker, too.

Here are three drinks that can be found on the menu at almost every bar in Berlin with recipes included, so you can play Berliner at home.

The Mexikaner 

By far the most popular shot in Berlin, the Mexikaner is essentially a tiny Bloody Mary. In 1987, Hamburg bartender Mike Coloni found himself in the type of situation that can often result in cocktail innovation: he needed a way to sell a not great tasting fruit spirit he had accidentally purchased instead of korn, a traditional clear grain liquor. He added some tomato juice, some tabasco, some salt and pepper and a hit shot was created.

After he sold the first batch he swapped the nasty accident-spirit out for vodka or korn. The drink caught on fast at his now-defunct bar Steppenwolf in St. Pauli before appearing at other bars throughout Hamburg and eventually the rest of Germany.

The Mexikaner is everywhere in Berlin nightlife. Although more known as a dive bar imbibement, even the fanciest of cocktail bars would receive the ire of their guests by not having a bottle of it tucked away somewhere, perhaps available only by verbal request, off menu. There are many differing opinions as to how spicy and how tomatoey a Mexikaner should be. Below is my personal favorite rendition of the drink


1 cl vodka

1 cl tomato juice

1 dash tabasco

1 twist of fresh black pepper

1 dash fresh lime juice

1 dash simple syrup


While one could conceivably build each shot individually to order, it’s best to prepare several at a time in one mixing vessel and then decant into a bottle for easy serving later. So for 30 shots, for example, simply multiply each ingredient by 30, build in a large mixing tin and stir gently together for 10-15 seconds. Serve in a chilled shot glass rimmed with salt.

The Basil Smash

Since its invention by Jörg Meyer of Hamburg’s The Lion in 2008, and its win of the “Best New Cocktail Award” at Tales of the Cocktail, the Basil Smash has become a staple in Berlin bars.

Like many drinks, its appearance has a lot to do with its popularity: a rich dark green hue fills the glass as a result of the massive amount of muddled basil. Gin, fresh lemon juice (I prefer lime) and sugar syrup provide a dry and citrusy platform for the fresh herb to pop through. A little sweet, a little sour and very Basil, this once-unusual cocktail has become as ubiquitous in Berlin as the Aperol Spritz. 


One handful of fresh basil leaves

6 cl Gin

3 cl fresh lime juice (or Lemon)

2 cl simple syrup


In the small can of a large cocktail shaker, muddle the fresh basil. The idea is to press firmly down and twist the oils and pigment out of the leaves without mutilating them. Add the gin, fresh lemon or lime juice and simple syrup to the can and fill with ice. Close the large can over the small can in a firm seal, flip the entire shaker over and shake well for a slow count of 10. Double strain over fresh ice in a tumbler and garnish with a gently slapped fresh basil leaf.

The Hugo

Invented in 2005 as an alternative to the Aperol Spritz by Roland Gruber in the South Tyrol Region of Northern Italy, this refresher is very popular in the summer but can be found year round on placards standing outside of many Berlin bars.

Fresh, gently muddled mint meets elderflower liqueur and Prosecco to create a spritz that one can enjoy in the middle of the day without needing a nap, due to the lower ABV content of the spirits.


5-10 fresh mint leaves (without stems)

2 cl St: Germaine Elderflower Liqueur



In a large white wine glass (or large highball glass) gently muddle the fresh mint leaves. Go easy on the leaves, you simply want to release the oils so think of it as an easy compression, not a pulverization which will create bitterness in the drink. Then add enough ice to fill about half of the glass and add the St. Germaine. Fill the remainder of the glass with Prosecco and stir well to mix the ingredients and integrate the mint leaves in a way that  spreads them evenly out in the drink. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig.



Read more here from American comedian in Berlin Chris Loar.

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