Mezcal is one of those spirits that was all the rage in San Francisco five years ago but is just beginning to gain a foothold in Berlin. When I first moved to Berlin two years ago, I was quite disappointed when I realized it isn’t commonplace to see mezcal on a drink menu here, even at many of the more hip and upscale establishments.
I’ve asked about mezcal in just about every fancy bar I’ve set foot in, from Butcher’s in Mitte to The Antlered Bunny in Friedrichshain. It’s just not really a thing here. (That’s not to say that the cocktails at the bars I just mentioned aren’t köstlich.) I have, however, found three places in Berlin where one can order a decent, even outstanding mezcal cocktail.
1. TiER (Weserstraße 42, Neukölln)
Tier is one of my favorite bars in Berlin, in spite of the fact that it’s usually way too crowded and smoky, even on weeknights. The interior is super old school and gemütlich and it’s one of the few places where I’ve seen Bulleit Rye behind the bar. My go-to mezcal cocktail is the Selma Hayek.
Favorite mezcal cocktail: Selma Hayek
2. The Bar Marqués (Graefestraße 92, Kreuzberg)
In spite its being around for a while, this place is a bit under the radar. I never have trouble finding a seat here. Located in the basement of a not particularly bumpin’ tapas restaurant, this bar features old style furniture, hospitable service, and of course, top notch drinks. We first heard about the bar about a year ago through a friend who has a thing for gin and tonics. I remember inquiring about mezcal back then only to be met with a “leider nicht.” My mild disappointment was assuaged by their formidable selection of tonics and the presence of complimentary nuts.
But the last time I was there, I noticed something new. I was handed a menu when I sat at the bar (previously the bar had no menu, and a conversation with the bartender was offered in its place). Flipping through the pages, I saw it: a mezcal cocktail. Confused, I asked the guy behind the bar if they really do have mezcal. He pointed to not one, but several bottles behind the bar, including my old SF standby. Turns out The Bar completely changed its bar program and staff in September. Now it’s even better than ever! (As evidenced by the fact that we spent 100 EUR there last night.)
Favorite mezcal cocktail: Mezcal Last Word
3. Würgeengel (Dresdener Straße 122, Kreuzberg)
Funny story about Würgeengel – it was one of the very first cocktail bars that K took me to during my first few months in Berlin. I was ecstatic when I saw they had mezcal on the menu. We used to go there quite often and I would always order the Last Call with mezcal, but one evening, I was in the mood for something different. I asked the bartender to make a custom cocktail — something kind of warm and spicy, perhaps with chocolate bitters and a bit of citrus — using mezcal as the base spirit of course. The resulting drink was perfection — so good, in fact, that the bartender said he would put it on the menu and asked me to choose a name for the cocktail. After consulting with K, we decided, jackasses that we are, to call the cocktail “The Entschuldigga”, a portmanteau of the expressions “Entschuldigung” and “Digga”. The bartender was not at all amused by this idea, and urged us to come up with a more Spanish-sounding alternative. We stood our ground.
The next time we were at Würgeengel, which was some months later, we saw that my drink had indeed made it onto the menu, but that it was called the “Santa Ana”. (As in, that city in Orange County.) Womp womp.
Favorite mezcal cocktail: Santa Ana