(by Marco Kramer)
The perfect tipple
Polished precision and a refined atmosphere on Cologne’s bar scene
At Toddy Tapper, you can expect a personal welcome, subdued lighting and dark wood décor. If you don’t manage to nab a seat at the bar, make yourself comfortable at one of the few tables while you study the list of cocktails (all of which cost around € 10.50). The spirits are categorised into continents and many of the drinks are made with exotic ingredients like cumin, turmeric, cardamom or tamarind. The perfect option to start you off — and typical of this establishment’s exquisite style — is the “Ceylon Mule” with yuzu, coconut palm sugar, lime and arrack, topped with ginger beer. It comes with molecular spheres, small beads that burst on your tongue, releasing the juices and an intense taste of yuzu. A perfect blend of refreshing zestiness, bitterness and delicate sweetness. The bar eschews straws and drinks are served on small, square leather coasters rather than serviettes.
Agnesviertel, Schillingstr. 27, toddytapper.de
This offshoot of the Belgian Quarter’s Barracuda Bar is somewhat more low-key, with a linear design and grey-blue mosaic tiles. Interior highlights include 70s-style lamps fitted with modern LEDs and the large flower arrangement. Sitting on the comfy bar stools with backrests while you peruse the menu, it soon becomes clear where this bar’s speciality lies: in addition to classic cocktails (from € 8.50) like the Dark and Stormy, Negroni, a few sour options and a seasonal selection, the focus here is on different variations on the gin and tonic. But to really see what the bar crew are made of, order the Old Fashioned (€ 10) or the Rosemary Gin Fizz (€ 11) with its complex aromas. If you need to quickly quench your thirst, they also have Peters Kölsch on tap, Herrengedeck (a beer served with a shot of Kümmel or Korn schnapps) as well as Helios Wiess in bottles (€ 3.80/0.33l), which comes from Braustelle, the independent brewery right next door.
Ehrenfeld, Venloer Str. 437, facebook.com/barzwei
Next to the doorbell, your eyes will instantly be drawn to Volker Seibert’s impressive list of distinctions and the reminder that groups of more than six will not be admitted. The old-school interior, flower arrangements and bar utensils on show all add to the private members’ club atmosphere. And the glass carboys containing preserved fruit for maceration also make it clear that this is no ordinary bar. Here in the “Liquid Kitchen”, they are mixed with other ingredients to conjure up exquisite concoctions. Like the Yuzu Gin Tonic (€ 19): the Japanese citrus fruit is preserved with gin in a 60-degree Celsius sous-vide, filtered twice and then topped with tonic for a taste sensation unlike anything else. A more vivacious option is the sweet-and-sour Pineapple & Mango Mai-Tai (€ 16), garnished with edible flowers and lemongrass. The bartenders here are highly skilled, every single move trained to perfection. You’ll be hard pushed to find more discreet, understated service anywhere else.
Friesenviertel, Friesenwall 33, seiberts-bar.com
A pleasant bar atmosphere with silk wallpaper and exposed brickwork. While the DJ spins classic soul to a lively crowd, the bartenders wield their shakers masterfully, their effortless performance alone well worth a visit. If you make the attentive staff aware of your preferences, they’ll be only too happy to pass on their recommendations. Or if you’re looking to try something new, we recommend the Drink of the Night (€ 8): vodka, fennel, orange and orgeat (a syrup made from almonds) for a harmoniously sweet, bitter and aromatic taste. All cocktails on the menu are signature drinks, which means that everything served here represents the bar’s creative style. Like the fresh and spicy Ronin (€ 10.50), on a gin basis with matcha and orange bitters.
Belgian Quarter, Engelbertstr. 63, spiritsbar.de
Dignified nonchalance, fringed wall lamps and a dark-green marble-covered bar. For almost thirty years, there has been plenty of space for guests at what is probably the most exquisitely crafted wooden bar top in Cologne. Night owls can make themselves comfortable on one of the zebra-patterned bar stools. Silver candlesticks add to the unique atmosphere and the light comes in handy when perusing the pleasingly straightforward drinks list. In the “Good Old Days” section, you’ll find highballs, classic drinks and several long-forgotten cocktails (around € 12). The trickiest recipes are often those that use only three ingredients because there are no other fancy embellishments to hide behind. Just like the three classic elements that make up the Old Fashioned: whiskey, sugar and bitters — with orange zest to garnish. It might sound simple, but it’s seldom made to such perfection and with such balanced aromas as it is here. In the invigorating Rosebud Mule with vodka, lime juice and ginger beer, the mild cucumber and cucumber syrup are the perfect complement to this drink’s spicy punch.
Kwartier Latäng, Heinsbergstr. 20, facebook.com/RosebudCologne