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SPIRITS OF BERLIN: Berliners are going local when it comes to quenching their thirst for something special, as the recent spate of home-grown liquor brands illustrates. Part store, part bar, Our/Berlin vodka opened on Kreuzberg’s riverside clubbing stretch this spring. The vodka is distilled in the back room — definitely worth a peek in itself — whereas the potent drink, which is sold in large old-fashioned milk bottles at 13 euros ($17) a pop (for 350 ml., or about 12 oz.), deserves a front-row spot in any liquor cabinet. It is the first in a chain of Our vodka distilleries that will be set up in chosen international cities, and retains a local charm despite its financial backing by industry behemoths Absolut Co. and Pernod Ricard.
Vincent Honrodt is a Berliner who is also getting into the spirit. After successfully going against the grain by re-branding Korn — a traditional corn-based spirit — for a new generation, he recently launched a gin under his Berliner Brandstifter label (37 euros, or $49, for 700 ml., or about 24 oz.). Infused with a unique concoction of organic cucumber, elderflower and hollyhock flowers, it promises to hit the spot with eco-conscious Berliners as well as heartier gin fans.
“I wanted to create something that people will really enjoy, rather than just drink to get drunk,” said Honrodt. Brandstifter gin made its debut last month in Mitte’s King Size bar and Grill Royal restaurant.
The Schnapskultur store specializes in high-quality, hand-crafted spirits from around the world. Proprietor Dr. Thomas Kochan curates a “Berlin corner” that features brands he believes are worthy of “belonging to Berlin, both in terms of high quality and local production.”
Alongside beloved Berlin tipples Adler gin and vodka, which are distilled at the Preussische Spirituosen Manufaktur in Wedding, his latest tip is Pijökel 55 (27.50 euros, or $36.50, for 500 ml., or 17 oz.), a Kräuterlikor, whose low sugar content and conservative list of ingredients are hand-crafted to create a sophisticated liquor.
Kochan didn’t have to go far to source it: Pijökel 55 is made by hand on a parallel street in Prenzlauer Berg by Henning Birkenhake and Gabriel Grote. The two friends started producing the liquor in 2010, following a recipe handed down by Grote’s late father, who was a pharmacist. With the dominant notes of ginger, cardamom and Ceylon cinnamon promising various health benefits, this is the clear choice for guilt-free drinking.
— Jessica Saltz
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