12 Apr Bar Guide Cologne
Can you carry my drink, I have everything else
I can tie my tie all by myself
I’m getting tied, I’m forgetting why
– The National, Apartment Story
Welcome to Cologne! This is our hometown as you might know. Therefore we’re a little biased when someone asks us if the city is worth a trip. Although we have to admit that many parts of Cologne can be pretty ugly, there are some very special places. In this guide we like to shed a light on our favorite cocktail bars – some quite new, some old and well established. In any case we can’t praise enough the participating bars for their hospitality and almost endless hours of serious drinking. While there’s nothing wrong with a Kölsch or a glass of wine, we put this list together for all the barflys and boozehounds out there. Let’s have a drink or two or…
Rosebud (Kwatier Latäng)
If you want to learn more about Cologne’s steady rise within the German cocktail industry during the last two decades, you will probably stumble upon a place called Rosebud. Although the bar situated in the heart of the lively Kwartier Latäng has been around for quiet a long time, the new owners Alex „Finchi“ Schneeweiß and Philipp Hainke succesfully revitalised Rosebud’s legacy and transformed a little outdated spot into a cozy neigborhood bar. The well-thought-out facelift started with a new neon logo and a beautifully restored backyard for summer evenings and concluded with a completely new cocktail menu. Alex and Philipp are not only very knowledgeable entrepeneurs and barchefs, first and foremost they know the basic rules in hospitality. So even it’s your first visit, you will immediately be treated like a regular. They rely more on the idea of a community than on usual bar-guest-relationships. Hence „So jung kommen wir nicht mehr zusammen“ (please use Google Translator, we don’t wanna do the work for you) is their always visible tagline, referring to having a good time with friends and strangers. Surrounded by many happy hour drinking holes and traditional Kölsch pubs Rosebud’s cocktails clearly stand out from the at best mediocre drinks in that area. As Alex told us, they put a big emphasis on high-quality ingredients and timeless mixology. That’s why their different highballs are as satisfying as an Old Fashioned – probably the father of all classic bar drinks. If you are more the indecisive type, you just tell Philipp and his colleagues what kind of spirits you prefer. They will do the rest and surprise you with a well-balanced drink. And while you’re sipping your cocktail, you will slowly but surely get into a serious relationship with this bar that is so unpretentious and charming. In the end you don’t need to be like Charles Foster Kane, to create your own Rosebud memories.
Corona-Update: You can support the Rosebud x Thekenfreunde crew with a donation on their Startnext site. Every Euro makes a difference!
Little Link (Belgisches Viertel)
We tend to pigeonhole people when we meet someone for the first time. The same thing can be said about bars. „Oh this must be a dive bar!“, „This looks like a date spot“ and so on. But sometimes the first impression can be misleading. If you come to Little Link, you won’t probably realize their highly innovative approach to mixology. Instead these guys mask themselves as your friendly neighborhood joint. The bar itself feels homely and down-to-earth. Besides the counter there are some tables in the back, a small lounge with Little Link’s logo transformed into a table and a huge selection of high-quality spirits. When it comes to their drink menu, it’s time for the first of many surprises. The menu resembles a colourful children’s book with different chapters like „Botania“, „United Gindom“, „Volcanic Empire“ or „Toyland“ with the pictured „Cinema Cocktail“ that is made of popcorn (!) Bourbon. This drink comes with a side of popcorn (what else?), wrapped up in a paper bag like the one you get at a movie theater. The „Voodoo Mate“ from the tiki section is an extremely flavourful rum drink with a secret „voodoo essence“. Or what about a cocktail that uses rum and refreshing lime flavours with a subtle hint of bell pepper? Their „Krua Affair“ is an interesting Daiquiri modification. Most of their avantgarde-cocktails are brainchilds of Little Link’s owner Stephan Hinz and his barchef Lars Holzem. Link – a multiple-awarded bar expert and Germany’s „Bartender of the year“ in 2017/18 – is well-known for his adventurous use of culinary techniques and unusual ingredients like salmon or mushrooms. In the barlab downstairs he uses dehydrators, a rotary evaporator and sous-vide techniques just to name a few. Some things work pushing back the boundaries and creating exciting new flavours, while other ideas will be quickly dismissed. If you are more the old fashioned type, you don’t need to be scared right now. Lars and his team are happy to serve you all the great classics. At Little Link the variety of elaborate cocktail art is almost endless.
Corona-Update: Little Link is now offering different cocktails „to go“, directly sold from their bar window. For most parts of Cologne there is also a delivery option (check their website). And you can buy vouchers as a gift for your cocktail friends.
Once upon a time there was a boy with a big dream. His name was Simon Bach and his dream was to run his own bar. But wait! As some dreams come true, so does Simon’s personal fairy tale. Just in the middle of Cologne’s notorious Friesenviertel he found the perfect place for his ambitious bar project. The Woods is obviously different. Not only in comparison with the surrounding area that usually attracts a loud party crowd but also in comparison with other high-class bars. This little hideaway exits for serious drinking in a familiar and cozy atmosphere. The name is self-explanatory. Intuitively the vibe of Simon’s bar resembles an outpost in the woods. Thanks to the eye-catching ceiling and back board made of high-quality oak timber the look of the bar is rather unique. Perhaps you might compare it to Barcelona’s Paradiso – a member of the sometimes questionable „World’s 50 Best Bars“ club. Both places share a passion for signature drinks and story telling. Simon, whose love for mixology was evoked while working in Cologne’s Ona Mor bar, created a bar menu recalling memories of a tradtional fairy tale book with a wooden cover, little illustrations and a short story for every drink. All those signature drinks made of carefully selected ingredients get the same attention. Simon’s approach to cocktails – his handwriting if you want to go on with the book references – becomes apparent with every single page. He likes to create well-balanced flavours and variations of beloved classics like an Old Fashioned. The latter is appropriately called „Es war einmal…“ („Once upon a time…“) and made of Bourbon. What’s rather uncommon is the addition of Tequila and the sweetening with Earl Grey. But Simon loves all of his „children“. Hence the sometimes neglected non-alcoholic cocktails are just as appealing. „Der Fuchs“ (the fox) combines Crodino – a non-alcoholic aperitif from Italy – with cranberries for a bitter-sweet aroma profile. At a time when everyone is talking about sustainability, it’s worthy of mention that you don’t find any plastic straws or other disposable products at Woods. Instead Simon’s small, homely bar promotes drinking with an attitude.
Corona-Update: Simon is doing YouTube videos and tutorials that dig deeper into their current bar menu. In a cooperation with dringeblieben Simon hosts live cocktail classes from his bar. For those of you, who want to recreate his drinks at home, you can buy a cocktail box with all the ingredients
Ehrenfeld is one of Cologne’s most multicultural quarters or „Veedels“ as we say here. People from all around the world are based in this neighborhood, many students, young families but also people, who lived their whole life in this part of the city. While gentrification is certain on the rise, Ehrenfeld has managed to keep its distinctive identity. Fortunately places like Rubinrot still exist, while others – we think of the legendary music club Underground – have sadly vanished during the last years. Rubinrot is not a typical cocktail bar or perhaps it’s the Ehrenfeld version of a bar. Micha Esperester who re-opened the place back in 2005 with a friend and Tom Jakschas who was responsible for the beverage program until 2018, prefer the term „Veedelskneipe“. We are not sure how to translate this properly, because this is neither a pub as they make unique cocktails with high-quality spirits nor a dive bar (probably something in between). No matter how you called it, you will succumb to Rubinrot’s unpretentious vibes. A bowling alley in their basement still captures the magic of the old Ehrenfeld. Compared to all the fancy bars with their polished social media accounts, Tom created the perfect detox. He doesn’t care about eye-catching garnishes or other gimmicks. To him and Micha – a former employee of the above-mentioned Underground – Rubinrot is a bar for locals and for everyone, who wants to have a good time. If you love rock music or oldschool hip-hop, this bar could become your second home. Even though it’s totally fine to order some Kölsch and a shot, you will probably be surprised to spot some good agave spirits. When it comes to cocktails, their menu is not without ambition. The tempting „Prinz of Ehrenfeld“ is a Rubinrot staple. It’s sweet, fruity and tastes like liquid passion fruit ice cream. This drink among others will always be on the menu, Tom admits with a smile while making us a Bourbon-based Old Fashioned. Nothing beats a classic! What can be said about a fine whiskey drink, may also be the case with Rubinrot itself.
Monkey Bar (Friesenviertel)
Monkey see, monkey do. That old saying is printed on the colorful cocktail menu at Monkey Bar – the only rooftop bar in this guide. It shows the playful attitude of this fortunately very atypical hotel bar. Located on the 8th floor of the sleek and incredibly stylish 25hours Hotel „The Circle“ the bar offers first of all a truly breathtaking view above Cologne. Sip your cocktail while watching the sunset or just enjoy Cologne’s famous skyline with a refreshing highball next to you. During the wintertime it gets cozy inside thanks to a warming fireplace and a pleasing to the eye lounge design. But as we usually prefer the seats at the bar, we leave the lounge over for those who need more space. While there is also plenty of space at the bar, the beverage selection itself is comparatively small with a clear focus on premium spirits. We can spot a bottle of Monkey Shoulder whisky – no surprise given the name – Rutte Gin and a good selection of unsweetened Rum. For Cologne’s Monkey Bar (there’s also a Monkey Bar in Berlin’s 25hours Hotel) they took real classics like a Piña Colada (called „Kölle Kolada“) or a Negroni („Dä Aap-Nägroni“) made with Sünner Gin and adapted them to the neigborhood. If you get the reference to Cologne’s cult boxer Peter „Dä Aap“ Müller or to famous chimp Petermann from the Kölner Zoo, you can’t help but smile. Watch out for their mural next to the bar entrance! The Pink Pisco seems like the perfect start into the evening, light, a little sweet and very refreshing. Of course that can be said about some other cocktails like the pictured Basil Highball. You will also find drinks from other bars on the menu. Instead of a simple copy they are more of an homage. As a guest you don’t get that often anonymous „hotel bar feeling“ here. Even many locals love that bright, airy space. It’s probably Monkey Bar’s biggest achievement and a reason to return once in a while.
Spirits (Kwatier Latäng)
For those who want to dig a little deeper into Cologne’s modern bar culture that seriously started in the early 1990s – apart from that we were always a typical German city of pubs and breweries – this beautiful bar will cross your paths sooner or later. Established in 1999 and under the current ownership for more than a decade Cologne’s Spirits is a staple of craft cocktails. Beyond that it became something like a on-the-job training for many of today’s high-class mixologists – some of them like Indika Silva now running successfully their own bar. Therefore you can’t overestimate Spirits as a creative hub for Cologne’s thriving bar landscape. The heart and soul of this classic American bar are the three Domini(que)ks (Scheu, Mohr and owner Dominique Simon). As a team they are responsible for maintaining Spirits lead among German bars. Together they collected multiple awards and honorable mentions during the last years. After the first round of drinks you will definitely realize their craftsmanship and creativity. This doesn’t come as a surprise. Combining home-made batches and natural flavours with a selection of premium spirits is a winning formula when done right. There can’t be two opinions on that point. As the three Domini(que)ks share a tremendous experience behind the bar, this place is a safe refuge for all of Cologne’s cocktail connoisseurs including us. At no other bar we had more drinks over the years. And while it’s almost impossible to name only one favourite, some signature drinks like the incredible tempting „Sexy Elevator RMX“ (made with cream) are already worth a visit. Don’t panic if you can’t spot this womanzier on their current menu. It’s a Spirits classic that will always be available, just ask! The „Tricolore“ will surprise you with a very unique presentation and some complex Negroni-like flavours. While the focus is on the drinks, the Spirits crew will also embrace you with their hospitality. On friday and saturday nights various DJs spin oldschool hip-hop, electro and funk music. As the small bar gets quite packed on those nights we recommend to come around early and stay till late. The claim „good times only“ could be a Spirits original.
Corona-Update: Together with Suderman the Spirits crew will start a delivery service called „Soul 2 Soul“ for a selection of their signature cocktails. You can also grab up your favorite drink by yourself at the bar as a „to go“ option. Besides that they already hosted a first online tasting event with more to follow!
Toddy Tapper (Agnesviertel)
Cologne’s bar landscape is clearly on the rise. Many creative bar chefs and bartenders – old and new – have contributed to this pleasent development. Indika Silva is one of them. The experienced bartender, who has built a reputation way beyond Cologne, opened his first own bar Toddy Tapper back in 2016 after different positions in the hospitality industry. For many years he worked at above-mentioned Spirits bar. With Toddy Tapper he was finally able to translate his well-thought-out ideas about a friendly neighborhood bar into reality. The name itself is a nod to Indika’s Sri Lankan home, where a „tapper“ is someone, who climbs palm trees to gather palm nectar. Arrack – you might call this brandy the national spirit of Sri Lanka – is made of fermented palm nectar. The latter is usually called „toddy“ hence the name of the bar that quickly became a favourite not only among locals. Toddy Tapper’s success is the result of dedication, distinctive cocktails, a great team and even greater hospitality. Indika together with his team created a feel-good-spot in earthy tones, a hybrid between a classic bar and a cozy lounge, where every little piece fits into the bigger picture. The result is quintessentially Indika, we suppose. Exotic, warm-hearted, simply inviting. While some of todays’s „instagrammable“ bars lack personality and atmosphere, Toddy Tapper develops quite naturally an own persona. Of course the drinks play an important role. Instead of creating two or three signature cocktails Indika created a whole signature menu using exotic flavours and spices (turmeric, cumin, tamarind), spirits like arrack and a lot of soul. The pictured „Ceylon Mule“ made of arrack, palm sugar and some yuzu is Indika’s take on a refreshing highball. You can’t leave without having at least one. Every drink gets its own unique presentation. Their Old Fashioned variation „Périgord Paradox“ perfectly balances the strong notes of Single Malt whisky with the sweetness of caramelized walnuts. Don’t ask us about our favourite cocktail, because they are all damn good! If you are unable to decide by yourself, just leave the decision up to Indika and his colleagues. Perhaps they will surprise you with the absolutely delicious „Land of Gold“ (gin, yuzu, papaya, citrus, siam spices). At Toddy Tapper you can travel the whole world during one night.
Corona-Update: Every Thursday to Saturday Toddy Tapper is offering cocktails to-go. Besides drinks from their current menu there are also new creations to discover.
This bar in Cologne’s trendy Agnesviertel is a one-of-a-kind. It’s neither just another bar that manages to do tasteful craft cocktails nor a classic neighborhood joint. It’s both actually! Opened back in 2015 the very charming Suderman quickly established itself as a laid-back place for creative drinking, party vibes (DJ’s playing fine tunes on the weekends) and good conversations between neighbors, locals and people from out of town. They all drink what they like whether it’s a classic cocktail, one of Suderman’s signature drinks from a rotating menu or a simple beer with a shot. The latter is called “Herrengedeck” and available in various combos – the pictured Pilsener with an aquavit/herb liqueur among them. The location right next to the eponymous Sudermanplatz might be familiar to some. Back in the days it was home to Cologne’s cult spot Bar Orange. Fortunately the two Suderman owners Felix Engels and Dominique Simon, who already joined forces at Spirits for many years, aren’t lazy copycats. Instead they followed their own ideas and transformed the place into a chic Veedelsbar with an inviting lounge area. Needless to say that we always prefer a seat at the bar. The sleek and yet snuggish interior is a mix of concrete, wood, brass and leather. Felix and his highly skilled barteam work their mixology art in this remarkable stylish venue. We met bartender Katrin Löcher and her very own creation. The gin-based Flora Highball is a true crowd pleaser at Suderman and we can easily imagine why. It’s a light, refreshing and visually pleasing drink – perfect not only for hot summer nights. The drink menu is divided into different chapters starting with rather light aperitifo drinks, a rotating seasonal selection, some mocktails and finally playful Suderman creations called “Miljö” (it’s Cologne slang, we won’t reveal the meaning). From this section Katrin made us the rich and fruity “Schwester Agnes” with rum, berries, some fresh lime and a dazzling cola-woodruff foam. Garnished with a plum the puristic “Mehr soag I net” is a herbal, boozy and absolutely delicious sour. At Suderman there’s no judging. Whether you are in a mood for a cocktail, a beer, a wine or just a lemonade, every guest will be treated with the same attention and hospitality. What’s not to love about a bar with such an ethos?
Corona-Update: In a collaborative effort with their sister bar Spirits the Suderman crew will be offering a cocktail delivery service called „Soul 2 Soul“ in the very near future. If you live in the area, you can also pick up your favorite drink at the bar as a „cocktail to go“.
The Grid (Friesenviertel)
The recent transition of Cologne’s Friesenstraße – once a brute party hotspot, nowadays a much more civilized place with still vivid party vibes – can be traced back to many factors. One piece of the puzzle might be the appearance of new cocktail bars like Woods and The Grid. The latter is run by Marian Krause, a very prominent figure not only in Germany’s bar community. Awards like “Newcomer of the year” and “World Class Bartender of the Year” suddenly put him into an international spotlight. With The Grid he was able to implement his own vision of a classy, yet approachable cocktail establishment. Actually this kind of speakeasy is more than a bar. While the big counter made of amber is definitely an eye-catcher and the golden ceiling makes the spot look even more special, a heated patio with an exclusive cigar lounge and a small dance floor set the bar apart from most other places in this guide. The ambitious cocktail menu titled “Portraits” introduces personalities from different genres like Canadian-born musician Chilly Gonzalez, perfumer Uwe Manasse or photographer Torben Köster and correspondent drinks. If you like strong, rum-based cocktails, be a little adventurous and go for the “Aphrodisiac”. We won’t spoil all the fun, but here the veil herb is more than only decoration. Filled up with champagne the “Lens Flair” quickly became a real crowd-pleaser. Thanks to some refreshing citrus notes this is the perfect summer drink. Like egg white drinks? Like whisky? We recommend “No Reservations” that takes you off the beaten track with its whisky sour variation. As a host Marian takes good care of every guest not only by sharing his knowledge but also by telling some more than interesting stories. This might also be a reason why The Grid already left a lasting impression on many barflies from in and out of town.
Corona-Update: As The Grid also had to close its door due to the Covid-19 situation, Marian decided to offer some bottled cocktails like the „Korona Killa“ available through their online shop. For Cologne residents there is also an option for same day delivery to your front door.