The Best Craft Cocktail Bars in Berlin

If one were to write a history of cocktails in the twentieth century, Berlin might not even get a mention. While Paris has Harry’s New York Bar and London has the American Bar at The Savoy, Berlin has remained on the sidelines—a city of cafes, beer halls and dance clubs rather than Martinis and Manhattans. However, in the first decades of the 21st century bars devoted to well-mixed cocktails have taken root in Berlin; and while they may not be indigenous to the city, they appear to be flourishing in their new surroundings. Berlin now boasts a number of excellent spots where bartenders have one eye on Jerry Thomas’s Bartender’s Guide and the other on the future will prepare classics, remixes and new inventions with assurance and style.

There is also more than a hint of old-world glamour and decadence in Berlin’s cocktail scene. Many of the bars are hidden away in unexpected locations, and while it can be difficult to find a decent cocktail before six in the evening, few bars enforce a strict closing time, remaining open until the last satisfied customers have staggered out the door. – Jesse Simon

Special Note: Depending on your feelings about the relationship between tobacco and alcohol, you may be delighted or dismayed to discover that, due to some loophole in EU law, virtually all of the cocktail bars in Berlin allow smoking. Most are well ventilated, but if you’re very sensitive to smoke, you may wish to limit your cocktail drinking to the summer months, when some of the bars offer outdoor seating.

  • 1

    Bar Marqués

    The tapas-themed Restaurant Marqués, located in Kreuzberg’s Graefekiez, isn’t exactly hidden, but you might not suspect that its basement contains a small, very civilized cocktail bar. However the cosy Bar Marqués, with its waistcoated bartender and low-lit décor, is a pearl of refinement hiding in a once-edgy, now middle class residential neighborhood. Just don’t ask for a menu; there isn’t one. The bartender is your friend here. Let him know what you like and he'll mix you something to your liking.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
  • 2

    Becketts Kopf

    The name means "Beckett’s Head"—as in Samuel Beckett—and you’ll have to look for his iconic face if you want to locate the entrance to this intimate cocktail bar in Prenzlauer Berg. Although the tastefully decorated room may be one of the smallest in town, all you need is a stool or two by the bar to enjoy a selection of cocktails that range from the time-honored to newer more adventurous creations, like the Rashomon, which mixes gin and sake with a touch of cream. The selection of individual spirits may not be as exhaustive as in some bars, but it’s always well-curated and they keep a selection of cigars on hand, ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
  • 3

    Buck and Breck

    This small cocktail bar—which recently earned the distinction of best bar in Germany at the Mixology awards—has a devoted following among those who know how to find it. Although it is located along a major street in Mitte, just north of busy Rosenthaler Platz, you might end up walking past what appears to be an abandoned shop front. Behind the unmarked door awaits an ultra-minimalist interior featuring a single table with fourteen stools built around a modest bar area. The menu—which, in the spirit of Milk & Honey, follows the "bartender knows best" model—offers a reasonably small selection of modified classics, but ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
  • 4

    Le Croco Bleu

    While many of Berlin’s cocktail bars look to the first half of the 20th century for inspiration, Le Croco Bleu—located in the newly redeveloped Bötzow brewery complex in Prenzlauer Berg and masterminded by Gregor Scholl, the legendary bartender of Rum Trader—has its sights set firmly on the future. Their menu of signature cocktails has a daring, experimental edge with traditional spirits sitting next to less common ingredients, such as yuzu, thyme and absinthe fairy floss (imagine cotton candy made with a not-so-secret ingredient). The decor, a combination of mid-century button-leather stools and old industrial ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
  • 5

    Galander Charlottenburg

    You would be forgiven for walking right past the Charlottenburg incarnation of Galander. Located on a once-sketchy but now forgettable stretch of Stuttgarter Platz, the narrow bar with its dark wood and ornate copper-plate interior exudes the kind of classic cocktail bar elegance you wouldn’t expect to find on a street that faces onto the city’s main east-west elevated rail line. But while the S-bahn rolls by in the distance, one can sip a wide assortment of classic and neo-classic cocktails, either on a stool at the bar or in one of the leather armchairs in the small, chandeliered back room. And although the drinks ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
  • 6

    Galander Kreuzberg

    On a quiet leafy street, several blocks from the genteel buzz of Bergmannstraße, Galander is the sort of apparition from another era that every traveller dreams of finding when wandering the city without a map. Situated in a building that housed a neighborhood bar at the beginning of the 20th century, the cozy, inviting interior is made up of a mixture of wood, amber and candlelight. After you’ve taken your seat at the bar (or at one of the intimate tables in the back), the knowledgeable, waistcoated barmen exhibit a humble devotion to preparing your drink exactly the way you want it. Other bars in town may have ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
  • 7

    Green Door

    There’s a sign outside, but the door—green, obviously—is locked. Ringing the doorbell activates a light in the bar, and if any one of the staff sees it, they might come and let you in. But don’t let the uncertainty put you off: once you’ve passed the admittance test, you’re free to enjoy some of Berlin’s most skillfully mixed cocktails in one of the most stylish rooms in town. While the menu offers a few house specialties and clever twists, the focus is primarily on 20th-century classics, prepared with high quality ingredients. Much of the interior is taken up by the long, dark wood bar—there are a few stools against ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
  • 8

    Lebenstern

    Climb the marble stairs to the upper floor of this 19th-century villa—which somehow managed to survive the allied bombings that devastated much of the area—and you will discover a series of pleasingly proportioned rooms furnished with leather armchairs and lined with locked glass cabinets filled with spirits. Lebenstern has all the splendor of a well-appointed drawing room, and their menu exhibits a similar refinement, with tasteful twists on old classics, a fine selection of champagne cocktails and a satisfying array of different gin and tonics. Thematically selected spirit flights are also available for those who ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • historic
  • 9

    Limondier

    At Limondier the simple contemporary interior is augmented by enough small details (a typewriter, an antique lamp, old photos and newspaper clippings) to give it a retro feel that's difficult to place. Their cocktail menu follows suit with a mixture of early-20th-century classics (Aviation, Manhattan) and more experimental offerings employing a range of unconventional ingredients (pickle juice, rosemary syrup). They also have a reasonable selection of spirits—including absinthe, served according to the traditional ritual—and a pleasingly diverse assortment of tonics to accompany your gin. The menu changes two or three ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
  • 10

    Salut

    Situated in the quiet residential buffer between busy Winterfeldtplatz and middle-class Akazienkiez, Salut offers tasteful decor, a relaxed speakeasy vibe and some of the best cocktails in Berlin.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
  • 11

    Stagger Lee

    Although it is located in the heart of Berlin’s thriving gay area, Nollendorfstraße—the street that Christopher Isherwood once called home—can get pretty quiet after the shops close their shutters for the evening. But a late and boozy night can still be found at Stagger Lee. This western-themed cocktail bar has been a consistently popular fixture of Schöneberg’s cocktail scene for the past several years. Their signature cocktails—many based around American whiskeys—pack an indisputable punch, and the smokey, Wild West ambiance is like nowhere else in Berlin. If you’re looking for somewhere that will turn a nightcap ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
  • 12

    Victoria Bar

    Situated between a sketchy pawn shop and Berlin’s legendary Wintergarten, the Victoria Bar offers a slice of refinement along a street that has long been infamous for its nightlife. The narrow space—with high ceilings and tastefully minimalist furnishings, accented with some intriguing art—is dominated by a long bar where as many as eight bartenders in white dress shirts and black ties prepare cocktails from an impressively broad menu. Most of the classic drinks from within the whisk(e)y, gin and rum families—in addition to familiar highballs—are represented, and all are prepared with a deference to established ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • bar food

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