Get Schnappy: Munich’s New Cocktail Scene Is Wunderbar
The city’s burgeoning cocktail culture delivers up a modern Bavarian booze-up that’s high on style.
Gin Is In
Schnapps may be Germany’s highest-proof export, but gin is the spirit of choice for Bavarian cocktail nerds. Locally distilled labels like Monkey 47 (infused with botanicals from Germany’s Black Forest) line the bar at hot spot Zephyr alongside piles of fresh fruit, jars of vanilla pods and bunches of herbs. The drinks here sound insane on paper—the Belle Air pairs gin with Granny Smith apples, milk and lemon; the bourbon-focused Nice Guy includes jalapeno tincture and banana—but in a glass, it’s magic.
Couch Club wears its passion for the juniper on its sleeve, too, with more than 170 gin varieties in stock and an extensive list of tonics to match. Lean into the living-room vibe here: cozy up on a vintage armchair between foosball matches and order up some pizza to fuel a late night on the town.
Though the U.S. of A. may not be impressing the world with its politics of late, its bar culture clearly still has clout. Zum Wolf’s name may be a play on the German toast Zum Wohl (to your health), but the unassuming bar is actually an ode to the American South, with a curated selection of bourbons and an Etta James-heavy soundtrack to match. Sip a Kentucky Lightning, made with wood-infused Bulleit, honey and bitters here, unless you need a booze break, in which case, skip over to sister room Wolf’s Farmacy, Munich’s first soda bar, for a wholesome New York-style egg cream (though if you change your mind about imbibing, barrel-aged drinks like the Drambuie-with-whisky Smoked Rusty Nail are at the ready). Prefer your Americana with a Miami Vice twist? Hit up the High, where flamingo-pink walls, palm trees aplenty and a turquoise marble bar set the stage for a flurry of flamboyant high-end highballs: think a lime-green Basilisc with gin, basil, apricot and olive oil; the Mezcal Mary; or a Farang Mule topped with beetroot foam.
America isn’t the only foreign entity to inspire Germany’s best bartenders—plenty of other international influence has worked its way into the scene. Visit Cuba by way of Munich at the delightfully old-school Havana Club, which has been open since the ’80s and has built a pleasing patina on its brass and mahogany surfaces. The bartenders traffic in the classics here, whipping up a rum-heavy menu of fresh mojitos and mai tais. For some Italian flair, there’s always the Negroni Bar, a dark and cozy wood-lined space that calls itself an “American bar” but specializes in a certain Italian cocktail: try the East Negroni, Negroni Inverno, Negronissimo or anything else from the long list of Campari-centric spinoffs.
Even if modern art isn’t your jam, the Haus der Kunst museum is worth a visit for Die Goldene Bar alone. It has an unpleasant history as a former Nazi watering hole, but today it’s a hopping museum café and a nightlife spot that’s open to all. Striking gold leaf treatments, vintage lighting and hand-painted maps line the walls—as fascinating as the exhibits in the attached gallery—and are paired with contemporary long white tables; the drinks menu similarly puts modern twists on classics. (The circa-1930s Blood and Sand, traditionally made with orange juice, features a “crown of orange foam” in its 2018 interpretation.) Swing by the Eisbachwelle after a drink or two to catch the surfers riding the perpetual man-made wave in the river that flows through the surrounding park, or stick around Goldene Bar for dancing into the night.
And if you want to visit the most classic bar in all of Germany, make a quick sojourn to Schumann’s, where white-jacketed servers deliver spot-on takes on the bedrock of mixology, all the while the legendary owner, bon vivant Charles Schumann, holds court in the corner.
Cold Drinks, Hot Tunes
Founded by an architect-turned-mixologist, the bright and airy Bar Garçon serves up an ever-evolving drinks menu—featuring options like the Renaissance, which mixes homemade rhubarb syrup with Campari, gin and Prosecco—and an ever-growing collection of records that pair well for an unstuffy date night.
Where to Stay
If it’s good enough for the Queen (and P Diddy), it’s good enough for us: Kempinski’s Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten opened in 1858 and has hosted a gaggle of royals and celebs ever since (including Archduke Franz Ferdinand). But even us common folk can feel like VIPs here, whether snuggling up post-bar-crawl into a pile of down pillows or living it up with an afternoon tea service in the high-ceilinged lobby, featuring piles of pretty petits gateaux and tartes made in-house.
Lufthansa’s daily direct flights from YVR to Munich are now offered on the Airbus A350, which might just be the most pleasant flying experience of our lives. Improved cabin pressure means no swollen legs, an LED light system fights jet lag, and first-class seats fold all the way flat so that you can actually catch some shut-eye en route (after a couple of glasses of riesling, of course). The plane’s got stellar eco cred, too (releasing 25 percent fewer emissions), which means you don’t have to feel too guilty about popping over to Munich for a nightcap.