Cocktail bars in Cologne
Cologne is famous for its diverse bar scene, ranging from down-to-earth to multiple-award winners. I visited a few to try out their cocktails – here are my highlights.
In the Belgian Quarter – Cologne’s creative epicentre – Litte Link’s owner and bar manager, Stephan Hinz, collects awards as if they were stamps! To date, they’ve included Falstaff German Bartender of the Year 2017/2018, World’s Best Bar Selection 2016 and fizzz Awards 2015 “Most Innovative Bar of the Year” – to name but a few.
Little Link is big on bold, serving creative high-end drinks. From the currywurst cocktail with serrano vodka to the Nordic Man with aquavit and buttermilk to the “Goatherd” with gin, goatherd cordial and saffron – it seems there’ no end to the aproned team’s imagination.
Despite all the prestige and laboratory-style concoctions, Little Link is very much a no-frills place, shunning dress codes and darlingdom. Its decluttered decor provides a wonderful contrast to the extravagant drinks. Open brickwork, dark wood, leather and a few cacti decorate the magnificent bar. And, to top it all, Little Link also has classic cocktails and an impressive bourbon selection.
Volker Seibert is the grand seigneur of Cologne’s barkeepers. He ran the prestigious Capri Lounge for 15 years and is considered one of the best in his trade. In Seiberts he has fulfilled his dream of having his own bar, staying true to himself and his vision of “old school, but new school too”.
Seiberts ranks among Germany’s top bars and only serves exquisite beverages. Their extensive menu makes it difficult to decide. Something classic maybe? Or perhaps something a bit more out of the ordinary? Whatever you choose, you can be sure of a perfect mix of flavours. Inside, Seiberts has an old-school feel, with dark wood, leather, lots of crystal glass and heavy curtains. Outside, the courtyard patio is decorated in a wonderfully romantic style – a great place for the first aperitif of the evening. Seiberts policy is not to take any reservations.
Friesenwall 33, 50672 Cologne
Away from Cologne’s party districts – in the lovely Agnesviertel – Felix Engels and Dominque Simon have created the perfect blend of traditional pub and stylish cocktail bar.
This gorgeous 50s-style place oozes attention to detail with vintage elements such as the sweeping bannisters, dark leather, metal light fittings and wooden features that would give any carpenter a thrill.
This emphasis on quality is reflected in the menu, with its unique, seasonal, creative and, above all, delicious drinks. My choice, the Nikkey Sour, plays with elements from Europe and the Far East. Pisco infused with pear and rosemary, sake, fresh grapefruit, lemon and Peychaud’s bitters combine to produce an exhilarating energy boost.
You’ll receive a friendly welcome even if you don’t want a cocktail! There are always at least three different beers on tap, a good selection of bottled beers and the good old “Herrengedeck” (a Kölsch beer followed by a corn schnapps). Plus, from Thursday to Saturday, there’s a DJ playing funk and hip hop.
Sudermanplatz 3, 50670 Cologne
Suderman’s big sister is Spirits at Engelbertstraße 63, 50674 Cologne
Don’t be fooled by the unimposing exterior! Draw back the heavy curtain and you’ll find yourself in one of Cologne’s best cocktail bars. The service – superb and structured – just adds to the splendour of the place. The staff take your coat for you, accompany you to your table and bring you water and truffle popcorn along with the menu.
Paul Thompson, the current holder of the Deutsche Barkeeper Union’s “Germany’s best barkeeper” title, is the man behind the bar at Ona Mor. His creations are carefully crafted mixtures of flavours. I go for the “Kirri Billi” – a taste explosion combining London Dry Gin, fresh ginger, sage, pink grapefruit juice, fresh lemon and apricot jam.
Ona Mor has a tasteful, old-school look with dim lighting, sparkling crystal glasses, bulbous glass carafes, apothecary-style accessories, comfy sofas and fake crocodile-skin bar stools. Giving the place a new, modern twist are the “menu trees” – metal objects placed on each table, with drinks menus attached to their delicate “branches”. Guests can use these mini-postcards to help them make their choice and then take them away as a souvenir. Incidentally, at Ona Mor they always like you to reserve, especially at the weekend.
Roonstraße 94, 50674 Cologne
The former Shepheard Bar has now been handed over to Samuel’s Shep and offers the usual good quality drinks. Tucked away just a few metres from the happy hour district is this gem in Cologne’s cocktail crown. Unregal from the outside, you take a few steps down into the basement and suddenly enter a completely different world. Once inside, you don’t notice any of the hustle and bustle of nearby Zülpicher Straße. Nothing at all!
Inside, Samuels’s Shep decor is structured and sophisticated, and the same can be said of the service. This is a no-frills place that focuses on the fundamentals. They have an extensive bar menu with quite a few treats. Samuel’s Shep doors are also open to champagne enthusiasts – and anyone else! Word has got around about how great this place is so it makes sense to reserve, at least at the weekend.