Frankfurt Favourites

10 July, 2017

Jan Warren finds there’s far more than sausages to this bustling central German city

I’ve been travelling a lot for work lately. This year I’ve been as far south as Santiago in Chile and as far north as Stockholm. I’ve seen some beautiful natural sights and, of course, visited a ton of bars on the way. My latest trip took me to Germany and I was particularly struck by three of the bars I visited in Frankfurt.

Walking through the Bahnhofsviertel in Frankfurt might not be one of the most glamorous things you can do in town, but it certainly must be among the most adventurous. Once a flourishing red light district and party area, lately many of the people on the street are more interested in speedballs than highballs. I felt strangely at home, as it reminded me of the Lower East Side of Manhattan that I grew up with. Hidden on perhaps the most heavily trafficked block, under a hotel that surely rents rooms by the hour, is a tiny bar, bereft of daylight or, indeed, windows. The door, which is reached by stepping over the bodies of the inebriated, is nearly unmarked. You ring the doorbell and wait, then are ushered downstairs to a welcoming, womb-like space, where magic awaits.

I’ve never worked in a programme that employed a rotary evaporator, or any other hi-tech lab gear and am perhaps easily impressed, but what I saw in that basement amazed me. There were about 20 custom distillates on a small shelf and everything I tasted sparked a fire of possibility in my bartender brain.

My favourite drink? The Mojito. Crystal clear, no mint or lime juice in visual evidence. The first sip? Like diving into a patch of fresh mint splashed with fresh lime juice. What looked like a simple Sprite, or soda water, had as much flavour as any Mojito I had ever had.

Those geniuses redistilled white rum with fresh mint leaves, leaving a super-clean and grassy mint flavour in the rum, then added clarified lime juice and vanilla sugar to complete the flavour profile and continue the illusion of nothingness. Even David Arnold would be proud of this combination of innovation and liquid intelligence. No surprise, as the bartenders at Kinly Bar hold him in very high regard.

In stark contrast, the approach to Roomers is a walk down wide boulevards lined with trees, and the parking area is littered with supercars. It felt a little intimidating, walking through tall double doors and approaching the ebony, oval bar. The bartenders are impeccably dressed, and move with a practiced and easy elegance.

My girlfriend ordered an Americano, which was delivered stirred and poured over a rock, with a small carafe of soda ON THE SIDE! This tiny change to normal service was perfect as it allowed her to control the amount of soda in the drink.

The bartender there also made a Clover Club cocktail, using an egg white infused with truffle oil. I am not, in general, a fan of truffle oil, as it usually dominates, but the technique used made the truffle an ephemeral flavour instead of an overpowering one.

My favourite thing about travelling and visiting bars all over the world is constantly learning new things. Eggs, packed in cotton wadding soaked in flavoured oils, will absorb the flavour of those oils through their permeable shells.

Last, but not least, we stopped in at Parlour Bar, an unmarked place on a very small street in a residential neighbourhood. The bar was long and wide, and the space was moodily lit. Drinkers huddled in pockets of light, and the menu was full of interesting drinks. My favourite was some sort of Margarita analog, with a cinnamon salt rim. I wish I could remember more about this bar, but it was late, I was very tired, and the German predilection for smoking in bars had begun to exact a heavy price.

We walked out into the warm German night, in search of the eponymous frankfurter, or rindwurst…

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