A sip of Berlin

The real dog days might be over, but here's hoping for an Indian summer - these six homegrown Berlin beverages are brimming with enough taste and indie spirit to see you well into autumn.

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Photo by Rasa Urzieziute. Left to right: Mampe, Proviant smoothie, Proviant lemonade, Wostok, OBC, Our/Vodka, Kreuzbär.
Six straight-from-the-Hauptstadt indie drinks to try this summer. Proviant With nine different bio smoothies ranging from aronia berry to kiwi with wheatgrass (€2.40-2.80), Proviant has been keeping Berlin juiced since 2009. Even though the Kreuzberg company produces 10,000 bottles a week and supplies organic supermarkets all over Germany, it’s still an indie operation with just 15 employees, including founders Paul Löhndorf, Thomas Wrobel and Jan Pilhofer. The trio had originally moved to Berlin from Franconia to start a café, but organic fresh fruit blends were to prove a more promising venture on the café-saturated but smoothie-depleted Berlin market. Up till six months ago they were still putting the caps on bottles by hand; they’ve since moved to a larger factory on Blücherstraße. Last year, they branched out to sodas (made in the Rhön region), offering three carbonated varieties – lemon, rhubarb and an unfiltered version of Apfelschorle – for 99 cents and up alongside their smoothies in stores and cafés throughout Berlin. Our/Berlin Vodka Launched in March, the trendy new shot on the block is quadruple-distilled in Alt-Treptow with (filtered!) Berlin water and German wheat – a relative bargain at €13 for 350ml. Their distillery/bar on Am Flutgraben serves the vodka with Thomas Henry soda or as a cocktail, but it’s smooth enough to drink straight. From the artisanal-looking bottle (only 1500 are made per month), you’d never guess that the handcrafted spirit is part of a “local vodka” initiative sponsored by Absolut, i.e. Pernod Ricard. The corporation provides the funding and recipe; otherwise, the five-member team is “actually really completely free to do whatever we want,” says sales director Marcus Stolze. Hoping to keep their brand “a little underground”, they’re choosy about where Our/Berlin is sold. Right now it’s available in 35 outlets, including such hotspots as Chapel Bar and Katz Orange. If it sells well, be on the lookout for Our/New York and Our/London.  Mampe Before there was East and West, before Isherwood, even before the Reichstag, there was Mampe Halb und Halb. Created in 1852, the “half-sweet, half-bitter” liqueur contains 160 different herbs as well as bitter orange. It tastes like a cross between Jägermeister and Grand Marnier, less sweet than the former and without the cognac of the latter. Though the bottles travel from Brandenburg to the shelves here, “those who want Mampe have to come to Berlin to buy it,” explains Tom Inden-Lohmar, leader of the Kreuzberg-based company’s three-person team. Thus the drink’s slogan: “Not for Everyone. Only for Berlin.” After a few years of declining sales, Mampe has seen a revival among the hipper set over the past six months, its cred bolstered by an appearance in the 1978 film Just a Gigolo, in which David Bowie wandered around Berlin dressed as a Mampe bottle. Said bottle can now be found in Edeka and Karstadt for €11.90, while shots are available all over town, from KaterHolzig to your local Eckkneipe. They also make gin and vodka, but stick to the signature Halb und Halb, either on its own or mixed with ginger beer and orange.  Kreuzbär A grown-up version of the kid-friendly beer alternative Fassbrause, Kreuzbär soda is available in select Spätis in Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain for €1-1.50. In developing their malty drink, Berliners Jan Schöning, Linda Lechner, Onur Özata and Martin Eicher dug up inventor Ludwig Schlovien’s original recipe on the internet, adding a caffeine kick and incorporating all-organic ingredients. “But we don’t want to make it like the new hipster bio,” says spokesperson Julia Akra. “The drink is from Kreuzberg, and Kreuzberg is authentic and honest.” Until recently, Kreuzbär was produced and bottled in 200-litre batches at Thorsten Schoppe’s Brauhaus Südstern and labelled by hand. But times are changing. After the founders returned to their day jobs (they’re still on board as “consultants”), experienced beverage marketer Susanne Schmidt took over as CEO, and the company is now scouting out larger production facilities in and around Berlin.  Wostok Since 2009, bars and clubs have been serving the colourful soda with the Soviet-retro label to the young, thirsty and/or Ostalgic among us. Based on the extinct USSR drink Baikal, flavoured with Siberian ginseng and pine needle extract, Wostok (“east”) is the brainchild of Joris van Velzen, a Dutch commercial photographer who moved to Berlin after two decades in Moscow. While it’s produced and bottled in plants in lower Saxony and Bavaria, Van Velzen (who still doesn’t pay himself a salary) and his five-person team call Berlin home. Since the success of the original Tannenwald flavour, Wostok has branched out and made two more caffeine-free variants. There’s a flashy “Georgian-style” green soda with tarragon, ginger and a splash of orange juice, but the preferable alternative might be the fuchsia pomegranate-date drink – supposed to be an homage to Uzbekistan, but actually big among Turks due to its “shisha-like” taste. Wostok is exported all over the EU, but Berliners can get it for under €1 at their local Kaisers, Lehmans or Späti.  Original Berlin Cidre You’ll find Berlin’s own take on the fermented apple drink in countless Spätis, bars and restaurants. Lamenting the lack of availability of cider outside of Irish pubs, two Berliners, Thomas Godel and Urs Nikolaus Breitenstein, came up with the drink in a Berlin kitchen back in the early 2000s. The two brewery technology students undertook 150 tests on apple juice to refine what became the classic OBC recipe. Friends loved their early batches, but when it came time to expand, the duo had to move out of their home city, setting up a factory in Hesse. Made with a blend of all-German apples, OBC is available in three flavours: Classic, Strong (with 5 percent alcohol compared to the original’s 3 percent) and the newest addition, currant-flavoured Rosé (€1.30-1.60).