Popping into a Späti on a boiling hot day to spot a refreshing apple & vodka drink called Berliner Sommer was a moment we’ll never forget. The branding was cool, the idea was great…but trying it for the first time was truly INCREDIBLE! We ended up buying another after the first sip! Testing out their hot version too, Berliner Winter (which is equally as delicious) we knew we had to meet creator Benjamin Fischer and having gotten to know him better, we decided to interview him too!
How did the idea for your first drink, Berliner Winter, come about?
I developed the recipe for Berliner Winter over time while working as a bartender during my studies. One winter day a girl came in and asked for hot apple juice with whiskey and cinnamon on top… She made me try it and I was quiet surprised how good it tasted!
Drinking hot juices in the winter was already a thing for me so I started to experiment. I exchanged the whiskey for vodka and added more spices – et voilá, Berliner Winter !
Having set it up alone, what were the main challenges you faced in launching this delicious new alcoholic beverage?
Since I have never worked in this field before, everything was quiet new to me, but nothing seemed to be impossible. It was just a lot of research and learning by trial and error.
Finding the right producer was probably the biggest challenge.
Berliner Winter is obviously quite seasonal, and so you also created the variation Berliner Sommer which is equally fantastic! Which is the more popular product of the two and why do you think this is?
I didn’t plan to make a summer version in the first place, but then I liked the idea of having a complementary drink.
So far Berliner Winter is always a step ahead because I launched it first. But the Sommer is keeping up so I would say they are equally popular.
Your label mentions you use apples from organic orchards. Is there a specific type of apple you use to achieve the flavour in Berliner Winter and is this different to the apples in Berliner Sommer? And are there any other major differences in the two drinks?
We use apples from „Streuobstwiesen“ which translates to organic orchards. On these orchard, different old apple sorts grow like Bohnapfel, Grafensteiner, Brettacher, Börtlinger Weinapfel, Schweizer Glockenapfel, Boskop, Jakob Fischer and Hauxapfel.
Since each harvest is a bit different, the juice will taste a bit different too. We use the same apple juice for the two drinks but different additional flavors. Berliner Winter has a secret seasonal spice mix, Berliner Sommer has lime and Waldmeister in it, plus some fizz.
A lot of big brands are able to easily sell many thousands of units of a brand new drink, purely due to their established and vast distribution networks alongside a huge marketing budget. How does Berliner Winter approach marketing and distribution on a smaller scale effectively?
I used to be a one-man-show so I naturally built personal relationships with the store owners. I didn’t do much marketing except for pasting posters around the city and thankfully we got picked up by the press of the back of the poster campaign. Supporting small events has also helped to spread the word.
What do you see in the future of Berliner Winter? Will it ever be available in other countries?
Already in the first season of supplying the drinks, I received emails from interested distributors in America, England, Belgium and even Korea, but the work here was more then enough for just one person and I wanted to focus on the Berlin market.
Now we are back in touch with distributors in England and I guess London will be the first city to enjoy Berliner Sommer, and once it get´s colder also Berliner Winter.
Your bottle design is fantastic! Who is behind the gorgeous illustrations?
My friend Judith Carnaby is the illustrator of the label and all your advertisements – she´s great!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of creating their own alcoholic beverage?
Find your market niche, do your homework (legal requirements), have good branding and be ready to work long hours.
Where are some of your favorite places to go out in Berlin, for food, drink, fun or relaxation?
Finish the following sentence: “For me, Berlin is…
….summer or winter!”