It’s instantly clear from the moment you enter Küche Bar that this is a cocktail space completely different from the rest in Berlin. It essentially flips the dark-walled, dimly lit & smoky Berlin cocktail scene on its head, instead dressed like a beautiful white-tiled kitchen with pots and pans to keep your eyes focused when not admiring your drink. Likewise with their menu: each drink comes with its very own food pairing and is also laid out exactly like a restaurant menu – dividing their drinks into starters, mains, desserts and more. It’s all very unique, and the concept stems from the imagination of owner Nina Zilvar, who we asked a few questions in order to find out more…
Küche Bar is so very different in its design to any other Berlin Bar. What was your initial concept and the reasoning you wanted to create such a space?
For years, I kept going back and forth about what kind of bar I would like to open and how to differentiate it from other bars.
The idea for the “kitchen” (Küche) actually came about in the kitchen of a friend’s parents, which was such a beautiful and cosy kitchen, that it made me think that I can’t think of any bar that reflects the cosiness and atmosphere of a kitchen, so that’s what I decided to do!
Were you concerned it might be too different for some Berliners to enjoy… or did you have faith in the design ideas all the way?
I’ve been convinced in my concept from day one. I believe that if offers so many opportunities to be creative… and to keep surprising your guests with new ideas and inventions. In the first year we developed so much already and we always keep trying new things… we’re definitely never bored and hope our guests aren’t either.
Tell us about your menu concept and why you wanted to do it this way?
I think it’s important that the guest can understand what the drink is going to be like; that they have kind of a vision of what to expect in their glass. So many times I have seen fancy cocktail names on menus, but if you don’t surround yourself by different spirits every day, it’s hard to really get an idea of what a certain drink could possibly taste like.
Our menu is set up like a restaurant menu; starters, mains, dessert, and that in itself is already an indicator of the flavour intensity and alcohol strength you can expect. We also try to explain what the drinks will taste like and there is a small food pairing as well, which rounds up the flavour palette.
What do you feel are the main issues with the Berlin cocktail bar scene?
I think the Berlin bar scene is already interesting, but it would be great to see more bravery to try something different and extraordinary.
In comparison to Europe, not even to mention the world, Berlin is a little bit behind, which is not the worst but could be improved on!
Everything here is just a little bit smaller and cosier, than in let’s say London or New York.But if you look at Germany as a whole, Berlin has a clear advantage in the fact that the industry heavily focuses on our city, which means we are right at the source when new things happen. That is an advantage that colleges in other German cities, like my friend Sven from Schwarzes Schaf in Bamberg doesn’t have.
So, what other bars do you enjoy visiting yourself when not working?
As there are a few very good bars in Schöneberg where I live, I sometimes end up in Stagger Lee, Green Door or Salut on the way home, often delaying my colleagues’ Feierabend 😉
Describe your favourite drink on your menu.
Oh, I can’t say that I have a favourite drink on our menu, I like them all a lot 😊
My favourite drink in general however is a Manhattan – at the moment I love it with Cognac.
Some of your drinks are pretty creative – we recall trying one combining whisky and wine, which oddly worked out very nicely! What is the process for creating new drinks?
A lot of our drinks mimic the flavour of a food dish. We try to recreate flavours and instead work them into a drink. It’s a lot about perception actually and combinations that you have positive associations with.
At the end, creating a new drink is always based on team work and everyone brings themselves in, in one way or another. And it’s not just everyone who works in Küche, but also our friends who are bartenders or regular customers, who we will give a “prototype drink” to try. It’s a lot of fun and it helps develop the drinks, but also develops your own thinking further.
What are the hardest parts to owning a cocktail bar in Berlin?
I don’t know if it’s tougher in Berlin than anywhere else, but I think generally being self-employed is something you have to really, really want.
It’s always helpful to have an understanding partner and good friends beside you. Once you have gotten through all the German bureaucracy it’s all about smiling, pushing trough and trying to get enough sleep to keep you going strong 😊.
What advice would you give to an aspiring bartender thinking of setting up on their own?
Far away from what perhaps other bar owners would say, I would recommend keeping an eye on all the small day-to-day things…
This would include to ensure you always have enough change, not to run out of the things you’re offering, handing in your tax return on time, not running out of toilet paper… and if you have see a suspiciously high number in your bank account, properly check that you have actually paid ALL your bills 😉
You really never switch off, as there is ALWAYS something to do. Oh, and all of a sudden you’ll realise your back and feet will be killing you.
…But, when you come into your own bar in the day, cleaning up from last night, and you look around, you will feel immense pride in what you have built up and accomplished. That makes up for a lot of things!
Where do you see the bar scene in Berlin progressing to in the next 5 years?
Well, I definitely hope that there will still be this kitchen bar in Kreuzberg, in which you’re always welcome 😉
Other than that I hope that people will come up with a few more interesting and exciting ideas that enrich the Berlin bar scene.
“ For me, Berlin is….”
… a tolerant and open minded city. A city worth living in. You have to understand Berlin and you have to know how to deal with it, then it can be a beautiful city!