With local bartenders pushing the boundaries of creative mixology, Munich is fast becoming the most exciting ‘bar capital’ in Germany. Roman Kern, manager of Sophia's Restaurant and Bar, is one of the top mixologists in the city. Passionate about reinventing the ‘cocktail’ as we know it, he dries his own fruits and vegetables, creates powders from liqueurs, pickles spices, infuses herbs into spirits – and that’s just the ingredients prep. We sat down with Roman to talk trends, cocktails and bartenders to watch in 2017.
You’re one of Munich’s most exciting mixologists. What first inspired your passion for mixology?
“When I started working in hospitality in Munich over 10 years ago, there wasn’t ‘mixology’ as we know it today. Most of the bars served good, classic drinks but there was nothing exciting going on. I had my first real encounter with mixology when I moved to London in 2009. Living in a city with so many great restaurants and bars inspired me to be creative and try new things. What keeps on inspiring me is the almost never-ending creativity you can put into crafting new drinks.”
The art of cocktail making has evolved a lot over the last few decades, with new styles coming into fashion. What are your predictions for cocktail trends in 2017?
“The latest trend is low alcoholic drinks, for example long drinks and cocktails with Vermouth, Port or Sherry. Most people nowadays want to enjoy their evening without worrying about a hangover the next morning. Being healthy in general is a new trend and even though alcohol and health don’t fit very well together, low alcoholic drinks might be the best way around it.”
How would you summarise the Munich cocktail scene?
“The cocktail scene in Munich has become very exciting over the last five years. So many new places have opened up with different concepts and styles, and great bartenders behind the counters. Last year, at the Mixology Bar Awards (the biggest award show for the German-speaking bar community), Munich was awarded four prizes in different categories, making it the “bar capital” of Germany. Compared to London or New York we still have a long way to go, but we are definitely on the right path.”
How important is presentation in the current world of cocktail making?
“Presentation is really important as you drink with your eyes as well. However, it should be within reason. I once saw a cocktail presented on a slate with a big slice of cake – personally, I think that was a little over the top. I’d rather have a basic garnish on top of a fantastic drink than a fantastic garnish on top of a mediocre drink.”
Please tell us about your methods when creating a new cocktail or menu for Sophia’s Restaurant and Bar.
“When creating a new drink, I always try to use as many seasonal ingredients as possible. As the concept of Sophia’s Restaurant & Bar is focused on fresh, local produce, I like to go to open air markets such as the Viktualienmarkt and get inspired by the fruits and vegetables on offer. For me, a cocktail menu is a signature of the whole bar team, so I find it useful to do tastings with my team. It’s easier for my associates to be excited about something everyone was involved in.”
Your bar is stocked full of fascinating ingredients – what do you love to work with the most?
“I really love to work with fresh herbs. First of all, there are so many different herbs you can use in your drinks. Secondly, there are so many ways you can use them – drying them, infusing syrups or spirits, and so on.”
You’re constantly reinventing classic cocktails. When making fresh blends, how do you retain that classic taste while bringing it into the 21st century?
“I find barrel aging a good way of reinventing a classic drink. You simply use a wooden barrel, fill it with spirits of your choice and let it develop for up to 30 days. I used to barrel age a Martinez (a classic Gin drink) with Gin Mare as the base spirit. Gin Mare, infused with herbs from the Mediterranean, fitted perfectly into the concept of Sophia’s Restaurant & Bar and gave an exciting twist to a classic Martinez.
Is there any one cocktail that you are particularly proud of on the current Sophia’s bar menu?
“We have a drink on our menu called “Sophia’s”. Originally, I created this drink for the movie premier of ‘The Great Gatsby’. As it was so popular with my guests, I decided to amend it a little and put it on our current menu. The drink makes me proud as it’s one of the most popular drinks I’ve ever created.”
Besides yourself, who else is doing extraordinary mixology in Munich right now?
“Lukas Motejzik at Zephyr Bar and Herzog Bar. Personally, I think he is one of the best mixologists in Munich. He uses so many different techniques and products to craft his cocktails, which I find absolutely mind-blowing. Bill Fehn from Jaded Monkey is another of the best mixologists in the city. Born in New York City, one of the bar capitals of the world, he creates modern drinks as well as classic drinks with a modern twist, which I find very inspiring.”