Drinks Cabinet: Ron Zacapa Rum

Ron Zacapa Rum

If you’re ever in Berlin it would be remiss not to visit the palace of all things afternoon tea and patisserie: Café Einstein. Its two cafes are featured in every guidebook going and its opulent surrounds are as exquisite as its cakes, but a lesser known hidden treasure lies up the back stairs of the Stammhaus location on Kurfürstenstraße.

I’d scribbled something about an upstairs bar in the margins of my lonely planet guide having seen a reference to it online, but only after poking around in the entryway looking confused did we find an unassuming wooden staircase that led up to the most impressively stocked drinking den I’ve ever had the pleasure of patronizing.

Behind the bar at Bar Lebensstern

beind the bar – just a small snapshot of the drinks in stock

As we entered and took our seats a the gleaming mahogany bar and gazed at the line upon line of back-lit spirits, the barman, dressed immaculately in traditional waiter’s uniform, leaped in the air, cheered, and then apologised profusely. It wasn’t our arrival that caused such a reaction, but (as he surreptitiously revealed) the Champions League final he was secretly watching on a laptop hidden behind the bar. The whole of Berlin was buzzing about the match as it was the first time two German teams had gone head to head in the final (Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund), and every bar and coffee shop we walked past had leigons of fans glued to TV screens to cheering for Dortmund (Berliners having adopted the underdog).

The refined gentleman’s club feel of the establishment would clearly have been ruined by a big screen TV (which probably explained why we were one of only 3 groups in there that evening) but the flash of a muted laptop screen was like catnip to the men in the room.  Within a few seconds a mini crowd had gathered to watch the last 20 minutes (Ste included, obviously) and the barman was nervously positioning the laptop on the bar, hoping the manager wouldn’t drop by….

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I entertained myself by perusing the vast tome of a drinks menu, and it started to dawn on me that the drink selection didn’t just consist of the rows and rows behind the bar, but that the whole place was full of huge glass display cabinets packed to the rafters with every type and brand of spirit imaginable. It turns out that the manager of the bar is a bit of an obsessive completionist who gets his supplies from the source that stocks the Canadian army, so they had all kinds of obscure American whiskeys that you usually never see outside of North America. Interested to try something new but unsure where to start I opted for a ‘flight’ of rum, which is basically 3 small tasters of different types.

Drinks cabinet at Bar Lebensstern

gazing into the drinks cabinets lining the walls

Now, I have to admit that up until this point, Bacardi was about the extent of my familiarity with rum (maybe the odd Old Navy & coke in less esteemed establishments), so it was an entirely new tasting experience. Of the three on offer it was Ron Zacapa that really stood out.  It’s a sweet, smooth rum  that has none of the burn of Bacardi or its ilk.  It’s an aged rum which is almost on the liquer spectrum in comparison to the other two we tried (which were also lovely), and  it’s made in Guatemala, which is apparently a hotbed of rum making activity (who knew?). The bottle is encircled by a distinctive hand woven ‘petate’ band in tribute to local Guatemalan craft and history, and the label is bedecked with the various prestigious international awards it’s won.  It would be criminal to douse this stuff in coke, and if you want to get your hands on a  bottle you can find it at the Whiskey Exchange  or other good fine spirit shops.

If you’re not familiar with the outcome of the 2013 Champion’s league story, sadly it wasn’t a fairytale ending.   Bayern took the title, and the  locals commiserated in solidarity with the Dortmund fans, but I think we chose the best spot in Berlin to participate in a some post-match sorrows drowning.


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