Köln’s biggest tourist attraction is its cathedral. But cathedrals hold no interest for the Beachbum: while it is indeed impressive that Jesus turned water into wine, we prefer rum, and we’d heard that Köln’s bartenders do interesting things with it. So our first tourist stop in Köln was a bar. So was our second. Come to think of it, so was our third. By the fourth, we felt right at home: more than any other German city we’ve stumbled our way through, Köln has a thirst for the exotic.
At Onamor, a “cocktail creatorium” run by Alessandro Romano and his wife Conny, the offerings include drinks named after Donn Beach and Trader Vic. We sampled an Alessandro original called the Rapa Nui Nui (with a name like that, how could we not?), artfully flavored with rosewater, coconut, cardamon, and allspice. In his Empire Collins, Alessandro crowns cachaca, passion fruit, and lemon with fiery Düwwelaarsch (“Devil’s Ass”) Bitters, hand-crafted by Onamor regular Andreas Rauer.
At Shepheard (pictured above), a bar inspired by the storied Shepheard’s Hotel of Cairo, Stephan Hinz and Attila Kiziltas mix equally intriguing exotic originals. Every one we tried was sterling, but it was hard not to keep ordering Shepheard’s house specialty, the Suffering Bastard — which one of our personal heroes, Joe Scialom, invented at the original Shepheard’s in 1942.
At Al Salam Orient Lounge, you get the flipside of Shepheard’s Hotel, which catered to British Colonials in Cairo. Al Salam gives you the Middle Eastern version of the Middle East, both in decor and in your glass: the talented and wildly creative (the two do not always go hand in hand) bar manager, Mohammad Nazzal, teases his cocktails with jasmine tea, pickled figs, jallab syrup, saffron, and chestnut honey. Lazeez!
Mohammed won Germany’s Havana Club Academia Del Ron cocktail competition last year, and successfully defended his title this year with a tonka bean-accented Maori Punch (pictured above). The Bum co-judged the contest, which proved that Köln is not the only German city gone Tiki: 50 contestants from all over Deutschland brought their exotic A-game, deploying everything from caraway-infused rum to a shrunken head garnish made of dried mango.
Eyck Thormann brewed his bespoke falernum a la minute by passing the ingredients through a Mr. Coffee machine, while Bastian Drews went full-tilt vintage by wearing a 1960s tapa-print suit jacket, mixing his drink in a rare 1940s hand-cranked “Rumba” cocktail shaker, and pouring it into 1950s Don The Beachcomber’s coconut mugs. Indica Silva opted for a real coconut, into which he poured homemade traditional sugarless Sri Lankan coconut cream, vanilla-cardamom syrup, apricot puree, lime, and a blend of two different Havana Cub rums.
Axel Klubescheidt, from the heavily industrial Ruhr Valley, churned his drink with an industrial-strength swizzle stick that he’d welded out of rebar. Not to be outdone, Sebastian Stamm sat the judges on the floor and guided them through a communal Fiji kava bowl ceremony.
Come to think of it, maybe we should have gone to that cathedral after all — to pray that all these guys keep thinking Tiki. They’re the best thing to happen to Germany since Sven Kirsten.