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House of Weekend Let there be house

At the start of 2014, Weekend was fast approaching its 10-year anniversary, which in club years (a lot like dog years, by the way) is a ripe old age. It was perhaps unsurprising that it had started to wheeze a little—clubber’s cough, you know? But rather than go out on a whimper, they shuttered the place for six months to reconceive, redesign and rebrand. And the result? In a nutshell: boozey backpackers out, VIP clubbers in.

It is not only for those with a PA, however. It’s largely for those who still like four-to-floor but have had enough of their shoes sticking to the floor. It’s for the ‘90s Mitte kids who like club owner Marcus Trojan might have turned 40 now and appreciate the finer things in life too, such as good service and deluxe BBQs say—the likes of which are available each evening on the roof garden, marshalled by Michelin-starred chef Stefan Hartmann. (No need to line your stomach on Alexanderplatz with a grillwalker Bratwurst anymore!)

Two storeys down on the 15th floor, the swanky revamped club gets going at 11pm. The techno and house lineups are still solid and that dancefloor view is still hands-down the best this city has to offer. So even if your spiritual party home is a dank Neukölln basement, the yowzer factor of a high-altitude boogie should not be underestimated. Just leave your knackered Chucks at home.

Kater Blau Into the wild blue yonder

First things first, let’s not compare Kater Blau to Bar 25. Quite simply because it can’t and doesn’t. Once you stop reminiscing about mythical Berlin clubs, however, this newbie becomes a pretty exciting proposition. Spree-side gymnastics officially over, the Kater Holzig crew are back on the sunny side of the river again—this time with planning permission and money on their side.

The hotpotch Holzmarkt complex containing gardens, markets, bars, cinemas and God-knows-what other projects, rolls out towards the east, with Kater Blau as the only defiantly family-unfriendly section hugging the western corner. Classic weapons in their party arsenal—the photo booth, a wood burning fire and of course confetti—make a reappearance but now they’ve added a massive moored boat for extra firepower. Out on deck, there’s a ton of extremely lounge-worthy spots while inside, given the super-dooper new soundproofing, DJs can really do some damage.

For the most part, it’s an eclectic, fun-loving, top hat-wearing crowd—you’ll be fine so long as you don’t stay too late into the day after tomorrow when all manner of degenerates come out of the woodwork. It’s early days still but there are indications of good times ahead, albeit on a smaller scale than the club’s two previous incarnations. Alas, even ravers get old and have to take it easy.

Art und Weise Moonshiners

Quirky, softly-lit bars are to Neukölln what kid-friendly Bio-Cafes are to Prenzlauer Berg. They’re everywhere. In fact, if you fell over within a 1km radius of the Schillerpromenade, you’d probably land on an upcycled armchair with a Moscow Mule in your hand. Such is their abundance, that picking one to park up in can prove problematic (first world problems eh?). Art und Weise, though, is a great place to hedge your bets.

It ticks many boxes of the modern Kneipe: There’s foosball out back, giant art on the wall, and the vibe is more ‘kick back’ than ‘kick off’. Decor-wise, it treads the line between beaten up and slick, with its bare concrete floor, tattered two-seaters, and kitschy crystal-glass ashtrays on the one hand and its polished pinewood bar, velvet-topped stools, and hanging lights on the other. Behind the bar there’s a decent selection of hard liquors (including a fruity and fiery house-made brew called H.E.R.B) that get mixed up into both classic cocktails and funkier, off-the-menu concoctions. If you’re being less adventurous and sticking to the beers, rock up between 6pm and 8pm and you can get a Groß for the price of a Klein.

Friends of the place spin crackly, old gramophone tunes on quieter nights, and let loose with meatier sets of a higher BPM come the weekend. Also, despite the relative lack of space, they host a heap of live art installations, film nights and impromptu jam sessions on an ad-hoc basis. What’s more, to further endear themselves to the Kiez, they go into ice cream production mode come the summer — so you can substitute that post-session Döner for two scoops instead.

Windhorst Nineties child

In the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ world of Berlin cocktail bars, it’s not so common to stumble across a place which has passed its 15th Geburtstag. Allow us then, to reintroduce Windhorst, which has been quietly and consummately doing its thing — i.e. mixing killer cocktails — since 1999, when the Loveparade was still raging and Friedrichstraße was still recovering from its Mauerfall hangover.

It has a determinedly old school look, or to phrase it another way, they’re not going to get any spreads in the glossies where Berlin’s sweaty, slimey after dark scene remains a perennial hot topic. It’s shoebox small, it’s dark, it’s moody and there’s no exposed brickwork or faux industrial hanging lights in sight. Just a cocktail menu that makes the bible look like light reading, and a brilliantly-lit, apothecary-esque back bar packed with high-grade spirits. The long drinks get the most airtime: The Make a Mint — Tanqueray, fresh-squeezed pink grapefruit, lime, mint and Fee Brothers Mint Bitters — is a fruity zinger of a standout. Hard drinkers fear not though, because there’s no shortage of liquor-only concoctions too.

The vibe is set by scratchy blues and jazz emanating from the record player in the corner, and every Wednesday the 30-seater space is cleared a little, so patrons can get down, up close and personal, to the sounds of a live soul DJ. Make sure you look out for their whiskey sour nights too, where you can tailor-make your own tipple using an elite selection of whiskeys, bourbons, bitters, and fresh juices (and don’t skimp on the egg whites!). They don’t come around often — every three months or so — but they’re worth the wait.

John Muir The power of imagination featured

Run by serious drinkers for serious drinkers (by serious, we mean both refined and plentiful) and named after the archetypal outsdoorsman, John Muir exemplifies a rare breed of cocktail joint. One where there’s isn’t a mini parasol in sight, and you don’t have to put on any airs and graces either.

The drinks menu at this subterranean brick-lined bunker cuts the crap with its belting selection of hard liquors that are blended into imaginative new concoctions every month. If an everyman’s G&T or Barcadi coke is your tipple of choice, this is the perfect location to step a little outside of your comfort zone. An Alabama Belt Buckle — which blends Bushmills, Drambuie, fresh lemon, honey-ginger reduction and a Laphroaig rinse — is a good place to start.

And don’t think the ales have been ignored either. Monday night is beer night featuring a rotating assortment of 18 world brews, backed up by the ever-present legendary 8.5% Belgian beer, Delirium Tremens, available only in a bottomless 75cl bottle.

Klunkerkranich Quoth the crane, evermore!

There are fancy rooftop bars and then there are Neukölln rooftop bars. The former tends to be a bit on the stiff side, whereas the later is loose in every sense of the word. Created by a four-strong crew of Berlin party organizers and bar owners to be a ‘come one come all’ sort of place, the vibe at Klunkerkranich (German for wattled crane) is very inclusive – young’uns and gray’uns cavort side-by-side as the sun swings across that drop-dead awesome view of the city.

Sitting pretty atop the Neukölln Arkaden, 2500m² of concrete car park has been transformed into a high-altitude paradise of urban gardening and cold beer. Come six o’clock and you’ll have to part with three pieces of silver to gain entrance (if there’s still space). In return, you’ll be entertained by local DJs, acoustic musicians and dreadlocked pyromaniacs — so expect tattoos, trumpets and singed-hair aplenty, not to mention the good times.

Vögelchen Little birds know best featured

Tucked away just north of Lausitzer Platz, Vögelchen is a labyrinthine little café-bar where TLC rules the roost. The owner’s indefatigable approach to the finer details mean that almost every corner is littered with hand-picked ornaments and oddball furnishings: from a primed typewriter for the day-dreaming coffee fiends, to the antique piano for those of an ivory-tinkling inclination, or a wardrobe whose doors leads down to a Narnia-like, rentable party Keller. So whether it’s Kuchen o’clock in the afternoon or Negroni hour late at night, this is one nest you won’t want to leave in a hurry.

Trust Bar Golden decadence featured

The old Trust—brainchild of Weekend owner Marcus Trojan, Cookie’s head honcho Cookie and photographer Sascha Kramer—was a place where Mitte’s movers and shakers went to be seen and heard. So naturally when the most exclusive mini-club on Torstraße closed its doors in 2012 many a scenester was left wondering where their nightlife would go from there…

They needn’t have worried. Fast forward a few months and Marcus Trojan is at it again – this time flying solo in a bigger location that sprawls underneath the railway tracks at Hackescher Markt. It’s still that unmarked-door-and-peephole sort of exclusive, but to immerse yourself in what lies within is more than worth enduring those scrutinizing eyes—a straight up lesson in urban cool, expertly realized over two floors of exposed concrete and flashes of gold.

Drinks-wise, like the Trust of old, it’s all about bottles of Champagne and spirits (available in 0.2 or 0.7 liter) and they’ve even made the concession of stocking beers as well. If you order one, though, you’ve missed the point and will have to endure the ignominy of having it served in a brown paper bag. Because nothing decimates a hip cat’s image more than drinking hobo-street style.

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