The best bartender in Germany, Austria and Switzerland today (according to the Mixology Award) is called Ruben Neideck. He is the mixologist at the head of the trendy Velvet bar in the alternative district of Neukölln, where he designs inspired cocktails using fresh, seasonal products. Journalist Marie Raymond met with him for Culture Cognac.
Where does Cognac figure in your creative universe?
– Personally, it’s a spirit I love working with because of its large range of very specific flavours. It has a buttery texture and is fresher than most other spirits. As a mixologist, I work a lot with young Cognacs. They’re delicate, elegant and not too powerful. A spirit’s finesse is really important in mixology. Young Cognac is really easy to work with, especially with pome fruits like apples and pears.
What place does Cognac have at the Velvet?
– It’s used in lots of our recipes, like the Cherry, one of the latest additions to the menu, which is made from whisky-infused cherries, red vermouth, Cognac, sherry and absinthe mist. I also use it a lot with mushrooms which I dry and then steep in Cognac. Then, of course, we also use it in our classic cocktails, like the Horse’s Neck (Cognac, lemon zest and ginger ale), the Sidecar (Cognac, lemon and orange liqueur) and the Sazerac, a cocktail from New Orleans made with Cognac, a little sugar, Peychaud’s, absinthe mist and lemon zest.
More generally, how do you choose which spirits to work with?
– Personally, I don’t really think in terms of trends. I only really think about flavours. At the Velvet, we wouldn’t choose a spirit just because it’s in fashion. If a spirit tastes good, it’ll go on the menu. The Velvet is also quite a conceptual bar with a big focus on nature. Our cocktails are all produced using a seasonal product, like a fruit, vegetable, flower or herb. That’s the main inspiration that guides us.