Cocktails, Chocolate and Creativity – The New Menu at Windhorst
Last week Günter Windhorst launched his new menu and I am super proud that I was able to stalk the whole process from the mixing of the drinks to the creation of the pralines. The new Windhorst cocktail menu is heavy on vintage spirits like cognac, sherry, port and vermouth. Three of the cocktails are served with a chocolate, individually and perfectly tailored to the drink. I was at the bar and at the chocolate manufacturer and here is my adventure.
I have already reported about the Windhorst Bar and the brain behind it. Günter Windhorst is one of the bartenders we have in Berlin who is really passionate and experienced. Everyone is welcome at Windhorst. He told me a while ago about the idea of serving some of the drinks with a pairing praline. A few weeks ago he invited me for the preview-mixing of the new menu where I met Sandra Stops.
Sandra Stops, owner of the small chocolate manufactory Sinn für die Sinne, (which means “sense for the senses” in English), was nice from the first meeting. We talked about our passions, taste experiences, about her business and of course the upcoming menu. All of her chocolates are handmade with lots of love and fresh ingredients. In 2017 she was awarded for best Berlin sweets for her gin and cucumber praline. When Günter Windhorst tried her creation for the first time he was pretty sure that they had to do something together. Supporting small shops and products that make Berlin unique is a bonus. Chocolate & Cocktails, a great choice companions.
The brand-new menu features
Cocktails & Chocolate.
We spent a joyful afternoon at the Windhorst bar and I watched her taking notes and coming up with ideas while sipping the drinks. There is always a connection between the kitchen and drinks. Aztec gold is a perfect match with aged spirits and well-known as a tasting partner. Chocolate liqueur and bitters are also commonly used in cocktails. It is hard to resist the tempting taste of a delicious chocolate cocktail. But have you ever thought about making your own praline creation to match a particular drink? Günter Windhorst has.
The next adventure awaited me at Sandra Stop’s Sinn für die Sinne which is idyllically located on Fischerinsel in Berlin Mitte. It is the shop, kitchen and tasting room in one. This wonderful little manufactory is the place for holistic chocolate delight. You can feel, see, hear, smell and taste it. Have you ever seen the movie Chocolat? Anyway, it felt a bit like I was entering a scene from the film.
I was greeted by a smell of chocolate and spices. When I entered the kitchen, I was surprised because I expected huge technical equipment. Completely wrong! Chocolate is sensitive and needs to be treated carefully. You will find many boxes and jars full of spices, dried fruits, nuts, decorative articles and flasks with high-quality tinctures. A huge refrigerator and an AC to provide the right processing temperature are the main technical devices. Sandra was dressed in a pink chef’s coat and showed me the whole place. Her delicious creations are incredible. I tried the awarded gin and cucumber praline which is made with a big portion of Hendrick’s Gin, and is vegan by the way. She has caught the character of the gin perfectly and has rounded off the chocolate with a rose essence.
While she was preparing some pralines and answering my questions, I started to enjoy the first praline of the menu. She had invited me as a kind of guinea pig to make sure that the creations reflect the drink, if the size fits and how I eat it. There are many ways to eat a praline. Some stuff them in their mouths, others bite through, others eat layers. This piece of art looked beautiful and I wasn’t sure what to expect inside, so I bit through. There was a maraschino cherry inside with the right consistency and suddenly the cocktail came back to my mind. Holy Shit! Respectfully, I looked at Sandra with a big smile on my face. The next piece of work was the one for the whisky based concoction. This one reflected the drink exactly, so I told her that she has to sell it on its own. Third taste sample was the small piece of chocolate which comes with the cognac and gin-based refreshing libation. The idea behind it is to have a crunchy texture and a delicate yuzu flavour. She was still working on it but it was definitely another masterpiece to look forward to. There was certainly nothing to complain about and for me, it was the beginning of a new sensual love affair. Pralines need the same fine-tuning and attentiveness as cocktails and they are also unforgivable in their balance. Let’s see what has happened afterwards.
Now, it is time to taste both: Cocktails & Chocolate. A tempting menu awaits you with outstanding treatment for your palate.
I arrived early at the bar and slipped onto a bar stool. There are three drinks paired with chocolate. I started with the Harvard Style. The drink is presented in an elegant Nick & Nora glass and the praline comes alongside in a small upturned jar where the lid serves as a tray and you can conveniently lift the glass jar. The size of the praline is ideal to support the whole drinking experience.
The Havard Style is a spicy Mediterranean interpretation of a Brandy Manhattan with a maraschino cherry inside the praline. It mixes Yzaguirre Seleccion 1884 vermouth, which reminds of the old traditional style of Spanish vermouth with rye, and cognac rounded off with Maraschino liqueur and balsamic vinegar. The consistency and texture of the praline together with the drink is such a wonderful mouthfeel. They play together harmoniously and build a lovely stage for the maraschino cherry which usually takes a bath in the bottom of the glass and looks a bit sad after a while. The drink itself is luscious and rich, but the praline lifts it to another level.
You don’t need to have a sweet tooth to yearn for these delights. It is a sophisticated and grown-up taste experience. The pralines are not too sweet and allow the cocktails to shine through.
The next tempting creation is Sweet Nessie. Whisky and chocolate is a perfect pairing anyway but it is at its best in Sweet Nessie. The recipe is easy, a blend of Dalwhinnie Winter Edition, Cynar, toasted pecan bitters and Benedictine. Herbal notes married with dried fruits, a touch of caramel and pecan nut flavour. The drink pairs with the chocolate nuttiness of the praline excellently. The pecan nut on top reminded me of Nessie taking a bath in Loch Ness. Definitely a praline that tastes like the drink and can stand on its own. When I tried it at Sandra’s kitchen it was like having the drink with a long aftertaste.
Sandra Stops has caught the character of the already fabulous Windhorst’s cocktails perfectly.
The last drink, which comes with a thin piece of chocolate, is a Maillard. It is pleasantly invigorating and already has dark chocolate liqueur. Chateau Montifaud VSOP Cognac, Citadelle Old Tom Gin, freshly squeezed lemon juice and Miracle Mile Yuzu Bitters are some more players teaming up with the drink. The chocolate has not been conched, so the remaining sugar crystals give a crispy texture that is a fantastic match with the drink. To get the yuzu flavour right wasn’t easy but you will be convinced by the result.
A fairy tale for adults and sophisticated drinkers. Not to be missed.
You will find one of the best classic drinks at Windhorst anyway. The new menu highlights sherry, port and vermouth, and offers a very special drinking experience with the chocolate pairing. It will be available till the new menu in spring. Not to be missed.