The Hugo: Minty Memories of Berlin

The Hugo is also served in a highball glass, although I prefer the wineglass.

Visitors may flock to Germany for its beer, and I did enjoy a lovely warm afternoon in a cozy tree-filled beer garden on my last visit to Berlin. But my favorite drink was a Hugo, the “it” drink a few summers ago.

I left Berlin, but brought my appreciation of the Hugo back home with me after tasting several variations in bars across Berlin, part of the in-depth research I conduct in such endeavors.

My favorite may have been in the bar in our hotel, the 25hours hotel bikini berlin. (Weird name for a hotel, right? Not a bikini in site.) The bar at the top of the hotel is the Monkey Bar, named for its view of the monkeys in Zoo Berlin next door. I had my first Hugo here, and fell in love with its refreshing, minty taste.

But where to find elderflower syrup? I was certain it wouldn’t be in any aisle in my local Publix. A quick search led me to Ikea, where I bought a large bottle for $5. Buy fresh mint in the grocery store, or grow your own.

The Hugo

Makes one. But what’s the point of that? Go ahead and adjust it for a few servings.

2-3 parts Prosecco (100-150 ml)
• 3 parts seltzer water (150 ml)
• 1 Tablespoon elderflower syrup
• Juice of one fresh lime
• 4-5 mint leaves
• ice cubes

If you have a wooden muddler to mash the mint leaves in your cocktail glass, go ahead and use it. Otherwise, using a mortar and pestle would work, too. Or you can use a wooden spoon and a bowl – whatever method you come up with to crush the mint will work. Transfer the mint leaves to your glass and add the other ingredients. Stir and serve with a straw

25hours bikini berlin hotel


The lobby of 25hours berlin bikini hotel, the hippest placed I'd ever stayed
The lobby of 25hours berlin bikini hotel, the hippest placed I’d ever stayed

25hours bikini berlin hotel wins the prize for the most oddly named hotel I’ve ever stayed it, but I loved it. When I first checked in, I was immediately entranced by the lobby, with its colorful Scandinavian-style décor and hammocks overlooking the zoo.

There is no trace of old Berlin here. Guests stay on either the zoo or city side, where I was in a loft-like room with urban touches like a mattress on the floor, a bicycle mounted on the wall and a black-tiled bathroom. It’s exactly the kind of place I’d want to live in if I was a young bohemian moving to a large city for the first time — none of which applies to me. But isn’t that part of the fun of travel? We can try on different personas and in this case, I was an unencumbered artsy type.

Lines stretch out into the street to ride the elevator up to the Monkey Bar, with killer views of the Berlin Zoo
Lines to stretch out into the street to ride the elevator up to the Monkey Bar, with killer views of the Berlin Zoo

A stuffed monkey provided to keep me company patiently awaited my return each day, and a handcrafted piece of jewelry was laid on the floor, available for me to wear during my stay. It was a bit of an adjustment to put on make-up in the low lighting of an all-black bathroom, so I just swiped it on and hoped for the best. And yes, that mattress placed directly on the floor, while easy to collapse into, was a bit more challenging to spring out of in the morning. But the bohemian lifestyle requires a few small sacrifices, right?

I had my first Hugo, the signature drink of Berlin, at the hotel’s uber hip Monkey Bar, located on the top floor of the hotel with views of the monkey cage at the tree-filled zoo. This refreshing combination of  Prosecco, mint, lime and elderflower syrup cocktail was the perfect prelude to our dinner at Neni Berlin, just across from the bar, where we shared everything from falafel to tuna sashimi to grilled lamb shank and hangar steak.

Adjacent to the hotel is the Bikini Berlin, which bills itself as a “concept mall,” a combination of boutiques, flagship stores and Bikini Berlin Boxes, small wooden modular structures housing short-term tenants. I strolled through and took the stairs to check out the new green rooftop terrace. Now about that name: the hotel and mall were built in the Bikinihaus, a name Berliners gave it when it was built in the 1950s. It had one upper and one lower area, which reminded them of the exotic new swimwear, the bikini.

If you’re looking for an historic property go elsewhere. But if you want new, hip and fun in a great location, try the 25hours bikini berlin. And don’t forget the Hugo.

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