There is a good reason why Le Lion is ranked among the world’s 20 best bars. Despite the very French name, you do not have to go to Paris to find out why. Instead, go to Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg. Behind an entrance so anonymous that I have met people who think that they are out of businesses, you will find a small and intimate place that is a real gem.
Visiting Le Lion for the first time
The first time I visited Le Lion was in the winter of 2013. Back then their head bartender, Mario Kappes, had just returned from Sweden after winning the title of Mixologist of the year.
I was not only impressed by his skills behind the bar: We were about ten people. Mario did not only come to greet us. He started taking orders and was telling stories about the different ingredients in whatever people were ordering. The whole session lasted for more than 10 minutes. After another 10 minutes, he returned with a tray full of drinks and managed to deliver all the drinks to the right person. Needless to say, all the drinks tasted great.
I have always been fascinated by people that excel in what they do. People that has knowledge, drive, and passion. Mario Kappes is such a person.
Below is Mario mixing his signature drink.
The second visit to Le Lion
A little more than a year later I visited the place again, this time together with my wife. We found the black door and rang the bell. After a few seconds, we were greeted by a nice gentleman who welcomed us inside and took our coats. The place had only two other guests, so we opted for the front row seat; at the bar. Le Lion is a small and intimate place that makes you feel comfortable from the start. With the place almost empty, we got to take a look at the interior.
After getting some recommendations from the bartender, we chose two different Dry Martinis and got to see some very skillful bartending. The result was very pleasing, both in taste and presentation. Both Martinis came in a tiny cocktail glass. Beside this, we each got a bowl filled with ice with a tiny glass mug which contained the rest of the contents of the shaker. It was all very tastefully presented with lemon peel and olives on the side.
There is a good reason why Diffords Guide ranks Le Lion among the 20 best bars in the world. Le Lion and Mario Kappes keeps winning prizes. Below is a picture of him after winning Berlin Mixology Awards in 2014.
Times are changing
In December 2015, Jörg Meyer, the owner of Le Lyon, announced on his blog that Mario Kappes would leave Le Lion.
Jörg Meyer is also running a second bar in Hamburg, this by the name of The Boilerman Bar. The rumors are positive. I will make sure to check out this place, as well as revisiting Le Lion, on my next visit to Hamburg.
Here is Jörg Meyer making a drink of his own invention, the Gin-Basil Smash.