Cheers, Berlin!

Who says Cola always has to be brown?

It was a question that Nermin Çelik couldn't get out of her head, which is how a crazy idea morphed into a plan to bring out her own caffeinated soda, free from sugar and artificial colorings.

The list of ingredients is minimal: water, the natural sweetness of fruits, carbonic acid, natural aroma, calcium lactate, citric acid, and caffeine. Those curious to try the concoction can sample Çelik's "Glam Cola" at various Berlin clubs and cafés. Just like Nermin Çelik, many other Berliners aren't content to make do with the offerings of the big beverage companies. Instead, they have come up with their own creations, like "Berliner Mätchen", for instance. Nico Wojak's contrast to the well-known 'Club Mate' drink is a mix of Brazilian maté tea and apple juice from Southern Germany, along with an extra dash of caffeine from coffee beans. The healthy soda tastes slightly bitter and helps you stay awake and alert.


"Keg Soda" was already being brewed in Berlin over a hundred years ago. Chemist Ludwig Scholvien invented the soft drink in 1908, as a kind of alcohol-free kids' beer for his son. In addition to the typical beer ingredients, water and malt, the original recipe contained a concentrate made from apples and licorice root. Even now, this Berlin specialty is still available on tap in some places. There are almost limitless variations of this traditional drink, known colloquially as '"Sportmolle". In Brandenburg, they drink red keg soda with a raspberry base, while tired souls sip bottled "Kreuzbär", a caffeinated version, to enliven their senses. This drink with its fun name was the brainchild of four students. In the meantime, the label has been taken over by three professionals with experience in the beverage industry. The brand is committed to the next generation too, with a range that includes a caffeine-free version for kids.


Unlike keg soda, the brand Mampe almost sank into oblivion. While the Berlin of the 1920s was plastered with advertisements for the cult liquor, and the brand sponsored Hertha BSC football team into the 1970s, it gradually disappeared from the collective consciousness of the capital, along with the corner pubs that used to serve it. A few years ago, however, Tom Inden-Lohmar took the helm. Inden-Lohmar, the head of an advertising agency, bought the brand from the Berentzen group, hoping to build on the drink's past splendor. Thanks to his efforts, many bars now have good old 'Mampe Halb Halb', a herbal liqueur vaguely reminiscent of Jägermeister, back on the menu. Today, Mampe also produces Gin and Vodka, filled in modern bottles with the distinctive red elephant at the neck.


Berlin has had to surrender its position as a leading metropolis for beer over the last few decades. Only Berlin Kindl-Schultheiss brewery, which brews Berliner Pilsner, among others, is still important beyond the boundaries of the capital. However, Berlin also has a number of small, private breweries. Be it Rollberger from Neukölln, Heller Stern from Kreuzberg or Spandauer Havelbräu, the choice of freshly tapped beers is extensive. There is also Quartiermeister, with a social conscience that really sets it apart. True to its motto "drink beer, do good", the producers donate part of their profits to social projects in Berlin and Munich. Customers can even help decide on where exactly the money goes by voting via the website.


If the previous evening's escapades involved a little too much Mampe and beer, it's time for 'Kreutzbergs Regenerativum'! This drink, made from prickly pear, ginger, guarana, green tea extract, vitamins and minerals, was created by native Berliner, Jan Kreutzberg, who took his inspiration from the Asian beverage market. The juices, spritzers and cider produced by 'Ostmost' are another healthy alternative. This Berlin producer creates delicious drinks from various varieties of apple from meadow orchards and is also committed to preserving these unique natural habitats. Meanwhile, 'Proviant Fruchtmanufaktur's' range includes lemonades, spritzers and smoothies. Since 2009, delicate creations like "Powerhouse", a blend of citrus fruits, banana and ginger, have been created in Kreuzberg using whole organic fruits and without harmful artificial colors and preservatives. The green smoothie contains kale, among other things, while the organic fruit juices are also used to create spritzers and lemonades. These healthy drinks are now available at many supermarkets, and even at the Federal Chancellery. It would seem they also know what's good for them!


Photos and photo credits:

Title: Ostmost juices and spritzers
01 "Glam Cola" from Berlin
02 "Kreuzbär": a caffeinated keg soda
03 Mampe Halb Halb
04 Lemonades and spritzers from Proviant