New Kreuzberg pop-up bar Bourbon Dogs is gearing up for its opening party this Saturday, where it’s giving away 300 free hot dogs (available from 12:00) and 300 free bourbon pickleback shots (available from 22:00), first come first served. I met up with owner Max Paarlberg for a chat over a few bourbon cocktails and a fat cigar.
The pop-up bar is on Spreewaldplatz, in the old Locke Müller (a bar I’ve been to before… but who remembers May 1st?), and Max has transformed the place into a cosy speakeasy den, all wood furnishings and bottles of rare bourbons shipped over from America hanging from the ceiling on chains.
Its concept is matching high-quality hot dogs with excellent whiskies, a selection of classic cocktails (all with Max’s personal twist) and some homegrown bottled beers (plus the odd Brooklyn Beer thrown in for good measure).
Sat at the bar, Max mixed me a bottle-aged Manhattan (his own recipe, 4 weeks matured) whilst simultaneously fixing me my first (of many) hot dog.
Are you ready to give away the 300 hot dogs on Saturday afternoon?
Have you ever seen 300 hot dog buns? That’s a lot! And, have you seen how small it is behind this bar? I’m going to have to build a big shelving unit here just to hold them all so I can also mix drinks at the same time!
And the 300 pickleback shots… how did you work out how much pickle juice you’ll need?
Well I figure that 80% of people will want pickle juice and 20% won’t, and I’ve been storing up pickle juice for a while now. I think I’ve got enough!
So, there’s a lot of whiskey in here…
At first I was really sticking to the American bourbon and rye whiskey concept. I’ve added a few drinks to the menu for people who might not (yet) be fans of bourbon, which will hopefully convert them.
I’ve even added two gin drinks – a gin&tonic made with rye gin, and a Hot Dog Gibson, which is a cocktail made with a savoury gin and garnished with a hot dog.
Now, I’m very proud of my whiskey selection. About 20% of the menu I had to import myself from the states, and Bourbon Dogs is the only place in Berlin (there’s I think one more in Germany…) that stocks Sazerac Rye… in my opinion, the best Rye whiskey in the world.
I heard you lost your first tooth biting into a hot dog. Is that the sign of a good dog?
This hot dog was the best food memory ever. I was at Disneyland and the hot dog was… longer than my arm. And sure, I was smaller then… but I think it literally was that long because they do those foot-long ones there. I remember loving that hot dog so much that, when I got home, I’d beg my mum every meal for ‘a hot dog like at Disneyland’. That’s where it began.
You get your sausages from Simon the Sausage Man, tell me about him.
Ah, Simon’s a genius. He’s never done anything BUT make sausages. He has a stand in Markthalle Neun and, although hot dog sausages aren’t something he normally does, the recipe he had for them was better than the one I brought back from the US. So now he makes Bourbon Dogs’ sausages. He does everything by hand – he’s a one-man sausage-making band – using only the best ingredients and it’s simply the best hot dog sausage I’ve ever had.
And the buns are from Bekarei Bakery in Prenzlauer Berg and they have potato in them? What does that do?
Basically all of the good quality hot dogs – especially Chicago dogs – are many with potato buns. You add mashed potato to the dough and even though you’d think that would make the bun super heavy… it actually does the opposite. You get these light, fluffy buns. When I showed Bekarei Bakery my recipe they were really excited to help make them because they had never tried it before. And, literally, their first trial was perfect.
I see ketchup and mustard. Heinz and French’s?
It is Heinz. But, it. is. not. French’s. I could only find French’s in 150ml bottles, wholesale, for €3 each. I can’t do that. Instead, I found the next best thing… by blending two other mustards together… but that’s my secret recipe.
Bourbon Dogs’ Hot Dog Menu (so far…)!
Classic Dog AKA the Naked Dog – Just the dog and the bun
Bourbon Dog – Classic Dog topped with house recipe coleslaw, Rittenhouse Rye BBQ Sauce & crispy onions
Chicago Joe – referred to in Chicago as being “dragged through the garden”, this dog is topped with tomatoes, pickles, cucumbers, onions, relish & dusted with celery salt
Jiro Dreams of Hotdogs – this spicy dog is topped with Fräulein Kimchi’s shredded kimchi, sriracha mayo, spring onions & sesame seeds
Dirty Sanchez – this Mexican inspired dog is loaded with fresh avocado, pico de gallo & chipotle sour cream
*Whilst struggling with my Bourbon Dog* Is there a correct way to eat a hot dog?
Nooo… There’s no specific way. But… I. will. not. allow cutlery in here!
Saturday’s event is ’till late’, what are you doing for entertainment?
So there’s a good friend of mine – an amazing DJ – with an amazing vinyl collection of Africa to US rare groove stuff, who got me into loads of musical genres I didn’t even know existed. He’s going to do the first four hours and it’s going to be really funky and soulful. Then, later on, we’ve got a girl doing some really danceable hip hop, and then it’s going to go a bit deep in the evening with soulful and funky deep house. We will also have a surprise live music act…
The music concept here at Bourbon Dogs will be US funk, soul, old skool hip hop, and a bit of psychedelic rock.
Thanks a lot Max and see you on Saturday.
Editorial time: I had a lot of fun at Bourbon Dogs. You could probably have written down everything I knew about hot dogs and American whiskey as I entered Bourbon Dogs on half a sheet of paper (but Michael Bay would’ve still offered to direct it…) but that didn’t matter – Max’s knowledge and enthusiasm can turn anyone into a fan.
He’s someone who loves food, and loves sharing food, and, with Bourbon Dogs, he’s constantly juggling two things: offering his customers the best possible quality of food and drink without compromise (‘cept the French’s mustard), and selling them at a price that people are happy to pay. I hope he finds that perfect balance because it’s truly refreshing to enjoy real quality cocktails and food without paying too much of a premium for them.
The Bourbon Dogs pop-up bar will be at here for at least 3 months, but has plans to become a permanent feature.
On Saturday, go for the free hot dog. Then, stay for a cocktail or twelve (plus the couple of Prince tracks Max promised me they’d play).