Mondhügel’s ethos? “Naked drinking”. No, not sipping cocktails while nude, rather enjoying your drink safe in the knowledge that it’s completely free of artificial additives.
In our local hero series, in which we showcase our favourite holiday-at-home brands, our founder Emily McDonnell went to Markthalle Neun to speak to the value-led Berlin spirits brand, which is named after a hill in nearby Görlitzer Park.
“We love Kreuzberg,” said Co-founder and Head of Brand Benito Opitz as he pours me a gin and tonic, “it’s just this great melting pot of cultures. We picked the name (in English, moon hill) because we think it’s funny; it’s also a little escapist and it makes you pause as your brain conjures abstract images.”
I was first drawn to Mondhügel because they believe in giving people experiences through creating ‘true taste’. As a Brit, I am familiar with the taste of a gin and tonic, but this hits differently: there’s a much more complex flavour profile that changed as I sipped.
Benito grins as I tell him my first thoughts, before replying that they want to help people stop thinking and focus on now. “We wanted the flavours to be so intense that you simply can’t think of anything else. For all our products (gin, vodka, syrups, tonics) we use incredibly fresh spices because they give off a naturally more complex taste.”
Philipp Schmitz, Co-founder and Head of Product who is finishing bottling a fresh batch of syrups adds: “We get all our botanical ingredients from small scale farmers who grow organic, fair trade products, it’s incredible what a difference in taste there is between these spices and the spices you get in the supermarket. It’s especially key that we use ingredients that pack a punch, as flavours change so much through distillation. This also means that every batch we produce varies slightly in taste, meaning our product will always remain unique.”
“Think of us as the natural wine of the spirits world,” Benito says, as he pours me a shot of cacao, raspberry and pink peppercorn vodka, “don’t just expect a single flavour profile.”
It’s not just the flavour that is unique, as evidenced by their approach to design and branding. Benito, a former brand professional, knew he wanted to build an authentic brand with soul, that reflects their idealist view on the world. “We want to build a democratic luxury brand (ie, everyone can access good taste), so we don’t want splashy ad campaigns, instead we work with creatives, like Steve Braun here.” (Steve who has been busy snapping photos gives us a little wave before going back to his work.) “Steve is an artistic photographer who is currently running our social media; he posts photos he wants with a little ‘diary’ entry. People might say it’s weird, but it is an accurate representation of us!”
“Similarly, the bottles’ labels have been created by artists, and are textured to give the feel of a canvas.”
Drinking with the guys has been an experience. I feel as if I’m in a cocktail bar on holiday, open to talking and sharing stories with those around me!
Which left one more question: where in Germany do the Mondhügel team like to travel to?
“I love to wander Mauerweg - following the route of the Berlin wall along the former east-west border. This is because it’s such a key part of my family’s history.”
Benito explains: “My grandfather was a lieutenant colonel in the GDR air force, while my father was a captain in the armed forces and his job was to protect the border from ‘fascist, capitalistic invaders’. During the revolution, the GDR politicians demanded information from the border officers (including my father) and wanted the officers to stop the uprising. But the officers said ‘we will not shoot at our own people’, despite knowing that - regardless of the outcome of the revolution - they would lose their jobs, homes and income.”
“Without their refusal to comply, the revolution wouldn’t have been so peaceful; I am forever grateful to those officers.”
“The Mauerweg provides an opportunity to reflect: it’s like a huge museum showcasing the realities of German division. I think it's the best memorial to democracy and grassroots movements, and it is a gentle reminder that it doesn't take more than a small group of stubborn people to change the world for the better.”
We’ll leave you with that beautiful story, thanks so much for sharing, Benito.
The Berliner Mauerweg (or Berlin Wall Trail) is a 160km long path (for biking and hiking) and follows the course of the former GDR border fortifications that separated West Berlin from East Berlin. There are many places where you can see the old wall. An interactive map can be found here.
GIVEAWAY: Mondhügel is currently offering members the chance to join a COVID-compatible sensory workshop in Berlin’s Markthalle Neun on 14 February 2021. For more details, including how to enter, the regulation compatibility overview, and terms and conditions of the event, please see here. The tasting is scheduled for a maximum of 10 people from 5 households to ensure enough distance is maintained and that the experience feels authentic and intimate. Winners will be announced on the 8 February.