Can you run a bar alone? Maybe – but definitely not one like the Ménage Bar. Not even if your name is Johannes Möhring and you already have over 12 years of gastronomy experience. Because the menu here doesn’t “only” include outstanding drinks and fine bar food. In the charming bar right in Munich's Gärtnerplatzviertel, a wide variety of distillates are created in small distillations, which then seduce the guests' taste buds in extraordinary cocktail creations. For this purpose, “Möhri” has a first-class team who work with him behind the counter and at the rotary evaporator. We introduce the ménage à trois: Paulina Nowakowska, André Kohler and Johannes Möhring.
In addition, Johannes can rely on the support of an outstanding team in the ménage. Because withoutPaulina Novakowska and André Kohler, who also served the signature drinks with our LION's Vodka and THE DUKE Gin, a concept like that of the Ménage would not be feasible. We met the three of them in their second living room and had a wonderful evening with really fantastic drinks.
You can find the recipes below, but we have to warn you that the preparation requires - let's say - somewhat more advanced bar skills. And that doesn't just mean the individual ice cubes that are freshly sawn and beaten every evening from a large block of clear ice.
Now we want to let Mr. Möhring have his say.
THE DUKE Destillierie: Dear Möhri, tell us what brought you into gastronomy and how the Ménage Bar came about.
Johannes Möhring: I originally come from the Allgäu and came to Munich to study theater studies. I did that for 6 semesters and started working as a temporary worker at Café Puck alongside university. With the move to the Cortiina Bar – where I also met, among others, Dietmar Petri(Barkeeper Porträt #2) I realized that I really enjoy gastronomy. So I decided to do the whole thing full-time and, in short, give up my studies.
In the summer of 2010, Charles Schumann asked me if I would like to work for him, which I did in April 2012. The following year, Dietmar Petri followed and the concept “Les Fleurs du Mal” became more concrete. I then worked at Schumann's for a total of four years. (Editor's note: “Les Fleurs du Mal” is a separate bar concept on the first floor of Schuhmann's Bar and received the Mixology Award as Bar of the Year in 2016)
The idea of becoming self-employed and taking on more responsibility became more and more concrete over time and Dimi and I then accompanied the opening of the Roomers Hotel. The opening was unexpectedly delayed here, so we "incidentally" hijacked an Augustinian restaurant opposite (today "Servus Heidi") to bridge the gap and opened it very successfully with a concept that was developed quickly. After Roomers opened, I worked there as bar manager for 14 months.
And then the Ménage Bar was planned?
Exactly, I've been doing that since December 2018 together with René Soffner, who still runs “The Kinly Bar” in Frankfurt am Main.
Hence the name “Kinly Boys”, whose bright initials adorn the wall in the ménage. Because you are now a partner there too.
Yes, both bar concepts are run by both of us, with me concentrating on Munich and René on the bar in Frankfurt. At the same time, we are also involved in other projects.
You could probably call that full-time gastronomy – what was your dream career as a child?
I wanted to become a professional footballer and I actually earned a little money that way. Later the desire to write and go into journalism came. (Editor's note: Johannes writes regularly for theMixology)
What do you enjoy most about your work in the catering industry now?
The versatility of the work: the idea of quality, which starts with the ingredients, the further development of techniques, methods of preparation, the hospitality idea... there is constant development and there is no standstill where you get to the point where you think you're done. The art is to combine routines and progressiveness.
What is your greatest achievement so far?
My two children. I actually didn't have to do much for it (laughs). There can be no greater drive and greater connection than with one's own children.
And what could you not do without in your life?
I don't want to do without my family and my friends.
Is there something that makes you get up really early in the morning?
For good coffee. If the machine isn't already warmed up in the morning, I immediately get in a bad mood. I can't use a time delay on the coffee machine in the morning.
What does a day off look like for you?
Family Oasis – that’s always Sunday for us. It's sacred, which is why I'm always out of it beforehand for all other activities.
What is your perfect drink?
At the end of the day there are few things better than a beer after work. Everything else really depends on my mood.
And why is THE DUKE Gin in your back bar?
The Duke and I have actually had a very long relationship. The Café Puck where I worked at the time was not far from your first distillery on Barer Straße and for the first few years the bottles were actually brought to us by the two founders themselves. That was long before the gin hype even started and THE DUKE was the first small gin that I came into contact with back then. There wasn't much choice at the time, you had four gins in the bar and if you wanted something "crazier", you had to have it brought from England. Now it's simply unimaginable!
If you had one wish for the bar scene, what would it be?
More Quality – Less Fame. At the end of the day, it should be about quality and less about how you present yourself.
Have a little chat about your gastronomy experience and tell us the craziest gastronomy story!
(Johannes is silent and says after some thought) I can think of countless stories, but unfortunately the stories are only half as funny without naming names.
A pity. But then finally tell us one more request for your guests.
We are actually very lucky with our guests. Most of those who come here get involved with our concept, are open and simply want to spend a nice evening with us.
During this detailed interview we were provided with great cocktails, which were prepared in advance with a lot of love by Paulina and André. As already mentioned, these are anything but run-of-the-mill drinks, which is why some people might fail to get the ingredients when remixing. For those - but also for the more experienced among you - a visit to the Ménage Bar is highly recommended.
Anyone who follows THE DUKE distillery closely or has visited us at our stand at events may have already recognized one or two of the names mentioned above. Dear Paulina, for example, has already mixed her two cocktails at our bar at the Bar Convent in Berlin (BCB).
Many thanks again to Johannes and the Ménage Bar for the interview and to Paulina and André for the drinks! We'll definitely be back soon.