All photos credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin
What if, before ordering a cocktail, you could smell it? Scent hugely impacts how a person perceives flavor, so liking a drink’s aroma is a good indication that you’ll enjoy the libation itself—and won’t be wasting precious bucks on a cocktail you can’t stand.
That’s part of the thinking behind the Ritz-Carlton in Berlin's new bar, Fragrances, which opened June 12. The spot has the distinction of being the first watering hole in the world to pair fragrances with craft cocktails (though it’s not the first to turn cocktails into fragrances).
"The main idea behind the Fragrances bar was to have people not read the menu," explained bar manager Arnd Heissen, who devised the drink-and-perfume pairings. "Very often, you have customers coming over to the bar because they’re not sure how the ingredients [in a cocktail] taste together. The best way to experience the drinks is to experience the scents."
Here’s how it works: Patrons walk over to a display that highlights each cocktail and sniff the perfume that’s matched with the drink of their choice. The scent’s aromatic profile is similar to the cocktail’s, Heissen said, and will help the patron make her choice.
Take, for instance, a cocktail named for the garden-scented Annick Goutal fragrance ”Un Matin d’Orage,” which roughly translates to “The Morning After the Thunderstorm.” That’s ginger-infused vodka sweetened with a syrup of jasmine and orange flower water, then garnished with shiso leaf.
The perfume highlights the cocktail’s earthy and floral notes, Heissen said, and both recall a smell like “when the garden is full of rain.”
Another cocktail is “Nuit Étoilée,” which translates to “Starry Night.” It takes its name from another Annick Goutal scent (and, one might imagine, the famous Van Gogh painting, as well). Grand Marnier and gin are swirled with fresh lemon juice and a syrup of fig and spearmint extracts, yielding a woodsy flavor.
“Inside the forest, you can see so many stars that you feel overwhelmed,” Heissen explained. “That’s why the drink and the perfume smell like juniper and mint and trees. All of these ingredients together make you feel like you’re in a forest at night, watching the stars.”
Other drinks on the menu are inspired by scents from Salvatore Ferragamo, Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani, and others. But according to Heissen, no sponsorship deals went down between the companies and the Ritz-Carlton, and the hotel does not sell any of the fragrances.
"It’s more about the experience and not to sell the perfumes," Heissen said. "We want to make people feel excited about what they’re drinking."