The Times Bar in Berlin gets busy at night. And as the city's only La Casa del Habano, it also fills up during the day, when businessmen visit and read the financial papers while enjoying a cigar. The space is an elegant, classic mahogany-paneled lounge with a smallish bar in the corner. In truth, the whole place is not very big, seating about 40 customers in comfortable leather chairs and sidewalk tables, but it ranks high among the best cigar lounges you'll want to visit in Europe.
The LCDH humidor is attached to the bar, meaning that to get into the humidor one has to enter the Times Bar and ask to be admitted since the humidor is locked. A server from the bar will take you in and allow you all the time you need to browse the available stock, which is excellent. The cigar menu is 10 pages of Cuban product, beginning with Montecristo and ending with Quintero, with popular brands such as Cohiba, Partagás, Hoyo de Monterrey, Punch and Romeo y Julieta also available. A monthly special recently featured the Partagás Serie D No. 6 as a special for eight euros (about $9.33). Be sure to ask if there's anything new that's not on the menu.
Prices at the bar and in Berlin for Cuban cigars are reasonable, depending on the exchange rate between the dollar and the euro (currently about $1.17 to 1 euro). This makes it easy to experience different vitolas, like a Punch Punch (11 euros) or a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe (10.30 euros). Pair that with a choice from one of 17 rums listed, including the Cuban Santiago 12 year old, or one of 20 single-malt Scotches or any number of Irish or American whiskies.
The Times Bar also offers creative highballs and cocktails that complement your cigar. Some, like the Harvey Wallbanger and Sea Breeze, seem a bit out of date compared to contemporary American cocktail standards, but the Times Bar makes a mean gimlet and offers vodka, Tequila and rum "kreationen" (creations) like the Mai Tai and zombie.
Like many cigar-friendly places in the United States, there is no food served in the Times Bar and no one under 18 years of age may enter. This is how the Times Bar is able to allow cigar smoking.
The walls of the bar are cluttered with photos of mainly German celebrities. In response to specific questions of German patrons, very few were able to look at the photos and name the persons pictured, but the celebs all seemed vaguely familiar.
"Oh, that one was on a German TV show for a long time," was a typical explanation.
The bar, opened in 1957, is located in the historic Savoy Hotel and was renamed the Times Bar in 1984. The Savoy Hotel was built in 1929 and was the first hotel in Berlin to have indoor bathrooms in each room, a point enthusiastically made by several people interviewed in the bar. The hotel survived the bombing of Berlin during World War II, but the Japanese embassy in Berlin did not. From 1943 to 1945, individual rooms in the hotel filled in as the embassy for Japan. After the war, the hotel briefly served as British headquarters during the Cold War.
The hotel has hosted many famous guests, mainly German or European, but also Americans like opera star Maria Callas and author Henry Miller. Others include actresses Romy Schneider and Greta Garbo; photographer Helmut Newton, and two German Nobel laureates, Thomas Mann and Heinrich Boll.
Today, the Times Bar and Savoy Hotel, on the Fasanenstrasse, an elegant street off the main Kurfürstendamm (a great shopping district), is a destination for the cigar lover. The humidor is operated by Dr. Maximilian Herzog, who also owns two other cigar shops where smoking is welcome.
Herzog is the man to know in Berlin when it comes to cigars. Sitting with Dr. Herzog, in the lounge at Zigarren Herzog, not far from the Times Bar on the tony Ludwigkirchplatz, he asks the gathered international guests, "What language shall we speak?" Everyone gathered speaks English and, in a city that once was famously divided, the jovial talk of favorite cigars, an inconsistency in the supply of Cuban cigars, the history of Berlin and, importantly, where to eat takes much of the afternoon after lunch. The final goodbyes and handshakes include invitations and promises to visit again.
Visit again we will.
The Times Bar at the Hotel Savoy
Phone +49-30-311 03-0
Fax +49-30-311 03-333
Open Monday through Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Sundays: noon to midnight