Stephan Hinz sees his drink menu as a trip around the world in a shaker. “We designed our menu like a passport and divided our drinks into fictitious countries like the United Gindom or the Highball Highlands,” says the frequently traveler, owner of Little Link bar and CEO of Cocktailkunst consulting company, both in Cologne, Germany. In his cocktails, dehydrators are used to create powders and aromatic dusts, such as Serrano bacon chips for the Currywurst cocktail, and smoking guns create herb-flavored smoke that surrounds cloche-covered drinks so guests can dive into the aromas.
The bar’s name partly refers to the linking of cultures that’s found in the international world flavor tour found in the drinks. While classic German snacks like currywurst are available in liquid form, so is a Cajun cocktail called the Holy Trinity, made of red and green bell peppers, shallots and fresh celery infused in rhum agricole for two weeks. And for a completely modern take on a German classic, the Curryworst cocktail uses bacon-fat-washed vodka with a curry foam made of bell pepper, tomato, lemon, spices, cream, sugar and egg white. Hinz says it take a full 24 hours to infuse the curry foam with its spicy flavors.
Hinz also believes the drinks industry has often moved way too fast, so he tries to focus on what he calls timeless elegance, as opposed to short-term gratification. So he created a line of glasses, called the Perfect Serve Collection, with Spiegelau that offers a nosing glass for drinks like whiskey and cognac and a tasting glass for gin and sherry.
When Hinz opened the bar in late 2014, he wanted to combine classic bar culture with avant-garde techniques. “These techniques allow us to produce ingredients such as salmon gin, asparagus essence and celery rhum,” he says. And the drinks look as extraordinary as they taste. The Pocket Rocket cocktail is served in a test tube, while the Coquetier is served in an eggshell. Many of Little Link’s bar foods are transformed into powders served on the glass rim as opposed to in a drink: such as powdered vermouth that has been used to deconstruct cocktails.
The Pocket Rocket was inspired by the history of conserving food with vinegar, which leads to shrubs. “Today we have things like cans, tins or tubes to conserve our food,” he says. So the drink is served in a tube reminiscent of one for toothpaste, which is filled with vodka, passion fruit, rocket, lime, coconut and almond, is rather easy to drink.
A smoking gun is put to use to make a rosemary smoke for an Old Fashioned. Cordials are also house-made, such as the goat cheese cooked sous vide with honey, lemon, saffron, rosemary and thyme for the Goatherd cocktail. The bar also pours a bacon bourbon, as well as a pistachio rhum agricole used in a drink called the Strawberry Tartlet.