A sharp turn off one of the squares and you’re transported into a whole new world… almost as though you’ve walked straight into an establishment in Berlin or Hamburg. But tonight we’re in Mainz, at LeBonBon where a smiling team is there ready to greet us. Directing us straight towards the bar, we meet Konstantin Ziese, better known as Koko. Stylish and personable, he’s chilled a few bottles of Brockmans on the bar just in time for our arrival.
Thirsty, he begins preparing a cocktail for us. It’s a take on the sour, but made with raspberry liqueur and dusted with fresh nutmeg. The citrus aroma in Brockmans is heightened, yet warmed with the cutting spice of the nutmeg.
Koko pulls up a barstool next to us as his team moves with ease around the restaurant. Originally opened as a fine dining establishment with high-quality steaks, the clientele wasn’t quite ready for something so sophisticated. The former theatre turned restaurant and bar took it down a notch, offering the same quality in a more relaxed, but modern atmosphere. On Tuesdays, however, Knall-BonBon transforms the long communal table into a fine dining affair. An aperitif, food and wine pairing alongside live music make it easy to meet fellow locals who come for the experience. That’s where Koko once met TV and radio presenter Andrea Ballschuh, who for two years tried to track him down just to taste one of his cocktails once more. Based on the one we’re sipping, we’re not surprised…
A trained carpenter, he began working in bars at the weekend while studying. But he quickly realised he should make a career out of something he found to be play, or fun, which allowed him the freedom and creativity carpentry wasn’t quite satisfying.
His current playground is filled with 600 spirits, one hundred of which are gins. For three years gin has been one of Germany’s most popular spirits as it’s easy for anyone to find a gin to suit their personal taste. Koko even hosts gin tastings for up to 10 people, sampling Old Tom, Jenever, and a variety of flavours customised to the guest’s preference. He likes Brockmans for its smooth taste; the almonds making for a round finish on a dry gin. He tells us to nose our cocktail, asking if we can still smell the gin. Even though the nutmeg is fragrant, there’s no mistaking the blueberries and blackberries. “That’s what I like about it. The taste and smell is still distinctive no matter what you pair the gin with.”
We ask him what cocktails on the menu are most popular, hinting towards our now empty glass. He responds with Rosa’s Versuchung, which is made with gin, grapefruit and rosé vermouth. But we’ve already decided we’ll stick to our current cocktail. “What would you call this,” we ask?
by Koko Ziese
- 4cl/40ml Brockmans Gin
- 3cl/30ml Lantenhammer Waldhimbeergeist
- 3cl/30ml Lemon Juice
- 2cl/20ml Sugar Syrup
- 1 Egg White
- Fresh Nutmeg
Pour all ingredients into a shaker. Dry shake. Wet shake and double strain into a coupette. Sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg. Garnish with dehydrated grapefruit.
If you’re headed to Frankfurt on business, take a short journey to Mainz for an unforgettable evening of fine steaks and world-class cocktails at LeBonBon.