Bartender Jörg Meyer and restaurateur Rainer Wendt enjoy high-quality drinks and food not only as business partners but also as friends.
For this issue of COMPANION, the duo share their favorite food pairing: a drink and sandwich that go as well together as they do.
Alcohol brings people closer. Of this, Jörg Meyer and Rainer Wendt are firmly convinced: “People who drink together learn a lot about other people. For example, whether the other person is worth trusting. Alcohol consumption reveals our true character,” says Jörg. “In this respect, bars are ideal places for friendship and encounters,” adds Rainer — at least, that is, bars run in the way of this dream team with their cultivated European drinking culture — a feature present in no small degree.
A good ten years ago, they opened Le Lion – Bar de Paris near Hamburg City Hall, just across from the popular brasserie Café Paris, which Rainer, a seasoned veteran of Hanseatic gastronomy, has been running since the early 2000s. Jörg and Rainer had already known each other for a while at that point, and would often embark on pub tours together. “We were really into port wine back then. Port wine and cigars,” says Rainer, laughing. “It was never about being drunk for us,” Jörg adds, “but rather the path leading up to it. In a bar, you talk about everything. Our best ideas come to us there. We make important decisions at the bar.”
Le Lion itself is perhaps the best evidence that this strategy works well for the duo. Since its opening, the bar has received several awards, notably having been voted one of the “50 best bars in the world.” This is owed in part to one of Jörg’s liquid creations, the Gin Basil Smash, which has quickly become a cocktail icon since its invention in 2008. It’s not like the friends to rest on their laurels, however. They prefer to keep coming up with new inventions. In 2012, Jörg rediscovered the so-called highball, a beverage genre long forgotten. The highball is a short drink served in ice-cold glasses with massive ice cubes — a kind of espresso among alcoholic beverages, quickly mixed and ready to drink, but also effective thanks to its high alcohol proof content.
With the Boilerman Bar in Eppendorf, Hamburg, Jörg and Rainer have dedicated an entire location to the highball; a concept that has proved so successful that they’re also adapting it for the 25hours Hotels. And that makes for an excellent fit. After all, a sophisticated drinking culture has always been a top priority in hotel bars. The first Boilerman Bar opened at the 25hours Hotel Altes Hafenamt Hamburg, and in 2017 a further branch was added to Munich’s The Royal Bavarian, which quickly became a meeting place for guests and locals alike — just like at the Cinchona Bar, found in the 25hours Hotel Langstrasse Zurich, which is also based around the highball concept. Jörg and Rainer have long since become 25hours Hotels bar experts.
It’s no wonder, then, that the duo was also involved in the planning of the new 25hours Hotel Das Tour Düsseldorf, for which they developed The Paris Club: a French-inspired pairing of a bar and, for the first time, a restaurant, with good drinks, classic fare, and new interpretations of Parisian bistro culture on the menu. When COMPANION asked Rainer and Jörg to contribute a recipe for this issue, they soon settled on a food pairing: a drink that’s complemented and completed by a dish — or is it the other way around? No matter. Either way, it’s akin to the well-balanced harmony of a close friendship.
For their COMPANION pairing, Jörg and Rainer have chosen a Dubonnet Highball based on the French aperitif Dubonnet. The drink is an aromatized wine on ice mixed with soda, “a light drink that we always drink even when we don’t really want to drink,” says Jörg with a laugh. After all, the two can’t afford to have a more persistent buzz in their everyday lives than their guests. The Merguez Frites sandwich is an exquisite match: a fast-food snack popular in France that is itself a culinary collaboration between French food culture, with its baguettes and fries, and the culinary influence of Moroccan immigrants through the spicy merguez sausage. The best thing about this food pairing? It can be prepared quickly, so there’s more time to spend with the friends you invite to share it with. Bon appétit!
For the Dubonnet Highball
50 ml Dubonnet Rouge
100 ml cold soda
1 large ice cube
1 fresh organic lemon
Ready in no time. Place one or two large ice cubes into an iced glass. Add 50 ml Dubonnet Rouge, 100 ml ice-cold soda, and a few splashes of lemon juice for freshness. Garnish with a sliver of lemon zest — a final flourish that lends the drink a nice two-tone appearance.
Tip: for professionals, the quality of the ice cubes is crucial. The clearer they are, the slower they melt — and the less watery the highball tastes. Boil the water twice before freezing, or increase the sub-zero temperatures in the freezer.
For the Merguez Frites
1 medium baguette
2 merguez sausages
3 large potatoes
4 tbsp harissa
Oil for frying and deep frying
Quickly fry the merguez sausages so they are almost black when removed from the pan. In the meantime, cut open the baguette lengthwise and hollow it out slightly — the merguez will later be placed in the resulting groove. Brush the inside of the baguette with the slightly spicy harissa paste. If you like, add a little ketchup for extra flavor. Finally, top the sandwich with french fries. Anyone short on time can opt for frozen ones.
If, on the other hand, you own a deep fryer, cut the potatoes into long sticks. They’ll also get crispy in the oven at 250 degrees Celsius. The spicy Merguez Frites is best enjoyed hot with the ice-cold Dubonnet Highball.