Herz Basel – Heart in the Right Place
Bar City Basel! Ever heard of it? The city offers a collection of excellent bars, from classic to hotel bars, tiki bars and wine bars. Now that I live closer to this beautiful city, I ventured across the border in September 2020 for the latest opening and it went straight to my heart.
A short walk from Basel’s Badischer Bahnhof, the train station, across the exhibition grounds you will find yourself in the centre of the Kleinbasel district. Clarastraße is lined with trendy cafés, bars and restaurants. In number 11, an old townhouse built in 1894–96, you’ll find Herz Bar behind a glazed shop front. Herz is the German name for the heart, by the way.
Creative minds with a lot of heart and soul. Martin Bornemann and Norbu Tsering have their heart(s) in the right place.
After more than five years of working together as co-creators of the bar in Werk 8, Martin Bornemann and Norbu Tsering have opened their own bar. Their recipe: hosts with heart and soul, good and sustainable drinks, not too dogmatic and trendy, rounded off with a distillery in the backyard. An unbeatable location advantage and a classic win-win strategy. The idea is as obvious as it is brilliant. A bar attached to a distillery where premium spirits are handcrafted from local ingredients directly into the drinks. From the still straight to the glass.
What awaits you at Herz is a warm-hearted welcome with delicious drinks and little bites in a cosy and centuries old atmosphere.
As soon as you enter, you are surrounded by warm wood tones and exposed sandstone bricks. They are original parts of the old city wall from the Thirty Years’ War. At the head of the room is the bar counter, lavishly stocked with well-known and local spirits. Furthermore, a separate room offers space for larger events and workshops. Those who prefer a seat in the sun can sit on the terrace and enjoy the view of the lively Clara Quartier.
Join me on a sip through the region, which is reflected crystal clear in the drinks menu.
The drinks selection focuses on quality not quantity. Wine and beer lovers will find what they are looking for in the small and fine selection. If you are feeling peckish you can enjoy the nibbles and savoury snacks from La Fourchette, a restaurant located just around the corner.
The menu is influenced by local and seasonal ingredients, craft spirits and classic creations. The ever changing bar menu surprises with seasonal and regional offerings. Martin and Norbu forage ingredients for drinks from meadows and forests. Their own personal liquor supplier, the Stadtbrennerei, is conveniently situated in the backyard.
Hunter-gatherer – back to the roots. The legacy of our ancestors. Herz bar enriches your drinking experience with regionality and seasonality.
Negroni has gained a real cult status in recent years. It is based on a formula that consists of equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. There are now an almost endless number of variations. The traditional Campari can be replaced by other bitters and the remaining ingredients offer a nice playground for bartenders. Herz bar serves three Negroni variants, lovingly pre-bottled and labelled. A perfect kickoff for an exciting evening. A nice detail, which you find far too rarely on bar menus, is that you can order the Negroni in two sizes. A good opportunity to try these tipples without toppling off the barstool.
I opted for the Negroni Herz. It is a very aromatic combination of Gift London Dry Gin from the Stadtbrennerei in the courtyard, Matter Vermouth Rosso Formula O. and Select Aperitivo. This was followed by two or three of their seasonal signature drinks. The finale of my adventure was an excellent Vieux Carré; one of my favourite cocktails and perfectly mastered by Martin Bornemann.
Visit Herz Basel. Herz on Insta. Accomodation needed – https://www.silobasel.com/
The Stadtbrennerei in the backyard – From distillery to bar, the way to the glass is short.
It’s the experiences that make my bar adventures unforgettable and special. And so it was with this visit to Basel. Located in the backyard, the Stadtbrennerei is run by brothers Tobias and David Buser. I had the pleasure and honour of a private tour from Tobias Buser himself, to taste and experience the complete portfolio.
The distillery is located in a building that served as a coach/horse carriage house in the nineteenth century. It is surrounded by the remains of the old city wall, as also uncovered inside the Herz Bar. In 2017, the Busers converted the historic cottage into their distillery. In fact, I haven’t visited that many distilleries, and never one in the middle of a residential area before. The distillery uses wood from the region and the smoke has to pass through a fine dust filter before it rises picturesquely into the city sky. The centrepiece of the city distillery is the copper still, which I had already admired from inside the bar.
Spirits and sparkling wine – Lovingly made locally with distinctive character.
Like the menu at Herz, the Stadtbrennerei is characterised by a small and fine product portfolio. The “GIFT London Dry Gin” is found in the bar’s drinks and the bottle immediately catches the eye. What’s on the label is what’s in it. Ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with botanicals that only occur north of the Alps. The special thing about The Seventh Sense Doppelwacholder is that it consists of only one botanical, namely juniper. I also tried Packs Vodka, a grain brandy, and Der Saemann, a wheat brandy. Both were very mild. The Swiss absinthe with 75% vol. is based on wormwood, anise, fennel and angelica seeds. Very puristic and powerful.
My absolute taste highlight was the poppy seed spirit, which immediately brought back childhood memories of biting into a thick juicy poppy seed cake made by my grandmother. The poppy seed spirit was created for the Afghan Anan restaurant in Zurich and can also be found in one or two drinks in the Herz Bar. I was so thrilled with it that Tobias gave me a big bottle as a gift. Another thing not to be missed is the sparkling wine. Tobias is a learned winemaker, so making a Swiss sparkling wine completely by hand was an obvious choice.