Since opening its doors in September 2014, Berlin’s Kaschk has been enjoying a superhero-like double identity: By day, the Mitte cafe is a specialty coffee shop (initially linked to Oslo Kaffebar but now independent) serving up hometown Bonanza Coffee as well as guest Nordic beans such as Sweden’s Koppi and Norway’s Kaffa and Solberg & Hansen, from a Kees van der Westen Spirit Triplette. As day gives way to night, though, Kaschk transforms into a craft-beer bar. Twelve beers rotate on tap and there are three shelves of imported bottles, including many brews making their Berlin debuts thanks to Kaschk’s focus on German and Nordic craft brews.
The spacious cafe/bar was designed by the former owners with the assistance of local carpenters, and an attention to complementary textures and craft. A daytime-worker crowd spreads over long wooden tables or the many solo spots hugging the windows, while an eye-catching low bar encourages interaction between customers and staff. The lights dim as the day ends, and tourists and Berliners chasing fancy ales move in.
Acknowledging its double-identity, Kaschk is named for its nearly eponymous drink—a Nordic cocktail called Karsk (the spelling having been tweaked for German speakers) traditionally made of 1 part coffee and 1 part moonshine, and popular since the 1800s. A mention of its name today seems to elicit shudders of fear and delight. According to Wikipedia, the name derives from the Old Norse adjective “karskr,” meaning healthy, vigorous, or agile—which feels like a wicked Nordic joke.
“In the traditional recipe you start with a coffee cup: you put a coin in the bottom, and then you fill up the cup with coffee until you can’t see the coin anymore. Then you pour in moonshine or vodka until you see the coin again,” says manager Katrine Finsand with a devilish grin. “The thing is, it’s a bit of a hoax, because normally you won’t see the coin again. It’s too far down for the light to go through.”
At Kaschk, the perilous elixir is created with Stolichnaya vodka (in place of moonshine) and hot filter coffee from the BUNN batch brewer, beans ground on a Mahlkönig EK 43. Still, the drink smells like danger and packs a helluva punch.
After a cup (or three) has drinkers feeling transformed, they can venture downstairs to find two Champion Shuffleboard tables, the first in Germany (though they’re not uncommon in the States). The game lies somewhere between air hockey and curling as players send heavy, puck-like stones gliding along long maple boards. They aim to land as close to the edge as possible without falling off—which is, when you think about it, similar to the experience of downing a cup of Kaschk. A tumble here or there feels somewhat inevitable. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Photos by Septimus Brope.