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December 2007

More Than Just a Bar

The Schumann’s phenomenon

Looking back to the early 1980s, Munich’s nightlife seems like a myth. It was the time of the hedonistic disco era heralded by Munich music producers. It was the time when the city was a hangout for illustrious celebrities like Freddy Mercury, Brian Ferry and Mick Jagger. It was also then that one of Germany’s most acclaimed bars opened on Maximilianstrasse. This era of Munich glamour has long since been transform-ed, but the American bar Schumann’s is still surrounded by its legendary aura of class and cosmopolitanism. Though the bar might be seen by some as a relic of a past era, owner Charles Schumann’s discipline and extraordinarily high standards have helped his bar maintain a stellar reputation into the present.
When the bar moved to its new quarters at Hofgarten four years ago, some regular guests feared the bar’s decline; the new and considerably larger location, however, in no way compromised Schumann’s special atmo- sphere. Inspired by Charles Schumann’s motto of selling image rather than drinks, an inimitable elegance characterizes the bar. Such a declaration is, of course, an understatement.
It is a philosophy uttered by one of Germany’s best cocktail mixers. Schumann has even concocted a number of cocktails himself. One of his best known creations is the Swimming Pool, a creamy and refreshing Colada drink based on blue Curaçao. His expertise on alcohol as a culture is also documented in a comprehensive encyclopedia of whiskey. But if you would ask Schumann, the icon of bartending, about such achievements, he would shrug them off as trifles.
The heart of his work is still the bar’s quotidian operation. Lacustrine limestone, serpentine and walnut distinguish the noble interior. No mirrors or crystal—those notorious inventory features of common venues—deflect from the essential concern: the customer and the bar. In addition to perfectly mixed cocktails, Schumann’s serves exquisite snacks. The bar itself is also worth a visit, even if just for a glass of beer, served by an exceedingly well trained staff. It is this mixture of an elaborate menu, classy design and an impeccable service, which convinced the jury of gourmet guide Schlemmeratlas to elect Schumann’s as the “Bar of the Year 2008.” The jury justified its election in lieu of the constancy and passion with which Charles Schumann and his team pursue their concept.
This fervor also vibrates in Charles Schumann’s other recently opened bars. The Camparino is situated adjacent to the Schumann’s and serves as a ritzy retreat during lunch breaks. While only a long counter with red leather stools are at the customers’ disposal during the cold season, Camparino unfolds all of its charm in summer. Then, typical red Campari umbrellas are set up on the Hofgarten’s patio and one almost feels transported to the legendary Camparino in Milan, where the cult bitter aperitif was created in 1862. The Schumann’s Tagesbar at the Fünf Höfe completes Charles Schumann’s realm. Jurassic stones and marble glinting in daylight sun dominate the space. Though deemed a bar where shoppers can enjoy high quality cocktails as well as coffee, Schumann’s site at Fünf Höfe radiates the noble ambiance of a café.
Times have changed for Munich and Schumann: from a single bar for leisure class patrons to today’s business-like clientele at three bars. The timeless esprit, however, distinguishing Charles Schumann’s work for the past 25 years in Munich’s fast moving gastronomic scene remains unequaled. <<<

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