Mixology | Enter the unknown

18 Jan 2016
2 min read
Arnd Henning Heissen, barkeeper at Fragrances at Ritz-Carlton, Berlin, explains why we should sometimes switch off our rationality altogether, written exclusively for FOUR International edition…
Empowering the senses

You often hear in advertising—be it in gastronomy or many other service industries—the following saying: “We anticipate your every wish.” Almost like a mantra, this sentence seems more like a self-imposed pledge than an affectionate and wholehearted invitation to guests.

But does it really make sense to “anticipate your every wish”? Would it be a unique experience for the guest if the barkeeper recognised a guest’s thirsty glance for a desired Caipirinha? I don’t think so. Because if a guest gets exactly what they normally enjoy, then at most we have the chance to content them, but not to inspire them.

For years I have thought long and hard about the psychology behind the choice of the ideal drink and came to the conclusion, that with our menus we sometimes make it far too difficult for our guests to choose a drink. Many bar menus feature 20 different Gin Tonics or exotic drinks with vetiver or Buddha’s hand. But does our guest really know what that is and how they taste in combination with white chocolate and Anejo Tequila? I think most people wouldn’t care to admit that they basically have no idea which Gin Tonic is the right one for them.

This realisation was in many ways the foundation of my new bar Fragrances at The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin. I have decided to completely dispense with a menu and instead appeal to the guests’ senses. So the menu was replaced by perfumes. Instead of a cocktail menu, guests follow their noses and the story behind the perfume to choose a drink.

Located at the back of The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin, is the small, apparently inconspicuous bar that rather resembles a dreamy perfumery. Close to the entrance guests will find 15 different flasks with scents that will aide them with their choice of drink. Because the nose is directly linked to our memories, nothing will let us travel through time and space like an exceptional scent.

A drink with frankincense, sake, vetiver, coriander, rhubarb and jasmine wouldn’t have a chance to be a bestseller on a normal bar menu, the combination of aromas is just too inconceivable. Whereas in Fragrances, this particular drink is a highlight—possibly because guests don’t know what it contains. But they like the scent, the story that is connected to the smell, and the playful presentation.

In my opinion, “anticipating your every wish” cannot be the key to a memorable experience. But we should rather appeal to our guests’ sensual side and not just shove a manual into their hands from which they’re supposed to choose a drink according to the sound of some all too well known ingredients. It is our duty to surprise our guests, to present them with unique experiences and create memories. I our case I will give our guest the magic box that is theirs to open with their imagination. As soon as they let it take over, nothing will stand in the way of an unforgettable evening.


The Ritz-Carlton

Potsdamer Platz 3



+49 30 33 7777