Here at the SGE, we always enjoy bars that have a literary twist. So when we were exploring Leipzig recently, we were delighted to find nothing less than Goethe’s favourite bar! The Auerbachs Keller is the second oldest establishment in the grand old city, and has been serving fine wines since 1438.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe regularly stopped by whilst studying at Leipzig University in the 1760s. Goethe was so taken with the bar, it featured in an entire scene in perhaps the greatest work of German literature, Faust. We dropped in to spend a cosy evening sampling the magic elixirs and avoiding making any Faustian pacts.
He who travels to the trade markets
Of Leipzig without visiting
Auerbachs Yard must hold his peace.
It proves: He has not seen Leipzig.
Auerbachs Keller can be found in Mädler Passage, one of the labyrinthine, semi-hidden back passageways that were used by merchants to move swiftly through the city without being seen. Most of Auerbachs Keller can be found underground, carved out of the old cellars of medieval Leipzig. The entrance is easy to spot: a life-sized statue of Mephistopheles bewitching a student drinking in the Keller.
It was one evening down in Auerbachs Keller, that Goethe saw a painting on the wall of the magician and astrologer Johann Georg Faust riding out of the bar door on a fast moving wine barrel, something perhaps only possible with the help of Mephistopheles. The painting would inspire Goethe’s version of the legend of Faust.
Most of the cellar rooms are given over to cosy eating places, such as the Großer Keller, renovated in 1912, serving large plates of hearty, simple Saxon specialities. But we’re headed upstairs to the 1920s designed cocktail bar, Mephisto.
Part I Scene V: Auerbach’s Cellar in Leipzig (Friends happily drinking.)
Allow us to sit with you, if you please.
Instead of fine ale that can’t be had,
We can still have good company.
Goethe often referred to Leipzig as a ‘little Paris’, and stepping inside Mephisto, it is easy to see why: bistro tables and Maison Gatti wicker chairs are gathered snugly around the small, violin led jazz band, bringing to mind the small bars of Montparnasse. Mephistopheles however is never far away, appearing on carved statues that line the bar, on the pilsner glasses showing Faust riding a wine barrel, to a fine ceiling mural where he peeks out from behind the chandelier.
Up at the bar, surroundings are snug and friendly, until every now and again, the clock strikes, the lights flicker dramatically, plunging the bar into darkness and a wicked laugh seeps through the walls.
The Mephisto is a charming bar mostly favoured with locals: just make sure you don’t make the mistake of signing your bill with blood!
What You’re Having:
Starting with an Ur-Krostitzer Pilsner, served vom Fass, with a Leipziger Allasch on the side. The Allasch is a caraway liqueur that was first exhibited at the Leipzig Trade Fair in 1830, and became a city wide speciality.
For cocktails, the old fashioned were excellent, but look no further than the Mephisto Feuer, made of Aperol, gin, Orangensaft and Sekt.
Auerbachs Keller, Mädler Passage, Grimmaische Straße 2-4, D-04109, Leipzig.