Our guide to putting together an authentic Dia de los Muertos, coming up on Friday, November 1. Maybe you’re one of the estimated 4000 Mexicans living in Berlin (with 1325 officially on the books) or maybe you come from somewhere where Latino influence is a bit more apparent. Either way, it can be tricky to track down a truly authentic bit of Mexico in Berlin. With Dia De Los Muertos coming on November 1 – and Berlin celebrating the 20th anniversary of its sisterhood with Mexico City – here’s our guide to throwing a proper Day of the Dead, from simple to over-the-top (plus a few other Mexican gems). If you’re looking to keep it simple and just grab a bite to eat, go beyond Berlin’s now-common burrito and check out what the real Mexican joints have to offer here… and be sure to peek through the slideshow above for a few more fun facts.
SWEET SKULLS: THE DIA DE LOS MUERTOS SHOP
Superskull in Kreuzberg is your one-stop shop for everything related to Dia de los Muertos. You’ll find imported paper altars, candles and homemade sugar skulls at the macabre showroom owned by Mario Behringer and his girlfriend – both native Berliners inspired by the death-centric fête’s dark humour and stylised visuals.
They’re a mostly online affair with erratic opening hours, so check their web page before stopping by for your very own sugar skull-making set (€8 and up). SW
Superskull, Mittenwalder Straße 13, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Gneisenaustr., www.superskull.de
JUST BEAT IT: PIÑATAS
If you’ve got some aggression you need to work out, think about getting yourself a piñata: the Mexican paper-mâché figure you fill with sweets (or whatever you want), hang from the ceiling, then whack with a stick till it breaks open and spills its treasures all over the place.
Venezuelan expat Stefanie Wilhelm knows them from her childhood and has been making them for a living since 2010; she now sells them out of a shoe shop in Kreuzberg. Frogs and fish (€32) are very popular, but she also produced a life-sized horse for a club in Hamburg and is willing to make “anything that fits though my door frame”. SW
Der Kinderschuh am Platz, Schönleinstraße 8, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Schönleinstr., Mon-Fri 11-19, Sat 11-16
MESCAL IN BERLIN: WHERE TO DRINK IT
La Perla: That’s the official name for the bar at restaurant Papalotl. Among the many cocktails expertly mixed by Christina Schneider, our favourites are the Alebrije (€8, raspberries, coriander and crushed grapes), and La Niña Fresa (€9, lime, agave syrup and a strawberry-hibiscus foam on top). If you prefer your Mescal straight, take a shotful, remembering to sip and enjoy slowly (€4.50-8). Try the Jabalí of Campero; a strong but smooth variety made from wild agave.
Belforter Straße 22, Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Senefelderplatz, Tue-Sun 16-1
Mercado San Cosme: This chic Mexican shop on Rosenthaler Platz has a low-key mescal bar in the back. You can buy a range of mescals, including their own ‘house brand’, by the shotful (€3-7) or, if you develop a penchant for it, by the bottle (€25-38).
Torstraße 116, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosenthaler Platz, Wed-Thu 20-1, Fri-Sat 20-3
Tier: The Weserstraße hipster haunt serves freshened-up edits of classics like the mescal Sour and the Old-Fashioned, as well as original creations like the Salma Hayek, which packs a mean Tabasco punch (all between €7-10).
Weserstraße 42, Neukölln, U-Bhf Rathaus Neukölln, Mon-Sun 19-close
Mezcalería: Formerly a restaurant supplier, Axel Huhn’s website now sells bottles to the public (€44.90-138.90).
MARIACHI MAESTROS AND BASEMENT BAILAR
Mariachi in Berlin? It seemed like a far-fetched proposition when Victor Ibanez and a group of fellow international students got together to practice some tunes “just for fun” in 1994. Now, nearly 20 years later, the six-piece band Mariachi El Dorado is in high demand, playing “Guantanamera” and “La Cucaracha” at concerts all over town. They also do private parties (up to €100 per musician per hour!).
For a slightly more affordable – and hipper – Mexican music experience, venture into a hidden Keller off of Moritzplatz, where Maria Magdalena Gonzalez (from Cuba) and Luis Meneses (from Venezuela) run underground bar/venue La Cueva.
Hometown ska/punk collective Calzada de los Muertos graces its tiny stage regularly, and it also hosts cumbia and salsa dance nights, regular Latin jam sessions and even Spanish-language theatre lessons. JS
La Cueva, Oranienstraße 159, Hinterhof im Keller, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Moritzplatz
Originally published in issue #119, September 2013.