I like my bars empty, I do. Matter of fact, I prefer them that way. Not that I don’t like having other people there, just that I appreciate that certain surplus of personal space that comes with, say, a library before closing time, or a second-hand record store on a Tuesday morning. Yet there’s empty and empty. The latter feels oppressive, like you’re supposed to play the part of the patron, order things, make conversation, wave a cigarette around. The scene at Voima last week was blessedly the good kind of empty; someone leaving just as we arrived, people arriving just as we left; a hint of smoke left curling in the violet-tinted air, our bartender solicitous but not all up in our grill.
I’ll admit, the decor is just a little too sleek with hints of the dreaded nineties ‘lounge bar’, but all that is effectively counteracted by the pictures on the walls and the sound of ocean waves crashing gently from the bathrooms in the back. You see, Voima is icebreaker-themed. Counterintuitive, perhaps, or even too punny, but an endearing surprise nonetheless. Named for the Finnish ship where the owners spent their honeymoon, the bar quite naturally has its extensive menu divided by seafarer’s rank—’first mate’, ‘captain’, etc. I ordered a heartwarming Ginger Gimlet, a cucumber peel mutely floating in my iced glass, my friend an absinthy Monkey Gland.
The music was good too; not ‘good’ necessarily, but not too aggressively trying to puff up the room either, the occasional German-language ballad a natural fit. Some might say a single small disco ball slowly spinning its squares of light around a slightly smoky room is sad, but to me it’s the height of happiness, the definition of drinking for pleasure in public. This was my first stop on a series of visits to Schöneberg’s superabundant cocktail scene, and I can’t wait to see what other martini-glassed options this underrated neighborhood has to offer.