Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Bartime: The Londoner, New Years’ Eve

It is New Year’s Eve, and the countdown to midnight is beginning to crescendo. I’m surrounded by a mob of people, each of them with smiles, clutching their glasses of beer, champagne, or shots in anticipation of the midnight toast. Out of nowhere, when the countdown reaches nine or eight, I get hit on the side of the head by a flying coin thrown in my direction. Normally, I might get a bit salty for such a greeting. But this is The Londoner bar, in Kitzbühel, Austria, and a quick coin toss is an effective means of getting someone’s attention, especially given the size and volume of the crowd on hand. Turning to the direction of its source, I see a friend I haven’t seen for years, and we acknowledge each other with a brief toast. Three . . . two . . . one . . . Midnight!

The bar turns to pandemonium. People are hugging and kissing and raising their glasses. Strangers are becoming friends, songs are being sung, and a number of people have started dancing on the dark green seats in a few booths. The crowd is so thick that it is nearly impossible to pass through, unless of course, the person trying to get by is one of the friendly cocktail waitresses, who deftly navigate the drunken throng, spilling little, if anything, in the process. The atmosphere is one of jubilation mixed with a heavy helping of chaos. Aside from the countdown, the New Year’s Eve scene tonight at The Londoner can be found almost every other day of the week.

Before we delve deeper into The Londoner, let me provide a brief background. Kitzbühel is a ski town of about 5,000 people, located in the Tyrolean Alps, and is host to a famous world cup ski race held every January, known as the Hahnenkamm-Rennen. In the summertime, there is an ATP tennis tournament known as the Generali Open, which also attracts a large number of tourists. For many years, I have enjoyed the fortunate experience of traveling to Kitzbühel to visit family during winter breaks. Long before I was able to drink legally in Wisconsin, I was able to imbibe at many of Kitzbühel’s bars; over the years, The Londoner has become my favorite.

It is clear that I am not alone in considering The Londoner as the place to be in Kitzbühel. The town’s reputation as a sports center attracts people from all over the world; The Londoner serves as an unofficial headquarters. During the ski race and tennis tournaments, famous athletes stop by for a few drinks. Other celebrities, such as Paul McCartney, venture to The Londoner on visits to Kitzbühel. Luminaries aside, the bar’s global popularity is best witnessed during one of its famous aprés-ski sessions.

Every day at about 5 p.m., people directly off the slopes begin to fill up the bar. Many customers are still in ski boots, evidenced by awkward stances and the clunk-clunk sounds of heavy plastic. Aprés-ski is dominated by the musical musings of Short and Curlies, a two-man band that plays classic hits. The songs can range from “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to “American Pie” to “Footloose.” More times than not, the crowd is singing louder than the musicians themselves.

At the start of their set, the performers run through a laundry list of nations, prompting each group to scream when their country is called. The list is very impressive, encompassing almost every European nation, every English-speaking nation, and a few African nations. Between songs, Short and Curlies lead the crowd in a toast punctuated by the German word “Prost!” The effect is very enjoyable, increasing the United Nations-like camaraderie, and keeping people on their drinking pace.

Although set in Austria, The Londoner is an English pub. The décor is distinctly British. The bar interior is lined with dark-stained wood and Stewart plaid. Wooden beams cross the ceiling, and there are a series of wrought-iron light posts in the center of the bar. One of the most dominating features is a giant bass drum hanging from the wall, emblazoned with a royal crest.

Testimony to The Londoner’s ability to serve mass quantities of people is the size of the actual bar itself. Comprising almost one-third of the entire space, the bar is vast and open to promote bartending ease. Hanging from the ceiling tray above the bar is hundreds of glass beer steins. Behind the bar, along the wall, are hundreds of bottles of booze. There are a number of tip jars hanging from the ceiling, leading some bartenders (and customers) to shoot their tips into the bucket like a basketball.

The characteristic that truly makes The Londoner an English pub is the staff. For the most part, all of the staff are native English-speakers, coming from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa to name a few. Customers are greeted at the door with a hearty “Good morning!” from the bouncers, regardless of the actual time of day. While the staff can speak German, English is the language of choice at the bar and for many of the customers as well, even if English is not their native tongue. Many of the staff stay on for years and are quick to recognize the repeat customers. The level of loyalty and professionalism keeps the party going, which is why The Londoner has remained consistent throughout the years.

It is important not to overlook some of The Londoner’s traditions. One tradition particularly popular and upheld by the staff is to hold your shot glass with your thumb and pinky when doing shots. This grip provides an appearance of drinking from a mug. But perhaps my favorite tradition is breakfast; a complimentary shot to the first customers of the day when the bar opens at noon. The shot is the bartender’s choice, and can range from schnapps or Sambuca to tequila.

Beer is the drink of choice for many at The Londoner. The two most popular brews are Austrian beers — Egger Naturgold, served in half-liter glasses, or Stiegl, served in a 1/3-liter bottle. Mixed drinks are served in an unusual fashion for an American, or at least a Wisconsin student, to comprehend. The alcohol is served in the glass, and you are given a bottle of mixer to make your drink. For those who want to really be the life of the party, full liter bottles of the spirit of your choice are available.

Shots are also popular among the staff and customers at The Londoner. One of the most popular shots is called “Flügerl,” which is one part red vodka and one part Red Bull, topped off with an ice cube which upon completion, is supposed to be thrown over one’s shoulder according to bar tradition. Tequila is a personal favorite, although it is served with an orange slice as opposed to a lime and salt.

Not everyone has to drink alcohol, and the bartenders are willing to oblige. On one occasion, two young English lads walked in the bar, looking a few cents short of a dollar from the previous night’s festivities. Their request was simple and granted — a cup of tea!

The Londoner is sure to leave an impression among fans of bars. People have a hard time coming to this particular bar only once. According to Jezza, one of the bartenders, “People find a way to come back here more than once in their life, and sometimes they will stick around for years!” I’ll drink to that!

Thanks again to Charlie, Claire, Greg, John, Louise, Mike, Nicola, Nikki, Nina, Shrek, and the rest of The Londoner staff for their insight and hospitality. Prost!

Bartime resumes its adventures in Madison this semester with a visit to Stillwaters, on the corner of Johnson and State Street, this Friday, Jan. 25, at 10:00 p.m. Cheers!

The Londoner playlist

Hubba Bubba


Mix the following ingredients in a tall glass with ice:

4 shots of rum

4 shots of OJ

1 shot of grenadine

1 shot banana liquor

F*ck Nose

Mix the following ingredients in a large shot glass:

1 shot vodka

1 shot banana liquor

1 dash of Sprite

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