SECRETS REVEALED

We received an email from a guy, we’ll call him Murry, who had purchased two tickets to our Short North cocktail tour. He explained that he and his wife, we’ll call her Rebecca, would be participating in the tour but that Rebecca wouldn’t be drinking and could we provide virgin cocktail options. We responded that this was no problem for us as this wasn’t the first time we’ve been asked to accommodate a non-drinker. He then sent an apologetic email explaining that his two sisters would be purchasing tickets for the same tour and that Rebecca was pregnant (hence the no-drinking) but that the pregnancy had not yet been announced and needed to be kept secret. Sure, we can pull that off.

At first, we decided we’d explain that she was the designated driver but then worried that, since our tour is three hours long, the sisters might wonder why she wasn’t having a drink at our first venue, The Bar at Hyde Park. We decided to leave it up to the venues.

I sent an email to our participating bars that read “four guests for tonight’s tour; one of our guests is pregnant so please make her a virgin cocktail and no seafood...and by the way, we can’t let anyone know she’s pregnant so I will point her out to you. Remember, Mum’s the word”.

As is our common practice, we arrived at Hyde Park about a half hour early. The bartender, Todd, had formulated a plan. He planned to make a Paloma for our guests. He would make the virgin cocktail in advance and hide it behind the bar and do a little “switch-a-roo” when the guests were distracted. Brilliant plan!

When we greeted our guests, Murray told me immediately that the pregnancy had been announced to the family. The pressure was off. Secretly, I was a little bummed. We were anxious about how the night would play out but I was very interested to see how the venues would keep the secret. Todd obviously knew that is was no longer a secret and our final stop, Denmark on High, had been texting us so we went ahead and told them, but I decided to play a little trick on our second stop, Soul Bar.

I texted the Manager of Soul Bar, Ian, to let him know that the pregnant woman’s name was Rebecca and that she had short blonde hair and was wearing a scarf. I let our guests in on the charade.

We arrived at Soul Bar and Ian began his presentation. He was making a Sidecar for our guests and proceeded to explain the history of the cocktail, how it got its name, the ingredients and how to build the drink. He lined up four coupe glasses on the bar and began mixing the cocktail. He began filling the coupe glasses one by one. As he made his way to the fourth coupe glass, he tipped up the shaker and said, “oh shoot, I didn’t measure correctly, I didn’t make enough”. Ian then pretended to make another Sidecar. He even went as far as to pretend to be pouring the spirits into the shaker. He shook the shaker and poured the final cocktail and put it in front of our pregnant guest. Ian had taken the time to figure out how to make a concoction that would mimic the color of a sidecar. We were all amazed. After our toast, we let Ian in on the charade. He was a good sport.

I hope that our guests took away from this experience not only knowledge of cocktails and how they are made but, more importantly, an appreciation for the lengths that Columbus’ bars and restaurants will go to accommodate their guests. Bravo!

Hospitality First

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the bartenders in the Columbus area. I couldn’t be more proud or appreciative of their dedication to the craft and their ability to mix amazing cocktails. I respect our area bartenders so much that I (along with partner Blair) created the Columbus Craft Cocktail Tour and Behind The Stick (bartending/mixology competition show) to shine a light on talented local bartenders.  In all my tributes, however, I have failed to sing the praises of the dedication our bartenders have to the art of hospitality. It’s not that I haven’t noticed or that I don’t think it important, I do, very much, in fact, a rude or inattentive bartender is worse than a shaken Manhattan; I can order a new drink but I can’t change an attitude. I have many examples of exemplary hospitality that I’ve personally experienced in our town but in the interest of time and space, I’ll share a few of the most recent.

On our “Downtown” Craft Cocktail Tour we were at our second stop, Salt & Pine, enjoying a cocktail and snack specially prepared by the bar manager in collaboration with the chef. Being fairly new to cocktail tour hosting, we forgot to ask about food aversions. As it turned out, the carefully crafted cocktail was thoughtfully prepared with a delicious seafood dish that our pregnant guest could not and another guest would not eat. Upon learning this and without blinking an eye, the chef prepared a beautiful charcuterie board for our seafood adverse guests. As we enjoyed the venue, it began to rain. I brought three umbrellas but we had ten guests. The staff kindly raided the lost and found and loaned us two umbrellas. We set off to our final destination, Sidebar 122, which is only a few blocks away. In our short walk, the wind was blowing and we all got pretty soaked. As we walked through the door at Sidebar, the owner was standing at the bar where our seats awaited us with towels so that everyone could dry off.  She handed out the towels like a shower attendant at the spa. After amazing cocktails and food, the tour ended. Some of our guests stayed at Sidebar for dinner and the rest, a bachelorette party, followed us back to our first stop, Blind Lady Tavern. They enjoyed BLT so much that they wanted to end the night there. Our remaining guests were greeted by the owner who broke out the punch bowl and made a special cocktail just for them.

In speaking to the bar manager of Sidebar a few days later, I expressed my gratitude and pride in how our guests were treated. His reply summed up how I think most of the hard working folks in Columbus’ hospitality industry approach every customer “we want every guest to feel special and to feel like they got their money’s worth.” Mission accomplished. 

Cheers!

Shake your tail feathers, shake your maracas, but don’t shake my Manhattan

The Manhattan is a sexy and classy cocktail with its deep ruby color and rich warming flavors. It’s my favorite winter cocktail. I can take my Manhattan with Rye or Bourbon and even Canadian whiskey, but I cannot take it shaken. Shaking a Manhattan is bartender malpractice… mixology malfeasance. The ugly foam that floats on top of the shaken Manhattan is cringe worthy; the tiny shards of ice that water down the boozy cocktail send shock waves through my pallet; the faded Cosmo-like color, ugh. A shaken Manhattan upsets all of my senses, and I am not alone. 

One evening, we ventured out to a local bar where we always order beer or wine or a perfunctory cocktail like gin and tonic. Our friend, we’ll call her Heidi, texted us that she was at the end of a challenging day and needed a cocktail. She asked where we were, said to save her a seat, order her a Manhattan and she’d be there in 5. I followed her instruction and ordered the Manhattan.  Minutes later, I hear the sound of ice being tossed around in a shaker. “Oh no, please don’t let that be Heidi’s cocktail.” The bartender placed a foamy pink cocktail in front of the empty barstool.  We looked at each other with eyes the size of saucers “what should we do, she’ll be here any second and this is going to make her bad day even worse”!  I grabbed the meringue topped cocktail and began blowing on it to try to minimize the foam. 

Somewhat successful, I sat the glass down just in time. Heidi walked into the bar and plopped down in the seat that we had saved. She took one look at the glass sitting in front of her and said “what is this?” Me: “that’s the cocktail you asked for.” Heidi: “no, I asked for a Manhattan.” Me: “I ordered a Manhattan.” A good sport, Heidi tasted the cocktail. Without any emotion, she summoned the bartender over. Super-friendly bubbly bartender: “How’s your drink?” Heidi: “Um, what exactly is it?” Super-friendly bubbly bartender: “It’s a Manhattan. Your friends ordered you a Manhattan. Do you not want a Manhattan?” Heidi, as she slides the cocktail across the bar toward the bartender: “I want a Manhattan. This is not a Manhattan. I am sure you did your best but I can’t drink this.” Her cocktail was replaced with a glass of wine.

On another occasion, I visited one of my regular stops and ordered a Manhattan from someone I don’t usually order a cocktail from. He sat the drink down in front of me and the second I looked at the foamy mess, without a word, the drink was whisked away by the bartender that generally makes my cocktails. With apologies, he returned with a properly made Manhattan, stirred, not shaken.

We had discussed a solution to this dilemma would be to ask for our Manhattan stirred, not shaken but I’m not convinced that is a good idea. If the bartender doesn’t know that a Manhattan should be stirred, do we want to drink their Manhattan anyway?

The Manhattan

The history of the cocktail is unclear, some accounts say it originated at the Manhattan Club in New York City in early 1870 and was invented by Dr. Iain Marshall for a banquet hosted by Winston Churchill's mother. Other accounts say it was invented by a bartender by the name of Black at a bar on Houston St in NYC.

From David Wondrich's Recipe

Prepare a cocktail glass or coupe by placing it in the freezer for 30 minutes. Measure 2 oz Rye whiskey and 1 oz sweet vermouth into a standard pint glass. Add 2 – 3 dashes of Angostura bitters. Add ice and STIR about 50 revolutions. Strain into the chilled glass. Garnish with lemon or cherry.

 

The Gibson

So I don’t recall what I was reading or why this classic cocktail came to mind, but I announced to my domestic partner, Blair (I’m far too old to call him my boyfriend), that I have never tasted a Gibson. In fact, I don’t recall ever tasting a pickled onion. The next day, we’re at M Restaurant for happy hour (if you haven’t been to M for happy hour you are really missing out on a great deal Monday – Saturday, 5 – 7) and I order my very first Gibson. The bartender, Josh, presents me with a handsome, crisp looking cocktail garnished with two pickled pearl onions. With excitement, I pick up the chilled martini glass for my first taste of the classic tipple… it was delicious; cold and salty with just a hint of the onion flavor. Ironically, I am one of those people who generally avoid onions as they tend to stay with me for days but there must be something about the pickling that mends this awful side effect. I am giddy, so pleased with my tasty martini when Cris comes over to greet us (Cris is the head bartender, master of spirits, and all around bad-ass bartender) and proceeds to straw-taste my Gibson (she can do that, we’re friends) and exclaims, "it’s not dirty enough". She highjacks my cocktail and returns it to me with a bit more pickled onion juice and a dash of olive juice. Holy Martini… my new favorite cocktail.

Most evenings, if we’re not belly up to one of our favorite local bars, we can be found on our balcony sipping a cocktail carefully crafted by Blair. I should mention that, while Blair has never been employed as a bartender, he can mix a cocktail that would rival any seasoned bartender I know. He could never keep a job in a bar though because he would insist on joining you for a drink and would forget that there are other customers to tend to. At any rate, with pickled onions now in stock at home (olives and Gin always in stock) Blair mixes my Gibson, dirty, very dirty, with a dash of olive juice… life is good.

Cheers!

The Gibson

Believed to have been created in San Francisco by businessman Walter D.K. Gibson in the late 1800s. Mr. Gibson thought that eating onions prevented colds.

Traditional Recipe

2.5 oz Gin (or vodka)
.5 oz Dry vermouth

Add both ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice
Stir and train into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with cocktail onion

 

Non-traditional Recipe — We’ll call it, the dirty Gibson (the way I like it)

2.5 oz Gin (or Vodka)
Dry vermouth rinse
Cocktail onion juice, to taste… say 2 bar spoons
Dash of olive juice (just to make it a bit briny), a dash or two
Garnish with cocktail onion

The Aviation

Ever had one of those days when you’re thirsty for a cocktail but you just don’t know what to order? Well, let’s be honest, I’m thirsty for a cocktail every day, but sometimes I need a little help with my decision-making process. 

One of the many things I love about Blind Lady Tavern is that, no matter who is behind the stick, you’re always going to get a great cocktail. Seth Laufman has assembled a talented team of bartenders, and, he’s not so bad himself. Originally from Athens, Ohio, Seth made his way back to Ohio after spending time in California. He bought the old Jury Room on Mound Street in downtown Columbus and turned it into a fabulous craft cocktail bar. I should also mention that their food is out of this world. Another thing I love about this bar is that you don’t even need to order a specific drink to get a great cocktail. 

This is how it played out one evening…

Seth: what are you drinking? 

Me: I don’t know, I just don’t want anything too sweet. 

Seth: you want a citrus forward drink? 

Me: yea, citrus forward. 

A few minutes later...

Seth: here you go, cheers! 

Me: What is it? 

Seth: An aviation. 

Me (in my head): ugh, I hated the Aviation I had tasted before and found it to be bitter and generally unpleasant. Plus, who wants a bluish/gray cocktail… yuck. 

With no expectation of enjoyment, I took my first sip. I definitely tasted lemon and the maraschino with just a hint of the Crème de Violette. It was a perfectly balanced, citrusy cocktail and the Crème de Violette was not overpowering. I was happy, very happy! I enjoyed the cocktail so much that I wanted to drink one every night, and practically did. 

The moral of the story? If you’ve tried a cocktail and didn’t like it, give it another shot at a bar with an experienced craft bartender, you may change your mind.

 

The Aviation

This pre-prohibition drink recipe was originally published in 1916 and published again in 1930 omitting the Crème de Violette because it was scarcely available in America.

 2 oz Gin
.5 oz Maraschino liqueur
.25 oz Crème de Violette or Crème Yvette
.75 oz lemon juice

Add all ingredients in a shaker and fill with ice
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a cherry (optional)

Cheers!