Tag Archives: drinks

Five Places to Get a Great Cocktail in Over the Rhine

I originally set out to make a list of some of the best bars in the city for this article. Nothing too fancy, just a list of places I would recommend to people from out of town if they wanted to be sure of getting a great cocktail. Once I sat down to think about it I realized I had a problem. Not only do we have too many great bars and restaurants who are putting skill, art, and love into their cocktail menu to list in one article, but I was missing out on a great excuse to try a whole bunch of new places in the name of research. So for now I decided to limit myself to the one area of the city I am already way too familiar with and will be adding the top five cocktail bars of other neighborhoods in future weeks.

12th Street OTR

Five Places to Get a Great Cocktail in Over the Rhine

The rapid change of Over the Rhine from an economically depressed historical neighborhood to the city’s newest hot-spot for trend setters and foodies has been a boon for cocktail aficionados. Craft cocktails are a must for every new bar and restaurant in the area, leaving us with dozens of places within a three block radius to get a $10 cocktail.  Luckily we are talking about really good cocktails here and they are pretty darn strong to boot so that makes them easier to swallow (har.) But with limited time on your hands you may be wondering which spots to be sure to hit on a night out. Here is my list of five places in Over the Rhine where you are guaranteed to get a good cocktail.

5. The Lackman: This bar is probably my least favorite on the list when it comes to atmosphere and price but since this is list is about quality of cocktails it made the cut. The drinks I’ve had there are always wonderfully executed and served with a consistent quality. They have some barrel-aged drinks on a rotating basis, including a barrel aged negroni last time I was there. The bottle selection is not very deep but it is high quality. Service is usually very good even when it is crowded. The beer selection is great and rotates regularly. In short they are doing everything right, they are just missing some of the heart of other places and they charge you a bit more for the pleasure.

4. Bakersfield: I’ve written before about my admiration of Bakersfields’ cocktails. They were the first place in the area where I ordered a barrel aged manhattan and I love their Red Headed Stranger Cocktail. I also am a big fan of their $3 shot specials which always include a solid bourbon or tequila selection. I recommend stopping by on Fridays for a $3 shot of Four Roses. The cocktail list shows a great deal of thought and compliments their food and the vibe of the place. Just don’t go there if you are looking for a gin martini. Bakersfield loses points for being a tequila and whiskey only kind of place but you can’t expect urban cowboys to drink fruit flavored vodka now can you?

3. Neon’s: When Charlie and I did our run around OTR for Yelp Drinks Neon’s ended up with the winning cocktail with a smoked elderflower that was out of this world. They make their own bitters and syrups for their cocktails as well as a huge number of infusions so the variety of drinks you can get there is almost endless. They have a beautiful patio and a really excellent beer selection that is always good for trying something new. The drawbacks seem to have a lot to do with how popular it has become, with crowding and slow service being the most common complaint. Also, although I enjoy the creativity that can come from making your own infusions, they can be hit or miss. I’ve tried several bourbon infusions at Neon’s and unfortunately many of them seemed to be a waste of good bourbon.

2.  The Senate: The Senate Restaurant is one few places in OTR that manages to be a triple-threat. Great food, extensive beer list, and amazing cocktails that rotate out on a regular basis. The senate hits all the flavor profiles in their house cocktail list, from bitter to sweet, from fruity to fatty, from classic to cutting edge. I had a drink there once that was made with duck fat and looked like sludge but tasted divine and was served with a fig newton garnish. Recently I took my friend there for her bachelorette party and this was her reaction to the Fidel Castro she was drinking.

I think that says it all.

1. Japp’s: I realize that a lot of people probably think I am on the payroll for Japp’s considering how often I rave about it. But seriously, this place has everything a cocktail nerd could ask for. First of all, the atmosphere is great. Beautiful historic building with no TVs and frequent live bands that compliment the style. But this is an article about cocktails and here is where Japp’s really shines. The staff is trained amazingly well with a really high degree of professionalism and consistency for all of their drinks and I am willing to bet that this is one of the few places you can go in the whole city where you can order a Blood and Sand or a Martinez and not have the bartender ask you what’s in it. On top of the classic cocktails, the rotating weekly list of house specials is always great and the bottle selection is amazing. And let’s not forget that fresh juices and house made syrups and bitters that are standard at this location. Nothing but quality and the price is actually pretty reasonable if you look at what the other places are charging for similarly crafted cocktails. Not to mention that the bar’s owner and still regular bartender Molly Wellmann literally wrote the book on craft cocktails.

So now is the part where you go ahead and tell me how wrong I am. What places did I leave off? What places are over rated? I want to know. And before anyone says anything I do want to give honorable mention to Arnold’s, where I would actually rather drink most nights than a lot of the other places on this list. Arnold’s has a personality that can’t be beat in this city and they have upped their cocktail game considerably in the past few years but the mixed drinks are still inconsistent and rely on pre-made mixes . And let’s face it; wouldn’t we all rather keep Arnold’s feeling a little more down to earth and little less trendy?

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Queen City Drinks One Year Anniversary Party

Reserved for Queen City Drinks.

Reserved for Queen City Drinks.

I just wanted to post a few pictures that Charlie and I took at the Queen City Drinks one-year anniversary party. I don’t know how the other writers feel, but for me it’s been a great experience writing occasionally for this site. My writing has improved as I have tried to make my posts more descriptive and useful to all types of readers, and I have learned so much both through researching stories and from reading everyone else’s posts. Especially about beer and beer related events in Cincinnati. Thanks so much to Josh for getting this website started and for his continued leadership and to Tom for keeping it updated and relevant on a day-to-day basis. And a huge thank you to Fifty West Brewing for hosting this party and for allowing us to bring in our own beer to share. There aren’t many places in Cincinnati that would let you do something like that.  And of course the biggest thank you of all goes to all you readers and brewers reading this who make up the community. It was great getting to finally meet many of you in person Thursday. Now that we know each other in real life and not just on twitter I hope to be seeing a lot more of you. So here are just a few pictures of the night. It was a great time and I had my fair share of beer so they might not all be the best quality but I think that is a sign of a really great evening. Cheers everyone and here is to another great year ahead for Queen City Drinks.

madtree kenny and tom

Looks like an intense discussion

The Brew Professor schools us.

The Brew Professor schools us.

Ginny and Beach bum

Finally meeting the Cincy Beach Bum

2013-05-16 19.37.02

Really nice C.A.B. sliders. So good we ordered them twice.

This was the most sour beer I've ever had.

This was the most sour beer I’ve ever had.

"In the Name of Suffering" sounds more like a hot sauce than a beer.

“In the Name of Suffering” sounds more like a hot sauce than a beer.

Josh at the head of the table. Sort of.

Josh at the head of the table. Sort of.

Triple digit was well represented.

Triple digit was well represented.

Josh and one of the brewer's from Rhinegeist.

Josh and one of the brewer’s from Rhinegeist.

Doesn't have anything to do with beer but on the way home we drove by Horseshoe and stopped to get half of The Killers concert for free by standing outside the gates. Better seats than I've ever had at Riverbend.

Doesn’t have anything to do with beer but on the way home we drove by Horseshoe and stopped to see part of The Killers concert for free by standing outside the gates. Better seats than I’ve ever had at Riverbend.

 

 

 

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Patron Margaritas Available at Chipotle

margaritas chipotle

While lining up for lunch at your local Chipotle you may have noticed that they offer margaritas as one of your beverage choices but if you are like me, you’ve probably never really thought much about them or even considered ordering them. Chipotle is looking to change that. The fast casual mexican restaurant has established its brand as the fresh, caring, Michael Pollan-approved fast food restaurant and they are trying to bring some of that mystique to their margaritas. I was invited to head to the Chipotle on Fountain Square to try one with their marketing director and see what I thought.

patron margarita chipotle

So the first thing I have to admit right away is that I am a huge fan girl of Chipotle. If I have one of those too-busy-to-cook-no-food-in-the-fridge kind of nights and I just need something fast kind of nights it is my number one choice. There is really no other restaurants offering food that tastes that good, at that price point and convenience level. Plus I don’t feel guilty for eating their carnitas because it comes from happy little piggies who were probably so grateful for their loving farmer that they were only too glad to lay down their life to support him financially. So yeah, this is probably not going to be an unbiased review

making margaritas chiptole

So what is different about these margaritas? First of all they are ditching the pre-made sour mix and are using fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice instead. This is really what makes a big difference. Just using fresh juice takes the taste out of the bar standard hum ho cocktail and creates something that catches your attention. The next thing they have changed is allowing guests to choose to have their drink made with Patron for a few dollars extra. Patron may not be the absolute best tequila out there but it is probably the most well known brand and  it is incredibly smooth. They use an ounce and half in their margaritas and the one I tried had minimal alcohol flavor. It was nice, heavy on the citrus, and very tasty. I would very much enjoy sipping on one of those while eating chips and guacamole after work.

mixing margaritas chipotle

Which gets to the problem that I think Chipotle will continue to have with their margaritas. Nobody I know goes to Chipotle for happy hour. We go there for a quick, delicious, and reasonably priced lunch or dinner. On the piece I recorded for Bottoms Up, Laura from Cincinnati Nomerati and I both agreed that $7 for a Patron margarita made with fresh squeezed juice was a good deal. But it is also the same price as a burrito and ordering one with my dinner will mean doubling my bill. When I head out for a nice dinner or to have drinks with friends I am prepared for that but on my Chipotle nights not so much. So as much as I love Chipotle, (I will be eating there tomorrow night for their Teacher Appreciation, buy one get one free special) I don’t think I will be ordering their Patron margaritas nearly as often as I might like.

Chipotle on Urbanspoon

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Stoli Hot Vodka Review

stoli hot

 

In the world of flavored vodkas, there seems to be an arms race between the different vodka companies to see who can take the craziest, sweetest junk food and turn it into a 70 proof mixer for cocktails. Not that there is anything wrong with the novelty of having a donut, fruit loop, or gummy bear flavored drink but I am surprised there haven’t been more vodkas trying to fill the niche in the other direction. Stoli Hot is a jalapeño-flavored vodka that seems to be attempting to do just that. As far as I can tell it is one of only a few non-sweet flavored vodkas out there and the only one with a significant heat.

Stolichnaya is a Russian vodka that has been around since 1948. It is a wheat vodka and has a nice mouth feel with a slightly sweet taste and I think this actually makes the jalapeño flavor work even better. The level of heat is a good one. It is a heat that is present but won’t be overpowering to most people. I found it far less hot than actual  jalapeño and it quickly cools when mixed with something else. If you can take a little tabasco sauce this won’t be challenging at all.

The flavor is basically jalapeño but with a sweet finish. It has Stoli’s thicker mouth feel and is very smooth. The burn comes from the pepper, not the alcohol. I found that a bloody mary works really well with Stoli Hot. For the show we used Mr. and Mrs. T’s Hot Bloody Mary mix and the added Stoli Hot gave it quite a kick. If you like extra heat with your bloody mary this is a great choice for you.

In mixed drinks and cocktails a lot of the flavors that work well with jalapeño will work well here. Fruity drinks work better than I would have thought. I made a “Stoli Red” which is just the Stoli Hot mixed with cranberry juice and it was pretty nice. I think pineapple and lime would be particularly nice. I made a jalapeño martini by just using gin and the Stoli Hot in a 2:1 ratio and it was actually too bland. A dash of bitters helped but I would recommend mixing it at a higher proportion of Stoli and maybe not leaving out the vermouth. I’ve also though that using it in a chocolate drink might be nice. Sort of an Aztec-chocolate flavored drink. I will have to work on that and get back to you.

Overall, I think that this is a good bottle to have in your mixing toolkit. Jalapeño is a great flavor to add to a drink and it has not been over done. Just about every hot shot or cocktail uses a cinnamon-base like Hot Damn or Fireball Whiskey. Bringing the heat without the sweet is a good way to make your cocktail stand out.

You can listen as I try Stoli Hot and see the cocktails I made with it in Episode 9 of Bottoms Up.

 

In case you are wondering, I’ve been playing around with a variety of spirits lately because I am working on making some custom cocktails for Hellapalooza, an ungodly combination of rock n’ roll, burlesque, freakshows, and drinking that is coming to The Southgate House Revival on May 11th. Tonic Tours will have a booth set up so come to the show and say hello.

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Bottoms Up Podcast: Angel’s Envy Bourbon

bottoms up podcast

As some of you may know I do a weekly podcast called the Charlie Tonic Hour. My co-host Charlie and I like to describe it as an alcohol soaked culture podcast with a side of sexy but mostly it’s just Charlie and I discussing music, events, popular culture and whatever else crosses our mind. Every show has had a “bottoms up” segment where we discuss a drink of some kind. It’s always been my favorite part of the show, a chance to talk to local bartenders, try a new spirit, beer, or wine, or just practice mixing up a new cocktail to try. Well I liked it so much that I talked Charlie into starting a second podcast that was all alcohol. It’s called Bottoms Up with Ginny and Charlie and it goes live every Friday. At just about 15 minutes in length it’s a short shot of alcohol to kick off your weekend. Charlie and I will be heading out to local bars to talk to people, attending Cincinnati events, trying new things and making new drinks. If you like cocktails, spirits, beer, or just the local drinks scene I think you will enjoy the show. We started a few weeks ago with Angel’s Envy Bourbon and I thought I would go ahead and share it with the good people here at Queen City Drinks. If you like what you hear you can subscribe through iTunes or download it from the site. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

FULL SHOW NOTES FOR THIS EPISODE
Run Time: 11 Minutes, 19 Seconds

Click to listen: bottomsup001.mp3
Subscribe to the show: bottomsup.libsyn.com/rss

Angels’s Envy
 From the official website (angelsenvy.com):

Created by Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, Angel’s Envy is worth coveting. Aged up to 6 years in charred white oak barrels and finished in ruby port wine casks, Angel’s Envy is an artisan’s masterpiece unlike any other bourbon.

When Wine and Spirits Magazine calls you a “Living Legend,” it should mean one thing. You’ve still got work to do. Lincoln Henderson wasn’t content resting on his laurels. He’s always been a malcontent. You don’t spend 40 years defining the spirits industry and earn a spot in the Bourbon Hall of Fame without a few unconventional ideas.

Angel’s Envy is what happens when 200 years of tradition meet an independent master craftsman’s instinct to improve. It’s a total return to craft first, hand-blended batches of 8 to 12 barrels at a time. We start with the finest local ingredients distilled in micro-batches and aged in American oak. Lincoln personally tastes every barrel throughout each step of the process to ensure that the spirit meets his malcontent’s standards.

This would be enough for any other premium bourbon, but Lincoln had other ideas. That’s why we finish every batch in ruby port wine casks. There’s no set time for the process. It’s only Angel’s Envy when we say it is. The ruby port wine finish adds subtle nuance without ruining the integrity of the bourbon. The end result is a rich, exceptionally smooth and rare bourbon. Sin aside, we work every day to inspire envy, even if it takes a little longer.

Ginny Tonic’s April 2012 Article on Angel’s Envy
Angel’s Envy Makes The Angels Beg

Charlie Tonic Hour #14 Where We Originally Discuss Angel’s Envy
Angels Envy, Powerful Females and the Road to Gem City

Photos from Our Tasting
  
The Music You Hear Throughout the Episode

thefordtheatrereunion.com

Photo by Cara Suppa at MOTR in January, 2013
Brought To You By the Same People Who Created
The Charlie Tonic Hour | Tonic Tours

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Yelp Drinks 2013 Rapid Review

When I read about Yelp Drinks 2013 I have to admit I got excited. I am something of a craft cocktail obsessive and the chance to check out a few places I’d been hearing about for half price was too tempting to miss. The deal is simple, 20 local bars and restaurants agree to feature three of their drinks at half price anytime before nine during the featured week, which just so happens to be this week. The timing was great for me because I’ve just started doing a second, all alcohol, podcast called Bottoms Up and I thought that featuring some exciting local bars would make for a good show. So last night Charlie, my partner-in-crime and co-host, picked me up and we hit 5 of the bars in 90 minutes. You can listen as we talk to the bartenders and try the drinks starting Friday over on the Charlie Tonic site but here is my rapid fire review of the five locations we hit.

Blood Orange Martini at Mayberry.

Blood Orange Martini at Mayberry.

Mayberry: I’ve been wanting to try the gastro pub for awhile now so we started here with the plan to get some food while we had a drink. Oddly enough the menu really didn’t appeal to me. Everything seemed to have pork belly and I know that doesn’t sound like a problem but it just wasn’t what we were in the mood for so we settled on ordering two Blood Orange Martini’s and some Bacon Garlic Popcorn to snack on. The Blood Orange Martini was made with vodka, freshly squeeze blood orange juice, and triple sec. It was an uncomplicated and refreshing drink and the driest of all the cocktails we sampled. Not too sweet at all and if you don’t like the taste of vodka you probably won’t like it. The burnt orange peel was a nice touch.

OTR cocktail at Japp's

OTR cocktail at Japp’s

Japp’s Since 1879Of course I am no stranger to Japp’s but with it right across the street from Mayberry I couldn’t walk past without trying a drink. Since we were in Over the Rhine I decided to order the OTR Cocktail and it was an interesting experience in having the same cocktail made by a different person. The OTR has vodka, vanilla, fresh squeezed lime, cranberry and rose water. The first time I had it the vanilla and rose water came through and it was a much softer and sweeter take on the old stand by combo of vodka, cranberry, and citrus. This time the lime was much stronger and I didn’t taste any vanilla at all. Sadly, this was the first time Japp’s has let me down.

Rosemary Bistro at Taste of Belgium

Rosemary Bistro at Taste of Belgium

Taste of Belgium: I’ve been a fan of these addictive little waffles since I first picked them up at a farmer’s market but I haven’t been to their new restaurant yet, in part because I thought that as much as I love the waffles, eating them for dinner seemed a bit much.  But it turns out that Taste of Belgium was my favorite food stop of the night. To make up for the disappointing and over-priced popcorn, Charlie and I decided to split a burger.  It was delicious and the toppings of bacon, goat cheese and caramelized apples complimented each other beautifully. Not only was the food great but the cocktail here tied for first place of the night. The Rosemary Bistro was made with Watershed Bourbon Barrel Gin, house-made rosemary leek syrup, and topped off with tonic water and a sprig of rosemary. The result is a crisp and slightly savory take on a traditional gin and tonic. Two thumbs up for this one. 

What's left of my Yelptini at Below Zero.

What’s left of my Yelptini at Below Zero.

Below Zero Lounge: The drink here was the most disappointing but the atmosphere was the most fun so I guess it’s a draw. I ordered the Yelptini which has vodka, triple sec, and cranberry juice. Now you may be saying to yourself, as I was, wait a minute isn’t that basically a Cosmopolitan minus the lime? Yes indeed it is and it tasted basically like a Cosmopolitan as well. Nevertheless, a cosmo is a nice cocktail and I managed to forget to take a picture until the glass was nearly empty so it’s not like I didn’t enjoy it. The crowd at Below Zero were unpretentious, talkative, and just plain fun to be around. I admit I was disappointed when it was time to move on to our final stop.

Smoked Elderflower at Neon's

Smoked Elderflower at Neon’s

Neon’s Unplugged: I never though I would enjoy a bar called Neon’s but this is where we got the second winning drink of the night. With its long narrow interior, dark wood beams, patrons wearing knit hats, and a dog laying by the entrance Neon’s felt like a pub in a European fishing village but the variety of craft beer and house-made bitters was decidedly modern. We decided on the Smoked Elderflower cocktail and this one was a winner. Something like a smoked gimlet, this drink was made with vodka, smoked fig bitters, St Germain, a splash of lemon juice, Sprite and then garnished with fresh lavender and a lemon wheel. The result was a smokey-citrus taste that was really unique and enjoyable. This is a bar I will definitely be trying again.

If you want to try these or any of the other 55 drinks that are on special during Yelp Drinks you have until Sunday to make it out. If I get the chance I will be stopping by Arnold’s for their Maple and Bacon infused Wild Turkey Old Fashioned.

Also in the interest of full disclosure and because I don’t want everyone thinking that I regularly slam back five cocktails on a work night, except for the first stop Charlie and I shared one of each of these drinks so it’s not as bad as it looks. Drink happy and drink safe!

You can hear Charlie and I try all of these drinks on Episode 2 of Bottoms Up.

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