Coinciding with a recent surge in small-batch artisan distilleries, Columbus has seen a boom in masterful hand-crafted cocktails.
Coinciding with a recent surge in small-batch artisan distilleries, Columbus has seen a boom in masterful hand-crafted cocktails. Skilled bartenders have been tinkering with new tastes, unique flavor combinations and local ingredients. Among them is Travis Owens, who opened a 30-seater speakeasy called Curio next door to German Village's Harvest Pizzeria in May.
During 15 years of bartending around Columbus-accompanied by lots of traveling-Owens has cultivated a deep appreciation for sourcing locally and incorporating house-made ingredients whenever possible. In turn, Curio's shelves are filled with syrups, bitters and extracts, all made in-house.
Over at Barrel 44 Whiskey Bar, whose second location in Bexley opened last January, co-owner Shawn Korn credits his staff for turning what was already a successful whiskey bar into a hub for creative cocktails. As trends began shifting towards artisan, he says, "They really took the reins."
The result? "Our cocktail menu has matured considerably," he says.
Phil Prendeville, mixologist and general manager at the Bexley outlet, has been among those leading the charge, crafting drinks that intertwine the classics with eyebrow-raising twists, such as mixing a dirty martini with a house-made pepper-infused vodka or using Watershed's barrel-aged gin for a Negroni.
"Every day, we're trying to figure out how to use ingredients and how to present them to the consumer in a way they would enjoy," he says.
CURIO "We try to keep everybody calm," quips Owens as he describes his often full and frequently boisterous bar. But the handcrafted drinks are worth getting riled up over. Consider the Room with a Grand View, one of Curio's most popular cocktails: a frothy concoction of egg whites, clove-infused honey syrup, Watershed gin and Angostura bitters.
"Our goal," he says, "is to find what we think is a quality cocktail that pays homage to a classic or something we invented on our own."
Need some food to accompany your drink? The full menu from next-door Harvest Pizzeria is available.
491 S. Fourth St., German Village,
BARREL 44 Filling in the sprawling old Bexley Monk space, Barrel 44 is much larger than its counterpart in the Short North. The new owners added darker woods, a new tin ceiling and Prohibition-era artwork, including a giant mural of an old barrel-aging rick house.
More space means more room for casual fine dining. The menu is seafood-heavy, with barrel-blackened catfish and fennel-crusted salmon as well as steaks, burgers and small plates.
But the focus remains on whiskey, with upwards of 175 varieties offered. Says Prendeville, "We just try to educate and share our love of whiskey."
2232 E. Main St., Bexley,