Behind Bars: Ruthi Moses at GoreMade Pizza

Erica Thompson

You could say that Ruthi Moses had been waiting four years for her moment to shine as a bartender at GoreMade Pizza, a job she took shortly after the business opened last fall. Well, that's at least as long as her homemade clove and rosebud bitters were maturing in her basement, waiting to be used.

“I just brought them in and said, ‘We'll figure out some cocktails with them,'” Moses said in a mid-July interview at the Italian Village pizza joint.

Moses' experience in the restaurant industry is extensive. “I had been slinging drinks in this city in some form for about 15 years,” said Moses, who started at Victorian's Midnight Cafe — now the Shrunken Head — after moving to Columbus from West Virginia to go to college. “It was like love at first shift. I never really gave college a second thought.”

But what makes Moses unique among the industry lifers is her approach to making cocktails — using ingredients plucked from her garden or foraged from around the city — which fits in with owner Nick Gore's locally sourced approach to making pizza.

For example, there is the Lilac Cordial, featuring a syrup she made from blooms picked from her 100-year-old lilac tree. The Raspberry Rain includes fruit from Gore's garden, and the Lavender Collins has vodka infused with lavender from Moses' garden.

One of her most popular concoctions was the Lucid Delusion, a color-changing cocktail. “We just foraged a bunch of violets and then soaked them in water and then used that water in the cocktail,” she said. Customers were served the purple-blue beverage with a shot of lemon juice, which they could pour in to turn the drink hot pink.

GoreMade also offers flights of vodka infused with plants like the elderflower, which Moses foraged. “Columbus has all of these ravines … [and] you have access to things that are native,” she said. “You can go and find this stuff if you know what you're looking for, which you kind of have to because elderflower has poisonous cousins.”

Moses educates herself by constantly reading books like “The Drunken Botanist,” which can be found at the end of the bar. She hopes her knowledge and experience will lead to running her own bar one day.

But for now, she's thinking of plans for the next batch of “potions,” such as a black walnut Nocino soaking until Christmas and a rhubarb infusion that should be ready soon.

“The most important ingredient that goes into [the drinks] is time,” Moses said. “Whether it be how long something has to infuse … or how fleeting the ingredient is because it's only out and available to us for a week. We have to be constantly appreciating what we've got now.”