Drink: Hotel bar hopping in Central Ohio

Erin Edwards
Buckeye Bourbon House at Residence Inn

In Chicago, there's the Drake Hotel's Coq d'Or, a cozy, wood-paneled bar that opened the day after Prohibition was repealed. In New Orleans's French Quarter, there's the over-the-top, rotating Carousel Bar & Lounge at Hotel Monteleone. Columbus can't claim any hotel bars of such iconic stature, but we're seeing signs of life thanks to a wave of hotel openings and renovations. Sure, you might pay a premium for a classic cocktail with charcuterie, but there's something alluring about playing a tourist in your own city. We took a look at Columbus's range of hotel bar options, from a little-known burger joint inside a Holiday Inn to a brand-new rooftop bar in Dublin. Some are worth visiting even if you aren't staying overnight, while others could stand to up their amenity game.

Soul at The Joseph

The first thing you might notice at Soul at The Joseph is artist Nari Ward's clever “West Liquorsoul,” an upside-down liquor sign—the word SOUL spelled out in neon. It's an indication that this is not your average Columbus hotel bar but a gallery that happens to serve refined cocktails. Located at the north end of the lobby inside this Short North boutique hotel, Soul is an intimate space with 12 bar seats, an eight-top community table and a few high tops. Bar manager Ian Gulley says wines by the glass and craft cocktails are the big focus here. (We recommend the Champagne Cocktail or the London Fog with gin, balsamic vinegar, St. Germain and strawberries.) And although its neighbor The Guild House executes the food, Soul boasts its own fine menu, including a delicious poutine featuring cheddar curds from Granville-based Black Radish Creamery. Lacking an expense account? Happy hour takes place 3–6 p.m. Monday–Friday when signature cocktails are $8 (normally $11–$13), select draft beers are $3 and select wines are $6 per glass. And by all means, don't forget to head upstairs to explore the hotel's in-house art gallery featuring works from Columbus's own Pizzuti Collection.

Vaso at AC Hotel

The newest entry on the hotel bar scene is Vaso, a tapas-focused concept, that opened last month at the top of Dublin's new AC Hotel. “We'll see if Dublin is ready for us,” says the hotel's general manager Orcun Turkay, alluding to the lively Spanish lifestyle: eat late and party even later. The big draw of the 5,818-square-foot restaurant and bar is its rooftop patio, which features private cabanas, fire pits, community tables and views of the Scioto River. As a gin-first bar, Vaso will feature a gin-and-tonic cart that roams the premises, stocked with different herbs and spices for customizing your G&T. In addition, Watershed Distillery created a gin exclusively for Vaso, tweaking its Four Peel Gin with the addition of Meyer lemon and Seville orange. In another nod to Spain, sangrias will be served from long-spouted, glass porrons at happy hour. (Tip: Don't wear white.)

Buckeye Bourbon House at Residence Inn

Brown liquor—bourbon and other whiskey—is the focal point at this Gay Street bar. That is, unless you're staring up at the historic building's lovely, 50-foot-high ceilings. As spaces go, Buckeye Bourbon House is a standout. Located in the old Buckeye Federal Savings and Loan building, the bar opened earlier this year under the same roof as the 126-room Residence Inn. “We're a bar in a hotel; we're not necessarily a hotel bar. I'd say 85 percent of our guests come from off the street,” says general manager Matthew Brady. One attraction is BBH's impressive bourbon collection, which Brady says is the largest in Columbus. (As of this writing, it has both the highly sought 10-year and 12-year Pappy Van Winkle.) The bar offers a small menu of Southern-inspired snacks and plates, like bourbon-roasted peanuts, black-eyed pea hummus and Kentucky Hot Brown sandwiches (which originated in Louisville's Brown Hotel). And trivia lovers can check out BBH's new trivia night every Sunday starting at 6 p.m.