Cincinnati is serving up some of the nation's best and most original cocktails. Here's where to find them.
The Queen city is known for its signature chili, the greatest ice cream known to man (Graeter’s), a beautiful riverfront and a revitalizing downtown that is putting other midwestern cities to shame (sorry, not sorry). But it’s also gained a reputation as a hub of manufacturing for some of the nation's best and most original cocktails — not to mention a ton of amazing craft beers — thanks to the ingenuity of the area’s mixologists.
In fact, on any given night you can find some of the most creative, delicious mixed drinks from the northern suburbs to downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Northside and Mt. Adams to the historic Mainstrasse Village just across the river in Covington, Kentucky. o And, so, we give you 14 of the most delicious, unique drinks the area has to offer:
The Video Archive
Every cocktail on the menu at this modern speakeasy in the Avondale neighborhood is one-of-a-kind. Among the most delicious is the Texas to Tokyo, which mixes Soju (a Korean liquor similar to vodka) infused with lemongrass, el Jimador Reposdo tequila, lime juice, bitters and blood orange serano syrup, which blends the sweet juice with a hint of spice from a pepper. The unique cocktail is, like all things at the Quentin Tarantino-themed bar, inspired by one of QT’s movies, in this case Kill Bill. https://www.facebook.com/videoarchivecincinnati/ (513) 559-9500
The most popular beverage at this bourbon bar and kitchen in the city’s Northside neighborhood is the Mad Anthony, which blends a ginger beer concentrate derived from the owner’s family recipe, with a balsamic basil simple syrup, Four Roses bourbon from Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and simple syrup. http://littlefieldns.com](http://littlefieldns.com) (513) 386-7570
A classic neighborhood watering hole in Bellevue, Kentucky, the B-List has a great jukebox and the Sunny & 80, a refreshing combo of Milagro Silver 80 tequila, Sprite and crushed lime that is shaken and served with a lime wedge on the rocks. It’s owner promises that it is “truly a ‘gateway’ to tequila thanks to its clean, crisp taste… like a summer that never ends.” https://www.facebook.com/TheBListBvue/ 261-7033
Another must-visit Over-the-Rhine spot, this restaurant has a farm-inspired menu that mixes old and new world flavors. One of the house specialties is the Bruce Banner, whose makeup changes frequently based on available fresh ingredients. A recent version offered a choice of spirits poured over a popsicle-like ice cube including home-preserved and canned strawberries and a balsamic and mint puree that melts over time and changes the flavor profile. [http://salazarcincinnati.com]9http://salazarcincinnati.com)(513) 621-7000
A Covington, Kentucky, Latin American/Mexican spot dedicated to the legendary Mexican artist, Frida’s menu is packed with unique tastes such as a Brussels Sprouts taco and peanut salsa. Make sure to try the Frida Takes Manhattan, their take on the classic Manhattan, with the usual bourbon, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters spiked with mezcal, ancho chili liqueur and mole bitters, which makes for a smooth, yet spicy, flavor profile. https://www.facebook.com/frida602/ (859) 815-8736
The Overlook Lodge
Another movie-themed bar from the folks behind the Video Archive, this spot just north of downtown in the burgeoning Pleasant Ridge neighborhood will give you the chilly vibes inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic The Shining while warming your belly with exotic, themed drinks. One of the most delectable is the Spring Thaw, a concoction with Death’s Door gin, mango kiwi simple syrup, egg white and bitters. All work and no play... http://thatshiningbar.com (513)351-0035
Sundry & Vice
An Over-the-Rhine bar that feels more like an old west apothecary, this is the place to go for some of the most uniquely flavored drinks in the region. Our favorite? The Foxglove, which sounds simple thanks to its combo of vodka, lime, mint, seltzer and the anise-flavored spirit once known as “the green fairy,” absinthe. It is anything but. http://thatshiningbar.com (513) 351-0035
Come for the unbelievably delicious fried chicken and killer spoonbread at this OTR restaurant, but stay for the meal-like Bloody Mary, with Tito’s Handmade vodka, house made Mary mix, a shot of Guinness and a gang of garnish that includes: two olives, a pickle, a jalapeño, watercress, celery and candied bacon. Seriously, you will be telling people about the bacon. http://www.theeagleotr.com/menu/ (513) 802-5007
The National Exemplar
Because we’re in the bourbon belt, it makes perfect sense to grab yourself a Kentucky Peach at this beloved old school tavern in the Mariemont neighborhood. Start with Makers Mark bourbon, add in some peach puree, and finish with spiced lemon simple syrup and you have a refreshing libation for any season. http://www.nationalexemplar.com/food-and-drink/ (513) 271-2103
The Blind Lemon
This cozy bar and live music venue has been a favorite in the scenic Mt. Adams neighborhood since 1963. One of the best ways to experience it is by gathering around the outdoor fire pit on a chilly night and wrapping your hands around a Hookn Effer Coffee, a smooth blend of Baileys, Frangelico, Kahlua, Grand Marnier, coffee and whipped cream. http://www.theblindlemon.com/cocktails/winter-cocktails/ (513) 621-3666
Metropole at the 21c
The chain of seven 21c “museum” hotels have quickly established a reputation as the hippest, most surprising spots in their respective towns thanks to their mix of contemporary art and whimsical touches. The five-year-old downtown Cincinnati edition also has a world-class restaurant, Metropole, with a bar to match. One of the most head-turning items on its menu, worth the trip alone if you’re the adventurous type, is The Lady of Mumbai, a mouth-exciting meld of rum, coconut-curry syrup and cashew milk. https://www.21cmuseumhotels.com/metropoleonwalnut (513) 578-6660
Go to this Covington German restaurant and pub for the delicious burgers, giant soft pretzels, brats and extensive list of old-world favorites (best sauerkraut, hands down). But stay for one of the only mixed drinks on its drink menu. The Sangrita is a tasty treat that smashes together two of your favorite drinks, starting with Monte Alban tequila, adding some triple sec, red wine, orange juice, house made sour mix and a splash of Sprite. https://www.facebook.com/wunderbar.covington.3/ (859) 815-8027
Copppin's at Hotel Covington
The story behind Liquid Knowledge, a popular mixed drink that flows from the tap at the Coppins Bar inside this hotel in Covington is as interesting as the building itself. Made in large batches and poured into kegs that are attached to the bar’s draft system, the unique drink starts with Old Forester bourbon (from the Lexington-based distillery) and includes ginger, allspice, lavender, clove and bitters. The drink is named after Knowledge, the horse John Coppins bet on at Latonia Racecourse in a desperate attempt to raise enough money to finish construction of the building that housed his John R. Coppin’s Co. department store, which was a fixture on in the city from 1910 until 1977 and now houses the hotel and bar. http://hotelcovington.com/dining/drinks/ (859) 905-6600
Myrtle’s Punch House
One of local cocktail maestro Molly Wellmann’s half dozen drinkeries and eateries in the area, Myrtle’s is an East Walnut Hills gem that focuses on the warmth of the group experience, with punches served in festive old-school bowls to share or by the glass. Made with super-fresh ingredients, with some recipes dating back to the 1600s, the punches are mixed with quality spirits and house made juices and syrups that are linked into the house draft system. Among their current specials is the Old Aldermann, with lite rum and brandy mixed with guava juice, lemon, green tea and triple sec. You’ll want to share, even if it’s hard to. https://wellmannsbrands.com/myrtles/ (513) 834-8589
To search more of Cincinnati's bars and nightlife scene, visit http://cincinnatiusa.com/eat-and-drink. Cheers!
Writer Bio: Gil Kaufman is a Cincinnati-based writer/editor whose work you’ve surely read in MTV.com, Billboard.com, Rolling Stone, the Cincinnati Enquirer, Spin and Wired.