Results in Wildly Creative Beverage Scene
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus breweries and distilleries are helping define what is one of the most exciting beer and cocktail scenes in the country, placing the city on the map as a must-visit destination for craft cocktail, beer and booze buffs.
As a new cocktail and culinary focus hits Columbus’ internationally respected distilleries, the bartenders in Columbus are just as innovative -- making a name for themselves, too. Visitors and locals alike are counting the minutes before Law Bird opens later this year. The bar, with serious culinary snacks, is the creation of bartender Annie Williams Pierce and her husband Luke Pierce. Williams Pierce became the first woman to win the United States Bartending Guild’s (USBG) coveted Most Imaginative Bartender in the World title in 2017, after competing for six years. Inspired by the pair’s honeymoon to Japan, her winning cocktail, London X Tokyo, is a sugar snap pea- and Persian lime-infused Martini where verjus brings balance. The result is crisp and vegetal, yet earthy and lush; and cocktails of that level will stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the Law Bird menu with equally impressive wine and snack lists.
Serving up much more than just bottled spirits, Columbus’ two largest and most longstanding distilleries boast uber-creative cocktail programs led by wunderkind bartenders. In both cases, the bars are matched by equally exceptional dining in onsite restaurants, thanks to a new Ohio law that allows distilleries to serve up cocktails -- as long as dining is offered as well. Restaurant and bar operations were added to already revered distilling houses, making the most of the culinary aspect of cocktails. As a result, some of the city’s most creative libations are available just steps from where the hooch is made.
Watershed Distillery opened the state’s first restaurant connected to a distillery, Watershed Kitchen & Bar, in early 2017, serving an impressive menu led by chef Jack Moore and a bar program where technical skill and creativity add to the allure. Bar Manger Josh Gandee’s creative menus have become collectibles, changing seasonally and playing on themes such as a survival guide, Columbus’ notable fashion scene, a high school yearbook or even an Ikea catalogue. Watershed’s spirits garner rave reviews, like its rare and seasonal nocino. But its creations also win awards; Watershed’s Guild Series Chamomile-Flavored Gin recently brought home Double Gold from the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco.
Middle West Spirits’ Service Bar opened in late 2017 after landing executive chef Avishar Barua, who brings influences from his Bangladeshi roots and experience at Mission Chinese. His imaginative menu is punctuated with playful riffs on fast food favorites from his Columbus childhood that once offered a change-up from his mom’s South Asian home cooking. Bar Supervisor Kyle Nelson reflects that same spirit in a beverage program that’s a mix of skillfully mixed classics, contemporary twists and unusual smoked concoctions. Awards abound here, as well. Middle West was named U.S. Distillery of the Year in the Berlin International Spirits Competition and nearly every one if its dozen or more spirits, including gins, whiskies, bourbons and vodkas, have brought home gold and silver awards in key spirits competitions. Even Middle West’s bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup won Best Maple Syrup at the Good Food Awards.
Right next door, Brothers Drake Meadery has been making great mead from only local honey for well over a decade. A full bar with an impressive cocktail program features recipes that include their mead as a mixer -- along with local spirits. Local music is also served up on Friday and Saturday nights, creating a buzzy spot for Cbus nightlife.
Upstart 451 Spirits, tucked into an alley next to a neighborhood dive bar in Columbus’ hip residential neighborhood of Clintonville, is something of a mad scientists’ den for spirits. Interesting improvisations on rum, whiskey and absinthe start with unusual mash bills with good results. There’s even Pizza Pie’Chuga, distiller Chad Kessler’s play on Pechuga mezcal that’s infused with local fave Mikey’s Late Night Slice pizza. At first it sounds like a wholly crazy notion, yet in actuality, it makes magic in a Bloody Mary.
Some 50 craft breweries dot Columbus’ unique neighborhoods, with most joining in on the Columbus Ale Trail. Trail travelers can snag a passport, get it stamped and reap rewards with a prize for multiple stops. Columbus Brew Adventures helps travelers truly dive into the city’s prolific local libation scene with tours that tap the city’s many beer-centric neighborhoods, hit styles such as wilds and sours or even samples some favorite local pitchers and pizza.
Columbus is a city unlike any other. Vibrant and alive, Ohio’s capital is known for its open attitude, smart style and entrepreneurial spirit. Columbus' blend of neighborhoods, dynamic nightlife, noteworthy music scene, arts and culinary experiences, events, attractions and accommodations are all made unforgettable by the diversity of its outgoing locals who warmly welcome visitors. Free travel guides, maps, online booking and detailed information are available at www.ExperienceColumbus.com or 866.397.2657 (866.EXP.COLS). Visitor information is also available on Facebook: facebook.com/ExperienceColumbus, , Twitter: @ExpCols and Instagram: @experiencecolumbus.