Forget the cosmo, and so long appletini. You’re a girl with sophisticated taste who deserves a cocktail that emulates it. Thankfully, Columbus’ craft cocktail scene is booming with bars offering their own renditions of classics, standbys and the just plain inventive. No matter who you’re looking to meet for a drink (or two), we’ve got the perfect spot to grab a seat at the bar.
M at Miranova
The Vibe: Swanky yes, but in a retro-’90s-South-Beach kind of way that makes it less trendy, more comfortable. Grab a seat at a leather bar stool and watch as the glowing wall behind the bar illuminates M’s well-stocked offerings in bright purples and blues. White curtains and booths that double as dividers mean there are plenty of private spaces for a little girl talk. If it’s nice and you want to stay for dinner, grab a seat on the patio for great Downtown views.
The Group: Think happy hour with the girls from the office, or a first-drink spot to get you in the mood for girls’ night out.
The Drink: In the mood for something sweet? Order the Black Orchid ($12) with Belvedere Black Raspberry, St. Germain, white cranberry and fresh lemon juice. With a spherical ice cube with a frozen orchid center, it’s sure to garner attention. (You can rarely go wrong with anything off of Cris Dehlavi’s seasonal menu.)
Pair it With: Surf-N-Turf sushi ($16) with tempura shrimp and filet mignon, or Scallops with sweet corn spoon bread, truffle popcorn, grape tomatoes and corn emulsion ($18).
Curio at Harvest
The Vibe: Curio is exactly the way you’ve always pictured a speakeasy—small, dark and decorated like the back room of an old house with worn wallpaper and a forgotten fireplace (with a mantle that doubles as a resting place for cocktails). It would be kitschy if its cocktails didn’t so perfectly live up to its vibe. While sometimes overwrought with hipsters and diners waiting for a table at neighbor Harvest, it’s worth fighting the crowd to sample from owner Travis Owens well-stocked bar and house-crafted mixers.
The Group: Go here with your adventurous, non-frilly, drink-loving friends. And keep the group small to best navigate the quaint quarters.
The Drink: Like any good restaurant worth its salt, the cocktails here change with the seasons. My advice? Let the bartender decide. More than once I’ve ended with a newly created cocktail that appears on a later list of offerings (and with house-made ingredients I never would have ordered, like peanut-infused bourbon and curry bitters). It’s like your own personal sneak peek.
Pair it With: While there’s typically a selection of cheese and cured meats on which to nosh, head next door for a Harvest pie when you get hungry.
The Vibe: Every cocktail lover has faced this conundrum: You just can’t remember what’s in that drink you know you love. The solution? The minimalist and vintage Mouton. Here, classic cocktails (think Negroni, Sazerac and Sidecar) are made with care by bartenders more than happy to explain why they don’t carry liquors like Absolut, and eager to introduce you to what could become your new favorite. So strike up a conversation with bar manager Logan Demmy, who you’ll find crafting something fun that fits the season.
The Group: This small Short North bar is great place for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail with one girlfriend or a small group, as there’s sure to be something for every palate—from sweet to bitter, strong to, well, not as strong.
The Drink: In the mood for a twisted classic? Try Mouton’s fall variation on a Manhattan. The Louisiana Purchase ($9), made with rye whiskey, a bitter French vermouth, dry Curacao and Fernet Branca, is bitter with a nice hint of orange and mint.
Pair it With: It’s all bar snacks and cake (yes, you can get locally-made cake by the slice) here. Opt for St. Angel Cheese & Crisps ($5) or fresh bread from Dan the Baker with Green Olive Co. olive oil and North Market Spices.
The Vibe: While mead is definitely their thing (and far from the overly sweet concoctions most associate with the honeyed wine), their cocktails offer plenty of fun. It’s a tight list that’s less crafted than some of the other bars around town, but it’s still playful and heavy on locally-sourced ingredients (many from their neighbor Middle West Spirits), and, of course, features their meads. The feel here is industrial-chic meets corner bar, so come as you are and you’ll fit right in. On a nice night they’ll crack open the garage doors for an indoor-outdoor ambiance. Stay ‘til 9 or 10 and you’ll almost always catch some live tunes on the stage in the corner.
The Group: The garage-turned-bar space is perfect for a casual night out (and a great place to introduce your wine-loving friends to something new, too).
The Drink: The Grapefruit Moon ($8) with Honey Oak Mead, Watershed Gin, fresh grapefruit juice and sage is a light, earthy cocktail that’ll help transition your palate to fall. For a bit of spice, try Spanky’s ($8) with Wild Ohio Mead, Watershed Gin, jalapeno, basil, orange and agave nectar.
Pair it With: Gyoza Dumplings ($5) from Tokyo Go-Go. This food truck is permanently parked on the bar’s side and offers solid, not-too-heavy Asian fare. Bonus: You can order directly from the bar while you place that cocktail order.
The Vibe: It’s not often you can find a restaurant that delivers on every level—great ambiance, good food and an anything-but-mundane drink list. Basi Italia wins the trifecta. This Victorian Village favorite is a cozy, hole-in-the-wall eatery on the inside and quaint urban patio on the outside. Light and impressive Italian fare rotates with the season. Bar manager Phil Richardson wants his seasonal cocktail menu to follow suit, and so he crafts roughly eight cocktails specially for each time of year (think bunches and ciders for fall), and also offers two or three featured cocktails every night. This season, bottled cocktails are due out on the menu—a house-made, carbonated sip served in a bottle.
The Group: All-inclusive—a great spot for any girl who wants a carefully curated drink with a dinner menu that follows suit. It is a small space, though, so you may want to keep your party tight.
The Drink: Menu staple Highland Smash ($12) always features a seasonal house-made preserve among its ingredients. This fall, cherry preserves will accompany Old Forester bourbon, ginger syrup, fresh lemon juice and Grand Marnier.
Pair it With: Basi’s staple starter Zucchini Pronto ($8) with toasted almonds and shaved-thin pecorino.