Horse and Barrel Bourbon Bar

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I have to admit that I was a little skeptical when I heard that there was another bourbon bar opening in Cincinnati. Most bars in the area already have a pretty good selection and I have been really hoping for someone to go in a crazy new direction and open a tiki bar. But when the Horse and Barrel opened on Walnut Street downtown, I immediately heard good things about it from my whiskey friends. Then, when I met one of the owners and much of the staff at the January meeting of the Greater Cincinnati Bourbon Society and learned more about the history behind the bar, I knew it was worth checking out.

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The owners of the Horse and Barrel, who also own Nicholson’s Scottish Pub, have deep ties to Kentucky and used to own a bourbon bar called Horse and Barrel attached to their Lexington deSha’s restaurant before it closed. So this isn’t so much a brand new bourbon bar hopping on the whiskey bandwagon but more of an established bar opening for the first time in Cincinnati. I had such a great time talking to the group at the meeting that Charlie and I went down to check them out last Sunday at the opening party.

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The presentation and selection of the bourbon was all very well done. Unfortunately after being open for only a few weeks most of the rare bottles they had started with were already sold out, but they still had a great mix of old favorites and lesser known whiskeys. The cocktails were mixed perfectly and they had a nice selection of classic and creative cocktails on the menu. I thought the beer selection was also great compared to most whiskey bars I have been to. The food was outstanding, and something that many bars downtown are missing. I am craving some more of the blue cheese dip with fried bread even as I write this. And I do think that having the Horse and Barrel, a bar known for its bourbon, attached to Nicholson’s, a bar known for its scotch, is a great combination for one-stop whiskey drinking in Cincinnati.

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It is still hard to compete with bourbon bars in Kentucky based on selection but until Ohio changes its liquor laws it is nice to have a good bourbon bar downtown, especially for people who are visiting the area and want to try some local flavor without venturing over the river. Now if someone can just get on opening that tiki bar for me I will be really happy.

 

 

 

Cincinnati Represented at San Antonio Cocktail Conference

San Antonio Cocktail Conference

 

I am very excited to announce….ok I take that back. Excited doesn’t even begin to cover it. I am ecstatic beyond belief to announce that I will be attending the San Antonio Cocktail Conference this coming holiday weekend. This is the third year for the conference, which is the first of it’s kind in Texas. These kinds of events draw bar owners, mixologists, liquor reps, writers, as well as regular people who are just passionate about cocktails.

Modeled on the wildly popular Manhattan Cocktail Classic and New Orleans’ Tales of the Cocktail event,  San Antonio’s own Cocktail Conference was the first of its kind in Texas. Every year, we bring together top bartenders and cocktail aficionados for four days of educational seminars, guided tastings and cocktail parties.  Conference proceeds benefit HeartGift San Antonio and ChildSafe.

The classes read like my dream college schedule. I am especailly looking  forward to Evolution of Barrel Aging with Wes Henderson of Angel’s Envy, one of my favorite bourbons, as well as Women Behind Bars: A Spirited History of Women in the Cocktail World. Every night there are tastings, parties, and of course the whole beautiful city of San Antonio to explore as well. Special events include the Original Cocktail Competition where bartenders from across the country will show off their own creations. I look forward to bringing back new spirits and books to review for you and information on cocktails trends we will be seeing soon in Cincinnati, as well as some crazy stories to share.  Be sure to follow me on twitter to see the whole crazy weekend unfold in real time.

Store Review: Everything D’Vine

Living in Monroe it’s hard to get downtown for all the excellent things going on every night, as such I feel I’ve let you all down by not doing a better job of getting to an Everything D’Vine tasting sooner. Everything D’Vine is a beer/wine store that’s been open for about 6 or 7 months now. It’s on the far west side of 4th street, so basically go all the way down to central ave and back track a half block or so and look for the red awning.

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The store reminds me of Two-Face from Batman, but not in the killing people/robbing banks kind of way. It’s split in half and you walk in the wine half and it’s a nice wine store with relaxing music and these cool horizontal wine holders on the walls. About half way down the building is an opening to cut over to the beer side. Here you’re just looking at lots of bottles of beer, bare brick walls, and the music selection was more along the lines of Soundgarden than Barry Manilow (I kid, I kid).

I know little of wine so I’ll make no comments regarding their wine selection, however, their beer selection I can attest to. Sadly it’s not a huge massive selection but damn is it a good one! They just don’t have the room to have every beer from every brewery, if you want that you can go to Party Source or Jungle Jims and spend your time trying to figure out what’s great. Travis has taken care of that for you. What bottles (and cans) they have are all great – excellent quality and cover the entire range of beer styles. Though to the dismay of one customer last night there is no Yuengling, which I’m relatively sure is a good thing.

Everything D’Vine has been making moves to be more then just a wine/beer store. Those moves started with tastings almost every Friday night. The tastings are Friday nights 5:30 – 8:30 and Saturday 1 – 6, $15/person for samples of 6 wines and 6 beers + snacks. Not being a wine guy I passed on that action and went straight for the brews, and I picked a great night to go!

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I’m not going to go into super detail on all those but the Missions Shipwreck Double IPA was an unexpected highlight, great IPA action with a solid malt body backing. The Enjoy By and Espresso IRS were also delicious and another surprise for me was the Jolly Pumpkin Maracaibo Special Brown ale, its a Belgian strong ale that shows off everything great about Belgians. Not all tasting line ups are like this, the two Stones really made tonight stand out more than usual.

A bonus to these tastings is that Travis really knows his shit on these brews. So I said they’re making moves to be more than just a store and the first move was the tastings. They’re also doing an educational wine 101 course this week and will soon be doing “celebrity tastetenders” at the tastings. This week’s “celebrity tastender” session is Learn Beer From A Pro: Scott Lafollette of Blank Slate Brewing Co. and I’ve heard rumors that in the future at least one local blogger/tour guide may be doing one. Plus I can say for sure that as soon as my time (and my wife) allows I plan on doing one as well!

Perhaps the best thing about Everything D’Vine is that it is the single most socially active store in the tri-state area that I’ve found so far. Travis has done a great job of covering Facebook (their page), Twitter (their feed), and blog posts (their blog). Better yet not only is he keeping these things up to date with the latest beer arrivals and store happenings but he is also superb at responding to things (which some bigger, alliteratively named, stores suck horrendously at).

Bottom line is that if you haven’t been to Everything D’Vine yet I encourage you to start following them on Facebook and Twitter and go down to the store to check it out. If you’re like me and don’t get downtown often then wait for a Friday night Red’s game and do a little beer tasting then hit the ball park (and don’t forget to stop by the Machine Room in the stadium) or do a tasting and hit the Yard House or Lager House for dinner.