I really didn’t want to like Tonic on 4th. In fact, I loved Twist so much, and was so mad that it was gone, that I was determined to never go to Tonic. Period. Then I met Josh Durr, the cocktail consultant for Tonic. His skill with a cocktail shaker swayed me, and later the same week I popped into Tonic. I sort of feel like I haven’t left since.
Josh trained all the bartenders (Benjamin, Maggie, Erin, and Mike), and every one of them has that vintage, craft cocktail thing down to the art that it is. Even better, they’ll explain anything to you, from how and why they make their own bitters, tinctures, and ice to the history of the cocktail on which you’re sipping.
For me, the test of any bar is the Manhattan. If you read my post earlier this week, you know that Josh made me a flawless Manhattan. I expect nothing less from the folks at Tonic, and they deliver. My request of “stirred and up” might as well be laughed at – how else would they serve it? And I love that.
The cocktail menu is large and eclectic, and the menu is divided up into several sections: Classical (e.g., Moscow Mule, Aviation), Classic Punches (e.g., Bourbon Milk Punch), Neo Classical Originals (e.g., The Liberal Liberal and the absinthe-included Lumberjack Frappe), and New Punches (e.g., Teachers Punch). The menu not only lists what is in each drink, but provides you with a history of each cocktail.
My first night there, Benjamin made me a Bluegrass Flip. It was a drink I’d never heard of, but really enjoyed. Honestly, I’m not overly sure what was in it besides some liquor mixed with a Bourbon Barrel Stout and some egg; maybe some bourbon? Trust me, it’s a lot better than it sounds, and it lives on their Specials menu.
My friends all have a range of favorites. One girlfriend swears by the Liberal Liberal, which is a slight twist on a Manhattan. The recipe calls for Wild Turkey 101, sweet vermouth, Amaro, and the house-made orange bitters. I know that a couple of the bartenders actually prefer the drink with different bourbon. I tried it with the Wild Turkey, but it wasn’t up my alley. I suspect I might enjoy it more with Four Roses. Another girlfriend is very attached to the classic Moscow Mule, which is simply Smirnoff Lime Juice and Goslings Ginger Beer. Finally, a friend of mine will always order an Old Old-Fashioned. I had to ask – what’s a New Old-Fashioned? Apparently newer Old Fashioneds have some fruit muddled in the bottom, but the older style focuses more on the bourbon.
Twice now I’ve ordered snacks. Tonic shares a kitchen with Local 127, but don’t expect to order off the Local 127 menu. Tonic offers light bites, but they’re quite tasty. Thus far I’ve tried a rather yummy plate of Stuffed Baked Potato Skins (so cute and tiny!), Ohio Kennebec Fries with Cheddar Sauce, and an order of Sliders. I’ve seen the Grass Fed Fox Hollow Burger with Cheese. It’s huge and according to a friend of mine, quite tasty. Because they share the kitchen with Local 127, Tonic adheres to the same policy of local foods from local growers and markets.
Oh the wine list? I haven’t paid much attention. Because Tonic is so focused on craft cocktails, I don’t expect them to have the world’s largest wine list. However, since they are a part of Local 127, I do expect what they offer to be top-notch. I was happy to see they still offer the Gruet sparkling wine from New Mexico, which is the bottle I always ordered at Twist ($8 a glass at Tonic). They also offer a nice Montfort Chenin Blanc ($5) and a rather eclectic red selection including Chile and South Africa. It’s a short list, all by the glass. I should probably ask for a wine list next time I visit, just to see what all of the options are on the off chance I order a bottle.
As for beer, they have a nice selection of bottles, including Lindemann’s Framboise and Bells Seasonal. Their tap includes Unibroue’s Maudite, La Chouffe, Delirium, several ciders, and the Left Hand Polestar Pilsner, among many others.
The prices at Tonic aren’t cheap. On a good night, it’s easy for two people to run up a bill of around $100. At the same time, you’re not drinking well drinks either. I’ve been to Tonic three times now, although I want to go more. Of course, I’m in Las Vegas now, trying to find a decent Manhattan in Sin City. But I’m actually home the entire month of February. Do you know what that means? It means you can find me at Tonic.
My thanks to Bob 5chw4r7z for use of the photos!
This week is Restaurant Week! Unlike the Restaurant Week we recently had, you are not limited to downtown. This time, you're limited to independently-owned restaurants.
The Greater Cincinnati Independents, a group of more than 30 locally owned restaurants, are offering prix-fixe menus of $26.09 per person. This generally includes 3-courses, including dessert. Beverages and taxes are not included, but many places are offering paired wines or wine flights for a special price.
The point of all this, of course, is to give you a chance to try a new restaurant and to support the little guy while you're at it. After all, why eat at a chain when you can eat at a unique-to-our-city cafe? Before you roll your eyes at me, Restaurant Week includes places such as Dilly Deli Cafe, Mesh, Hugo, York Street, Lavomatic, and more. Restaurant Week runs through Sunday, so get out there and give it a try!
While you're debating on the restaurant you want to visit, you can enjoy the early start to Oktoberfest. The Goodwill, er, Gemuetlichkeit Games start on Thursday with the Beer Stein Races at noon on Fountain Square. Contestants race across the Square double-fisted with full beer steins that weigh around 35 lbs. The winner is judged by both best time and the amount of beer left in the container. A second is added onto each contestant's time for each ounce spilled. After the Beer Stein races, you're treated to the Pretzel Toss. Basically, it's cornhole with pretzels.
I love Friday's event, however. It's the Weiner Dog Races, again at noon on the Square. It had to be one of the cutest – and most hilarious – things I witnessed last year. You can bet I'll be there again, camera in hand, to snap those adorable dogs running (and aimlessly wandering) while dressed as hot dogs. I'm a little bothered by the hot dog vendors on the Square during this, but Kevin finds it wonderfully funny.
As I pulled into the driveway last night, I heard this news on the radio. It made my night! After all, we love our wine, but we're equal opportunity beer and cocktail folks as well.
We love our German beer here in Zincinnnati (see Oktoberfest and Hofbrauhaus). So why not open a biergarten / brewpub featuring one of Cincinnati's original German brews? Christian Moerlein will be opening a 15,000 square foot restaurant and brewery, complete with outdoor biergarten, down on the Banks.
The new multi-story brewpub will be built on top of a parking garage across from the Great American Ball Park.
The restaurant, to be called the Moerlein Lager House, will seat 500
inside and 600 in the beer garden. It will span the block on Main Street between Mehring Way and Theodore M Berry Way, in stumbling distance from the ball park, really.
According to the Business Courier, "Preliminary designs for the two-story building include a green roof,
balconies and terraces with views of the river, Roebling Suspension
Bridge and the ballpark." I fell in love with green roofs in Vancouver, so I'm pretty excited about just that one small detail on its own.
The new restaurant will also offer brewery tours. It's slated to open in 2011.
I can't imagine the place being anything but packed all the time. When I lived in Maryland, my friends would go to the store looking for Moerlein beer, which just baffled me at the time. After all, I'd grown up with it. Moerlein is nationally known as a maker of craft brews and, combined with the ball park, will be a huge hit for tourists.
Kevin and I are often downtown for shows and end up at different Happy Hours. So welcome to my new feature: At the Bar.
Recently, we were in
search of an affordable dinner and we ended up at McCormick &
Schmick's for their $1.95 Happy Hour.
Yes, you read that right. In the bar area only, McCormick &
Schmick's offers a $1.95 Happy Hour menu, available with the purchase
of two drinks per person. Don't roll your eyes – those drinks do not
have to be alcoholic. Yes, for the purchase of a coke and an iced tea,
you can have a giant $1.95 hamburger.
I absconded with a menu. The $1.95 munchies include a half pound
cheeseburger with cajun fries (also available as a cajun burger),
steamed mussels, beer battered fried mushrooms, fish tacos, and spinach
& artichoke dip. There is also a $3.95 menu that includes crab
& shrimp dip and fried calamari. I went with the gigantic 1/2-pound
burger, cooked to order, and Kevin chose the fish tacos. We also chose
the spinach & artichoke dip. The food is excellent, especially
considering the price.
They have several drinks on the Happy Hour menu. I tried a peach
apple sangria for $5.50, around the average price of their Happy Hour
martinis. Draft beer includes Blue Moon, Stella, and Guinness for
$5.75/glass. For those not as picky about their beer, Michelob Light is
Did you know Cincinnati was big enough to have two different Restaurant Weeks sponsored by two different organizations? Neither did I. The event I usually promote is sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Independents and brings attention to locally owned eateries. The latest Restaurant Week is all about eating downtown, which I find to be equally important.
Downtown Restaurant Week includes over 20 downtown restaurants. For those of you who haven't been downtown in years, yes, we have that many restaurants. In fact, this is a great opportunity to experience the new downtown, from the Gateway Quarter and resurging Over the Rhine to the remodeled and lively Fountain Square area and on down to Sawyer Point.
Downtown Restaurant Week runs from Monday, August 10 through Sunday, August 16. For $35 you get a 3-course dinner. At some of the restaurants, you'll get two dinners for $35. Menus are available at the Do Downtown web site.
Participating restaurants include Akash India, Arnold's, Black Finn, Boi Na Braza, Bootsy's, Daveed's, JeanRo Bistro, Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, Lavomatic, Mixx Ultra Lounge, Montgomery Inn Boathouse, Morton's, Nicholson's, Nicola's, Orchids, Palomino, Scotti's, Sung Korean Bistro, Trattoria Roma, The Palace, and Via Vite.
Oh, and that other Restaurant Week? It's currently scheduled for Sept 14-20. The deals are just bustin' out all over!
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