The Columbus Craft Cocktail Tour – Mixing, Stirring, and Shaking Up Your Saturday Afternoons

Columbus Craft Cocktail Tour

Columbus, Ohio is home to some of the best mixologists in the country, whose talent can easily rival competition from larger, more well-known cocktail cities.” say craft cocktail enthusiasts Leigh Ann Simms and Blair Beavers, the founders behind the Columbus Craft Cocktail Tour.

Blair and Leigh Ann would know better than most given they are the creators behind “Behind The Stick”, a cocktail competition show highlighting bartenders competing in timed challenges to test their skills, knowledge, and showcase their talents as a mixologist. These bartenders compete to win by mixing and creating both classic and original cocktails using a featured spirit, secret ingredient, and special themes.

Columbus Craft Cocktail Tour - Whiskey With Ryan - Photo By Jef Price Photography

For a lot of people, it can be daunting to figure where to go for a good drink in the downtown and short north areas, and even more overwhelming figuring out what to order. Fortunately, the Columbus Craft Cocktail Tour is here to help.

The tour stems from the co-founder’s desire to help those looking to move beyond the basic “Jack and Coke” or “Moscow Mule” to experiencing the creativity and passion used by bartenders on their tour to bring to life both classic cocktail recipes from the past as well as interesting interpretations of those same classics.

Columbus Craft Cocktail Tour - Whiskey With Ryan - Drinks - Photo By Jef Price Photography

The tour currently gets started at 4pm on most Saturdays and allows participants to experience a specialty craft cocktail made fresh while receiving a mixology lesson and history of the drink while they relax, chat, and snack on tour provided appetizers. Alternatively, some bartenders opt to demonstrate and share 3 smaller cocktail samples, but it depends on the day and location. “We like to let them be creative, so that might mean sharing a few options or just one fantastic cocktail” says Simms. Depending on the Saturday, you will get to meet up with your other thirsty participants and experience a walking tour of 3 distinct bars in some of Columbus’ best areas including the Short North, Downtown, and soon to come German Village.

The Short North Tour includes stops at Black Point, Hyde Park, and Denmark. The Downtown Tour includes the Blind Lady Tavern, Salt & Pine, and Side Bar. As a casual cocktail enthusiast myself, I’ve been to all of these locations and can happily attest to their level of service. The tour isn’t just about fancy locations though, as we talked through possible future locations the pair quickly shared that they “…Don’t care if the bar is a dive, we’re looking for great cocktails, and passionate people. It’s not about a fancy location or building.”.

Columbus Craft Cocktail Tour - Whiskey With Ryan -Founders - Photo By Jef Price Photography

As we wrapped up our discussion, it was clear that Blair and Leigh Ann aim to promote the great craft cocktail bars and talented mixologists in our community and hope the tour inspires participants to try recreating these cocktails at home and exploring other local cocktail spots they might have otherwise avoided.

To book a tour or just learn more, you can visit their website or on find them on Facebook. Tickets are affordably priced at $65.00, however for a limited time, Whiskey With Ryan readers have been generously offered $5.00 off by using the code “WWR”. Make sure to use this ASAP, because tickets go quickly and this offer won’t last long. It’s also worth mentioning the ticket price always includes a discounted Yellow Cab rate to make sure participants get home safely after an evening centered around alcohol. Safety first here folks.

 

*All photos generously provided by Jef Price Photography.

451 Spirits – Ohio Adds A New Distillery In Columbus

Whiskey With Ryan visits new Columbus Ohio Distillery 451 Spirits

Tucked away just outside the heart of Clintonville, Ohio 451 Spirits has been quietly and patiently setting up a new distillery. This marks the 3rd licensed distillery in Columbus, Ohio following in the footsteps of Middle West Spirits and Watershed Distillery.

I first learned of the new distillery from one of the 3 partners, Chad Kessler. Chad is the Spirits Manager from one of my favorite liquor stores located inside Weiland’s Gourmet Market. Chad and I are kindred spirits (no pun intended) and often discuss our interest in less mainstream whiskies (like quinoa whiskey), and odd flavor profiles. When Chad broke the news last fall that he and his other distillery partner Dave Chew were finally running a few things through their pot still, I jumped at the chance to go visit and get to the bottom of the new 451 Spirits distillery.

I met up with Chad and Dave last fall on a Sunday afternoon and when I arrived Dave was already hard at work (full confession, life got busy and this article has been sitting for many months). The first thing I noticed is that these guys just love being at the distillery and geek out about the process of making spirits just as much as I do (or more). We pulled up some chairs and began swapping stories about how our love for whisk(e)y started in the first place. Chad shared a story about how while on a camping trip his friends tried to tell him whiskey was for taking shots, but when he took his first sip he decided his friends were crazy and that whisk(e)y was best enjoyed when savored slowly. Next Dave explained his start with Scotch whisky and his recent adventures using the “Drunken Botanist” as a guide to get more exposure to all things non-whisk(e)y including tequila, rum, and absinthe.

Prior to Chad and Dave meeting and starting 451 Spirits, Chad shared that he was always impressed with his friend’s homemade stills and often daydreamed about one day opening his own distillery. Fortunately, Chad didn’t have to wait long before being introduced to Dave (through their current silent partner) who was seeking a way to utilize his business background and interest in spirits to find the right business partner to open a Columbus, Ohio based distillery.

The two agreed that getting into the market wasn’t about trying to replace the popular spirits already available in most home liquor cabinets, but to create truly innovative, small batch spirits as an alternative option. Their focus would be on trying to create something completely original using mash bills from scratch and breaking the mold on what can be done. The two shared that fortunately 451 Spirits had the funding it needed to allow them to focus on their initial product runs instead of needing to sell white dog, tee-shirts, or other marketing swag in order to keep the lights on.

451 Spirits Distillery Whiskey With Ryan 2

Creating new spirit recipes, or a twist on spirit recipes from long ago is actually how the name “451 Spirits” came about. According to Dave, the name “451 Spirits” is an homage to all the distilling knowledge lost during prohibition when many distilleries were forced to close causing recipes, knowledge, and trade secrets to disappear forever. They consider the name a nod to the popular sci-fi novel by Ray Bradbury “Fahrenheit 451” in which the government restricts access to information, and any books found in public possession are to be confiscated and destroyed by fire.

Knowing their goals and adventurous outlook on production, I’m positive that there will be many innovative products coming out under the 451 Spirits label, but for now the distillery’s focus is on smoked whiskey, absinthe, and aged rum. Their initial products released in February 2016 included a smoked apple flavored whiskey aptly named “Dear Johnny” as well as a mint and lime infused rum named “Writer’s Block” (and I just heard that the absinthe is only weeks away). The pair are still working with the state to find out what stores will be carrying 451 Spirits products, but for now they are available to purchase at most Columbus based liquor stores, as well as a few select bars for those wishing to try it by the glass. Lastly, if you’re worried about finding these bottles, don’t be, much like the spirits themselves, the artwork for the bottle labels are bright, bold, and full of personality making them easy to spot on even the most spirits shelves.

451 Spirits Dear Johnny Writers Block

Opening the distillery did present some challenges, but fortunately the largest hurdle they have faced is simply time. Chad and Dave shared that it’s been very difficult to find enough time to work in the distillery, so to help help keep themselves focused and cranking away they are not currently offering tours or tastings at the distillery.

In parting, if you’re in the market to try something new, local, and different than the norm, ask your local liquor store to request a few bottles from the state or keep your eyes peeled for local tasting events on their Facebook page or give them a call at 614-929-3836. I wish these guys all the best and can’t wait to see what they come up with in the years to come.

 

How To Rate A Whiskey: Scoring Whiskey Is Just Too Damn Complicated

Whiskey reviews aren’t that hard to write. In fact, since I started this blog a few years ago, it seems like every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a blog of some sort. However, creating a consistent scale for reviewing whiskey is another challenge all together.

It seemed easy enough when I first started writing, but the deeper into whisk(e)y that I went, the more difficult I realized it was going to be. I remember talking to a friend (and local whisk(e)y celebrity) Matt Wunderle after one of my early posts where I scored a bottle a 4 out of 5 stars, and he asked me “What I would consider a 5 star whisk(e)y?”. This lead me to start debating whether the previously rated bottle could really be considered just 1 star below a 5 star truly epic like pour like an early Willet Wheater, Limited Edition Four Roses Single Barrel, or everyone’s favorite “epic” reference Pappy Van Winkle.

At the time I was using a 1-5 star rating, and at the time it worked well enough. I got my point across and received the occasional angry email from those I gave 1 star and the deeply coveted “retweet” or “share” from distillers who received a high rating. This felt like a decent benchmark, however a lot has changed in the last 2-3 years. I promised myself I wouldn’t launch into any sort of diatribe about the industry and my thoughts on capitalism and greed as it relates to whisk(e)y, so I’ll part with one quick note. You might have noticed a gap in between articles, and that folks is because I went back to graduate school while working full time. Balancing those two important pieces of my life left me with little-to-no time for writing, but don’t you worry, if you were following me on Instagram or Twitter you know that I’ve been drinking my way into an even deeper understanding of the wonderful world of whisk(e)y by trying pretty much anything I can get my hands on… I’m excited to be back, and before I forget, I’m back with a much simpler approach to how I’m going to rate whiskies going forward. If you feel the need to have a letter or number grade there are plenty of other whisk(e)y blogs, but if you just need some helpful advice from a whisk(e)y enthusiast you came to the right place.

Going forward I will be rating each review with one of the following 3 options:

Buy It – this was a great pour, and if you can get your hands on a bottle it’s a worthwhile bottle to have in your collection.

Try It – this pour was average to me, it’s not that it was bad, it just didn’t do it for me, but everyone’s taste is different. So pony up to a bar near you, and decide for yourself.

Avoid It – Self-explanatory. This pour was either awful, or the cost far outweighs the quality of what is in the bottle.

Sounds easy enough right? Feel free to leave a comment one way or another and remember, drink what you like, not based on hype.