Last night, Maggi and I went for the first time to Details Minibar & Lounge in Columbus’s Short North. Details, which just opened in December, is the sister establishment to its next door neighbor Rosendale’s, which I wrote about earlier. So as not to bury the lede, Details is the first real, new-era cocktail lounge to appear in Columbus. With a drink menu consisting of properly made classics, as well as a few interesting originals, and a bottle inventory that warms the heart of folks like me, Details finally provides Columbus, Ohio with a bar where even the most obnoxious, persnickety, nerdish, cocktail snobs on the planet would feel happy to have a drink. And Details, while not a full restaurant, offers eats on a similarly high level.
I’m dancing a little cocktail-geek dance right now. You can’t see it, but it is true.
Hopefully this will be interesting both to readers from Central Ohio, and those in the greater Cocktail Nation. For locals, if you like fine cocktails, your ship has come in and you need to go meet it. For those outside the Greater Central-Buckeye Co-Prosperity Sphere, understand that Columbus is America’s Test Market. We often get trends here later than in the avant-gard, coastal markets, but when those things do take hold here, you can expect to them spreading into mainstream America in short order. New York may be the place where “if you can make there, you can make it anywhere,” but with Columbus, if you can make it there, you can make it everywhere. Craft bartenders, cross your fingers. If Details works here, it likely indicates that there will be an explosion of need for your skills in lots of new markets where housing costs a lot less than San Francisco or Seattle….
I am quite serious when I say that Details is designed and executed to be a top shelf cocktail lounge, in the class of Pegu Club, Velvet Tango Room, or Vessel. Foremost, the cocktail menu (pdf) includes an array of serious cocktailian favorites, such as the Moscow Mule, Pimm’s Cup, Old-Fashioned, Daiquiri and Margarita (this post does not apply at Details), and mama mia, the Aviation. They also have a number of cocktails that the Beverage Manager, Chris Dillman has created that seem well worth the drinking. The wall of bottles offers a breadth of ingredients not found elsewhere in our fair city, with the Aviation-required Creme de Violette, St. Germaine, Maraschino Liqueur, Lillet (Blanc and Rouge) and a host of high-end bourbons and cognacs.
I started out with an Aviation (pictured above, with my stylish hat). When I started writing about cocktails, I quickly realized that knowledge of the Aviation is like the secret handshake of cocktail geeks. The Aviation I had here had a nice firm grip and looked you straight in the eye. I never before bothered with the careful layer of Creme de Violette on the bottom of the glass like an expensive garnish, but it looks just so darn nice, I will from now on. Maggi started with her standard bartender test, the Sidecar (not on the menu). The bartender (Matt, I believe), took the time to find out what exactly she wanted under that name and delivered an excellent result.
For a second drink, I had a Singapore Sling. I had just spent time crafting one of these myself the night before, and unfortunately there was a distinct quality difference. This one was better than mine! I hate it when that happens.
Maggi rounded out her drinks with one of Detail’s original concoctions, a Mojito 183. This is a Mojito modified with the addition of Licor 43 and Green Chartreuse, and a lessening of the mint. The result is a much more complex, more herbaceous drink than its progenitor. I doubt it is for everyone, but if your tastes run that way, it is definitely worth the try.
I’l round out the discussion of the menu, and its appeal to the cocktail snob with a quote from the first item on the menu:
We are unabashed purists.
Your choice of Gin and a healthy pour of dry vermouth.
On the rocks if you must. Optional Olive or Twist.
Not available in Vodka.
The architecture is very clean and modern, with an open design, metal bar top, and bar stools that are surprisingly comfortable, if perhaps two inches too high. The bar itself isn’t very big, with perhaps twelve seats. There are a couple of tables downstairs by the bar, with more to be found up the prominent, glass-railed stairs, along with some couches in a secluded area in back. The whole look is slightly more sterile than meets my taste, but it is a very attractive, cohesive design that makes this small space seem as big as possible.
If the top-notch cocktails aren’t enough of a draw for you, then let’s discuss the food. Chef Drew Garms came up under some impressive tutors, especially Richard Rosendale, who presides over the mothership restaurant next door. The menu at Details is fairly small, featuring seriously foodie versions of traditional pub food, but no major entrées. We saw Tuna Tar Tar Tacos and Angus Beef Sliders being utterly destroyed by the folks just down the bar from us, and they certainly looked to be worth destroying. We went with a couple of items from the
Bar Bites section of the menu: The Smoked Paprika Potato Chips and the Red Hot Pork Rinds.
Seriously? Pork Rinds?
Isn’t that kinda redneck, if the joint is as swanky as you say?
Yes, porkrinds are kind of a redneck delicacy. I was raised among rednecks, I know. But as I said,
foodie versions of pub food. If you live in Columbus, drive, drive now, as swiftly as you can reasonably get away with, to Details. Order the pork rinds. Enjoy. I’ll wait. By the way, they serve them in little metal baskets that look like deep fryer baskets. They are very cool and a much better choice than the presentation in the picture to the right that I stole from their website.
Those are good.
Told you. The chips were great too, but not as yummy as the pork rinds.
And yes, I can’t believe I’m rapturing on about pork rinds either.
One last wonderful feature of Details, one that we couldn’t enjoy this trip but will soon, is the
Detailed Experience. On the second floor, there is a second, smaller bar with only six seats, that is used only for the Detailed Experience. There are two available seatings each evening, at 6:00 and 9:00, for two to six people, with reservations twenty-four hours in advance being virtually mandatory. For two hours, you and your party sit at the Minibar and are served a series of ten small plates, none or almost none from the menu. The offerings change constantly, but the price is a constant fifty five dollars. Your chef prepares each dish at the bar while you watch, explaining the methods and taking your questions. As with the cocktails, the theme is attention to detail (Get it? Details?) and the offerings seem to be pretty elaborate. I absolutely love to watch any sort of craftsman show off, and when I get to enjoy the results, so much the better.
When I get a chance to try the Detailed Experience, I’ll post a follow up. UPDATE—You can read my review of the Detailed Experience here.
Simply put, Details is a gem. If you live in Columbus, or visit here, drop in and enjoy. And if you are a cocktailian who lives elsewhere, be excited that a place like this is showing up in a city like Columbus.