Tag - columbus

Watershed and the Container Store
Middle West Spirits’ OYO Stone Fruit
SideBlog: Columbus Dispatch Article on Our Two Local Distillieries
The Port Light Cocktail, a Columbus Tiki Contribution
The Kahiki
Columbus Iron Bartender 2011 Results

Watershed and the Container Store

Watershed merchandising at the Container Store
I saw a tweet from Watershed Distillery (one of Columbus’s two excellent micros) today containing the picture above. It seems that the Container Store has chosen to stick two Watershed bottles (Vodka and Four Peel Gin) in a display in every location in the United States. Well done, guys.

It is a well-chosen display, actually. Watershed’s minimalist labeling, and square-shouldered bottles go well with the chain’s clean-lined aesthetic, and the label colors of these two go well with the shelving and other accessories for the display.

For those of you who are unfortunate enough to not have Watershed in your market, don’t steal the displays. If you didn’t realize yourself, the batch number on these display bottles is “01″. I think there are likely more Container Stores in America than there were bottles in batch one of either of these liquids…. Just order yourself some from Binny’s.

(Mandatory legal disclaimer: My wife owns stock in the Container Store (Symbol: TCS), and I drink a lot of Four Peel….)

Middle West Spirits’ OYO Stone Fruit

In recent days I have been doing some serious damage to a new bottle of OYO Stone Fruit, the fourth product to come out of Ohio’s first microdistillery, Middle West Spirits, located here in Columbus. OYO Stone Fruit is based on the same rich winter wheat neutral spirit that makes up Middle West’s flagship vodka and fresh, tart Montmorency cherries. It is rounded out with a range of yellow peaches, and apricots, thus giving it the stone fruit moniker. In addition, the flaovr is enriched with almonds and sweetened with hibiscus and wildflower honey from local fields, not China. The result is a deep, complex liquor that is lightly sweet but carries considerable bite.

As with all their products, Stone Fruit is made almost exclusively with local products. The cherries are from the Niagara region, and the apricots are necessarily from further afield, but everything else is Ohio grown, allowing them the best freshness and control over quality.

The guys at Middle West call Stone Fruit an infused vodka. I don’t think this is a good idea, from an accuracy or a marketing standpoint. Like their OYO Honey Vanilla (my absolute favorite among their products), this is much too rich and nuanced a liquor to let be confused with the sea of infused vodkas on the market. And for such a small-run product aimed at the high-end cocktail maker, I think that’s a sales suppressant. This is a serious product, not some shelf-space expander.

Regardless of how you categorize it, Stone Fruit is a lot of fun to mix with. It holds its own as the primary spirit in a cocktail, yet also mixes very well with a variety of other liquors. It works particularly nicely with a soft bourbon like Four Roses or Maker’s Mark, as you’ll see in a moment. It pairs with good rum, depending on the variety, in ways either interesting or disastrous. I don’t have a rum solution good enough to offer yet, but I will suggest a bourbon pairing that I like quite a bit, another cocktail where the Stone Fruit is the primary spirit, and a third with champagne.


  • 4 parts Four Roses Bourbon
  • 2 parts OYO Stone Fruit
  • 1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 part Cointreau

Combine ingredients with ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a tightly wound twist of lemon.

The Rolling Stone is my favorite creation so far with the Stone Fruit. You can up the ratio of Stone Fruit to bourbon to as much as 1:1, but I think you get a more balanced result with these ratios. Four Roses works best for me with this, but try Maker’s for a little softer, sweeter result. Bigger, more robust, super-premium bourbons are both a waste and get a little titchy with the Stone Fruit. The drink leaves an interesting impression of passion fruit, or all things, without the distinctive electric vibe that fruit always leaves behind.
My bartender buddy, Cris Dehlavi, who also happens to be Middle West’s brand mixologist, suggested the Cointreau. Without it, the drink is still delicious, but that electric Passion Fruity effect is very pronounced. Don’t overdo the Cointreau, however, as it easily overwhelms the subtler flavor elements.

The Stone Fruit works nicely with different citruses, though I haven’t tried orange juice yet and make no warranty there. My second cocktail uses only the Stone Fruit which, when by itself, likes lime juice much better than the lemon I used in the Rolling Stone. I wanted to play up the almond notes in it and used a bit of BG Reynold’s excellent orgeat for a nice, funky sour.


  • 4 parts OYO Stone Fruit
  • 1 part fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 part BG Reynold’s Orgeat

Shake very well with lots of ice. Garnish with a wedge of lime. Offer smaller servings since this needs to be cold to be its best.

The last cocktail I’ve come up with so far that is worth sharing is the serendipitous result of New Year’s leftover champagne that was much too good to pour out and a Twitter discussion I had with a reader who wanted something like but unlike a Bellini. I’ve also been on a French 75 kick lately, and things kinda clicked.
Oyo Stone Fruit and Champagne Cocktail - Stone Bubbles


  • 1 oz. OYO Stone Fruit
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • splash simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Fee’s Peach Bitters
  • Champagne to top

Mix other ingredients in a champagne flute, then top with plenty of good sparkling wine. Garnish with a pitted fresh cherry.

A few notes here. Do not use Fee’s Cherry Bitters here, as was my first instinct. They bring out the cherry flavors of the Stone Fruit far too strongly. The Peach Bitters instead highlight the supporting flavors. And this is one of those cocktails where the bottled juice just won’t do. Squeeze your limes fresh or don’t bother. Really.

OYO Stone Fruit is available all over Ohio, as well as online nationally at The Party Source out of Kentucky. Middle West also hopes to have retail distribution in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Maryland/DC by the end of February. If you can get ahold of some, I invite you to try it out.

SideBlog: Columbus Dispatch Article on Our Two Local Distillieries

The Dispatch writes on Columbus’ two local distilleries. Some good stuff on the economics of micro-distilling, as well as background on both Watershed and Middle West. (With bonus misspelling of one of the world’s great cocktails!)
Also, see this article in Metropreneur Columbus.

The Port Light Cocktail, a Columbus Tiki Contribution

Port Light cocktail from the Kahiki in Columbus Ohio
My recent post about the demolition of the Kahiki Supper Club got me to wondering about what contributions, if any, Columbus and the Kahiki had made to the Tiki drink oeuvre. Fortunately, when you wonder things about Tiki, the path to answers is fairly simple….

Google it?

No, silly sockpuppet. Beach Bum Berry it. For a guy who calls himself a bum, he’s put a bit of work into researching the whole Tiki thing. Remixed has not one, but two drinks we owe to those who toiled at the Kahiki in its heyday. The one I want to talk about is the Port Light, a child of Sandro Conti from 1961.

The Port Light is that relative rarity among Tiki drinks, a whiskey-based one. The recipe calls for bourbon, but since I was working on my Crown Royal Black review at the same time, I decided it would be a good way to test the Tiki suitability of the brand.

Canadian whisky for Tiki drinks?
Globally, doesn’t that miss by, um, all the way?

Hey, the original recipes for this supposedly South Pacific movement came from the Caribbean, which misses by, um, most of the way. So I fail to see why I should expect geographical consistency to be any more of a hobgoblin of the Tiki mind than any other kind.

True, the mind of Tiki is indeed gloriously free of any consistency hobgoblins.

Now, a lot of Canadian whiskys are so gentle that they might well become lost among the wildly varied flavors of Tiki-style cocktails. But since Black was specifically designed to hit the Bourbon dance and not be a wallflower, I figured it would be up to the challenge. Here’s the recipe (substitute bourbon for the Black if you want the original):


  • 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. passion fruit syrup*
  • 1/4 oz. home made grenadine
  • 1 1/2 oz. Crown Royal Black
  • 5 oz ice

Combine in a blender and flash blend for about five seconds, until you have a chunky slush consistency. Pour into the glass of your choice and add ice if needed for fit. (The original recipe calls for a full cup of ice, but that seems like too much to me.)

The resulting drink is one of the more refreshing whisky based drinks I’ve tried, Tiki or otherwise. In fact, I’ve marked the recipe for reuse this Summer when things get sticky. It is not as perfectly balanced as some recipes. I think this is because from a texture standpoint, I just don’t want to use so much ice. And as I learned earlier this month, the amount of ice you use in a blender drink can seriously affect the balance. Still, perfectly balanced or not, it’s perfectly tasty. The flavors go so nicely together, I’m surprised that there aren’t more passion fruit and whiskey recipes. Next time round, I’ll up the grenadine or simply hit it with a quarter ounce of simple syrup.
Or a few of you could make the effort and report back here. I’ve got other drinks to make this month, you know!
Regardless of your deification to helping me with my research, I suggest you give this drink a try. It’s well worth it.

* I’ve been specifying Trader Tiki’s syrups this month for most everything he makes, but the passion fruit syrup is one I don’t have.

The Kahiki

Kahiki Supper Club Columbus Exterior View
Each year during Tiki Month, I reflect on one of my real cocktail-related regrets: That I never visited the Kahiki Supper Club here in Columbus while it was still open. The Kahiki was a massive, and I mean massive, Tiki palace. I’ve never heard of a Tiki-themed restaurant that was larger. Inside the massive building you see pictured above, were something like six smaller thatched buildings housing various bars and dining rooms. Surrounding these were a lagoon, a rain forest, and an eighty foot high fireplace.

The Kahiki survived far longer than the original age of Tiki (2000), succumbing finally not to abandonment by its customers, but to a need by the owners to divert capital to their frozen food business, which still thrives today. The Kahiki food in its early days got the laughing reputation around Columbus as the only place where the food could kill you, served as it was on sharp swords and spears with lots of open flames on the table. I’ve eaten the grocery store product they have now, and it isn’t half bad.

I worte this post to direct you to the Kahiki’s website, where they have an incredible, vintage video of the Kahiki that gives an idea of what the experience was like. I curse them for not making it embedable, so you’ll just have to follow this link, then click on “Kahiki Supper Club Video” right below the picture of the grand old palace. It’s a pain, I know, but it’s worth it if you have any Tiki in your soul.

I do have one video I can embed. When the place was finally torn down (to make room for a CVS Pharmacy!) Much of the decor was salvaged. To get an idea of the scale of the place, check out this clip of the massive fireplace being removed:

UPDATE: Mike Monello, who posted the YouTube video above has dropped by in the comments, and provided a link there to his Flickr page with lots of stills of the demolition! Thanks, Mike!

Columbus Iron Bartender 2011 Results

The Columbus Iron Bartender competition, 2011 edition, was last Sunday night, at the Park Street Saloon. This year’s Iron Bartenders were last year’s winner, Cris Dehlavi of M at Miranova, Chris Dillman (of the late, much lamented Details), representing the just reopened Jury Room, Zak Colburn of Bodega, and Catherine Morel of DeepWood.

This year’s event was a good time again, and promoters Reed Woogerd and Hans Maggard in fact delivered on thier promise of a better competition. The change in venue to Park Street Saloon was a net positive. While the western decor isn’t really the ideal fit for a classic cocktail competition, the physical layout of the place made for a much improved experience for the audience. The long, barbell-shaped bar made it easy for people to get a good view of the Iron Bartenders at work. They also mounted a high camera to pump video of them at work to the numerous TVs all around the bar. (Allegedly, this was my idea.) The stage, which let people see the band, also gave us an opportunity of see the contestants while they explained their offerings to emcee Monica Day. The sound system was also an improvement, but there is only so much you can do with bartenders who won’t speak up! (Seriously guys, you make yourself heard over the din every night you work. Would it kill you to use those pipes to let us hear what you did?) As a final note about the venue, the judges sat in one of three, what I’m guessing are, innovative, western-style bottle service areas. They are large booths, with swinging doors, and in addition to a table for bottles and prep stuff, not one but two beer taps!

Zak Colburn delivers his offering to the judges.

As the competition began, the bar was very well-appointed with exotic ingredients, from fruits and veggies, including pineapples, kumquats, cucumbers, and a whole horseradish, to spices, herbs, and bitters. The botanical selection was so complete, I speculated with the guys from Middle West Spirits that Reed was going to require the contestants to make their own gin and serve a basic Martini. Fortunately, this was not the actual case. The secret ingredient was… Peppers. Lots of peppers, from bell to hot, fresh and dried.

Catherine Morel preps her peppers.

The only real problem with the night came right after the start, when all four contestants ran as one back to the kitchen, I’m guessing to make syrups. Once they got back to the bar, folks crowded around to have fun watching them work. The video camera really helped this process when the crowd got thick.

Cris Dehlavi works at perfecting her drink.

The first runner up was Cris from M. She is a good friend of ours, and I was sorry to see her, and her spicy tequila and blood orange concoction which she called Truth Serum, not win. It was a gorgeous and very tasty drink. In retrospect, however, I think it might be better for the Columbus bar scene, and Cris herself for that matter, that she doesn’t win every damn single bartending contest she enters….

Chris Dillman used about eight pots to make his syrups….

The 2011 Iron Bartender is Chris Dillman, representing the Jury Room. I’m not usually a chocolate drink afiicianado, but his concoction of Godiva, dark rum, hot pepper syrup, and cinnamon, rimmed with a beautifully balanced mix of cinnamon, fresh grated pepper, and sugar was a real winner. This little molé-like concoction had a sweet burn that kept all its very different parts in line nicely. I will say that Chris probably benefited from one of the judges being Jeni of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. If something very like Chris’s offering doesn’t show up as an ice cream from Jeni real soon, I’ll eat my hat.

Zak and Catherine both produced good offerings as well, but my notes on their work are less… coherent than I’d like. Go visit them at work and ask for a sober run down of what they gave us. The whole evening was a lot of fun, and I look forward to Reed and Hans doing it again next year.

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