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Booze Nooze

Things change often enough in the competitive booze scene in Columbus that, before you’ve set your drink down, something new is already in the works for your favorite bars and brands. This month is no different: Poppin’ Bottles Before every bar was slinging craft cocktails and fat-washing bourbon, Columbus was once a land of flavored [...]
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Things change often enough in the competitive booze scene in Columbus that, before you’ve set your drink down, something new is already in the works for your favorite bars and brands. This month is no different:

Poppin’ Bottles

Before every bar was slinging craft cocktails and fat-washing bourbon, Columbus was once a land of flavored vodkas and whatever-tinis.

The boys at Middle West Spirits had a vision to change all that back in 2009, launching a spirits company that set the tone for the booze and brand-conscious folk in this new era of our city.

So, for their 10th anniversary, they’re getting themselves something nice: new glassware. Bottles, to be exact. The old OYO bottles—standard, squat, wax-dipped—are out. A dynamic new lineup is in. The vodka bottles (standard, stone fruit, etc.) stand tall and thin, as vodka bottles should. The whiskey is more stout, but also more angular than its predecessor. More ornate. The new labels, due for a full launch in 2019, are brassy and clean, and the stoppers are smarter and more elegant.

Lined up at Service Bar, the new branding fits right in with the décor, proving once again that the Middle West team has an eye for style.

But it’s not just updated the window-dressing: they’re giving all their products their own branding and titles. The group will retain OYO as their vodka’s namesake branding, but will drop it from the whiskey in favor of it being a simple offering from MWS alone. Their popular gin line will keep the Vim & Petal moniker.

“A milestone like this is a natural place to reflect and renew—on our past work, lessons learned, and new paths to be forged,” said Brady Konya, co-owner and General Manager of Middle West. “We’ve grown a lot over the past 10 years and it felt like this was the perfect window to re-imagine our brand through fresh, forward-looking eyes.”

Again, Curio A-Go

Curio is dead. Long-live Curio? The city’s most widely heralded and publicized cocktail bar shut down this summer, in part, as a regroup for Grow Restaurant Group (Harvest, The Sycamore, Cosecha) after the exit of cocktail expert and part-owner Travis Owens. It was a difficult pill to swallow, as after six years, Curio had cemented itself as a mainstay, a critical part of German Village social life, a destination. Being at Curio was an occasion unto itself; seeing it die was like having a friend move away.

But, even without Owens and the former staff—many moving on to their own spots and projects, after becoming bars stars of their own—Grow CEO Chris Crader and Harvest German Village GM Monique Musarra will be reopening Curio under the same name in the middle of this month. Kyle Cownden (Buckeye Bourbon House, Palle, Mouton) will take over the spot’s cocktail program, pledging to uphold Owens’ commitment to sustainability and quality, but with an eye toward approachability.

No doubt Curio will feel like a different version of itself, but cheers to the doors re-opening on a spot that no doubt wants to regain its place as a training ground for top cocktail creators and customers alike. Curio at Harvest will re-open October 15.

House Renovation

House Beer popped up in 2012 in the heart of the Short North to the delight of those of us not looking for a photo booth or extreme fajitas to accompany our pints. Navigating the prices for take-home beers can be tricky for the under-educated, but the ambience is awfully cozy and provides a nice off-the-path alternative to catch a game or catch up with friends. While the space next door has gone from frozen custard to a deli to a boutique book store (coming soon), House Beer has held its ground, proving that a good spot for good beer is pretty much bulletproof.

Still, ownership has seen the opportunity to spruce the place up and rebrand, so goodbye House Beer, hello Bourbon and Barley Saloon.

Like many establishment runners in the ever-evolving district, a format change was dictated by the changing needs of customers in the Short North. The cozy confines House Beer regulars flocked to will mostly remain, along with the take-out coolers, but now will offer an elevated selection of cocktails and spirits—12 different cocktails including vintage favorites and contemporary craft beer concoctions, upwards of 80 different beers and 20 varieties of bourbon.

“We kept it for the time being because that’s how the neighborhood and the regulars knew us,” owner Tom Kincaid said. “As the neighborhood is changing and growing, it felt like the right time to make it our own and offer something new. Looking at trends in the beverage industry, more people are trending toward bourbon and liquor so we decided to add them to provide more creative options and enhance the beer selection we already had.”

The new Bourbon and Barley Saloon (843 N High St.) will have its grand opening October 6. Doors open at 2 p.m. with drink specials on deck for $2 off beer flights and Old Fashioneds and Manhattans for $8.

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Tea Time: Spritz puts new twist on bubbly beverage craze

Mitch Hooper

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It’s Friday night and you and your friends are at the bar. While everyone else is sipping back glasses of wine, cocktails, and beer, it’s your turn to be the designated driver of the night. We all take our rounds, and these rounds are usually a reminder that being out at the bars sober while everyone else is working on getting intoxicated just feels off. As your friends reach for their glasses to toast in celebration, you might take a sip of your ice water, or just wait to get the nod to round up the crew and go home. However, Kathyrn Dougherty is hoping to change this all-too-common situation with her line of non- alcoholic sparkling teas called Spritz.

Spritz is a new beverage hitting the markets based out of Dublin, Ohio. In a world where grocery stores offer seemingly endless options of sparkling waters and flavors, it was really only a matter of time until the trend took to tea. But, unlike the famous La Croix and Bubly on the market, Spritz is much less carbonated, giving it a lighter mouthfeel. They’ve even coined a phrase for it: softly sparkling. Combine that with flavors such as green tea with pomegranate, lemon, and peach, and Spritz might quickly become both your mid-day pick-me-up as well as that refreshing drink you enjoy in between a night of cocktails.

The idea for Spritz comes from Dougherty’s background in health and fitness. A few years ago, she and her friends were training for an Ironman competition. These competitions are not for the light of heart, as they feature 2.4-mile swim, a 112- mile bicycle ride, and a 26.22-mile marathon in this exact order. It goes without saying that training for and competing in this leaves little room for hangovers. As Dougherty and her friends would hang out more after workouts, they noticed they were craving a more sophisticated drink that wouldn’t cause a splitting headache the next day. Thus, an idea was born.

It started simple for Dougherty. At the time, she was (and still is) a big fan of sparkling waters. She also had grown a heavy affinity towards Teavana, a tea provider now owned by Starbucks. After scrubbing used Gatorade bottles with disinfectants and cleaners in her very own kitchen, Dougherty and her step-daughter began the process of brewing what would eventually become the basis for Spritz. While she no longer uses Teavana for her tea blends, she still holds a special spot for them in her heart.

Fast forward to present day and Dougherty is ready to release Spritz to the public in December. The first iteration of the teas will be hibiscus with dragonfruit, guava, and mango with no caffeine. Dougherty said this tea is great for unwinding after a long day, or simply treating yourself after a good stretch at a yoga class. The zero calorie, zero carbs, and gluten-free drink is both vegan and keto friendly so it fits essentially any diet. And while the idea for Spritz began during a time of looking for an alternative to alcohol, the drink maintains its fitness roots as Dougherty works to get the drinks in places such as PAI Yoga and Friendship Fitness in Dublin.

“I want something I can grab and say, ‘Hey, I get a treat now,” Dougherty explained. “But, it’s not going to be something I feel bad about.”

Spritz also serves a second purpose, and it’s something Dougherty feels is very important to the brand of the business. It’s women’s empowerment, and through channels such as hiring more women at proper pay rates to close the pay gap, or promoting other women business leaders through their hashtag #FemaleFounderFridays on Facebook, she hopes to change a few practices within the industry. In her mind, the best way to do so is to lead by example.

From her team being comprised of women, to working out of the space at Haven Collective—a woman-owned and -operated co-working office—Dougherty is very much walking her talk. Add in the fact that 1% of all sales this year will be donated to charities and nonprofits that empower women, and it’s clear that she is just as much invested in uplifting women as she is with concocting delicious beverages.

“For some people, [women’s empowerment] means being a stay-at-home mom and having 10 kids—that’s wonderful. I will celebrate that that’s your path in life and that’s amazing,” Dougherty said. “If you’re a woman who doesn’t want to be married and doesn’t want to have children, that’s amazing. Go do that. My number one thing here is that women can feel like they can choose the path that’s right for them and not apologize for being too ambitious, or ‘not ambitious enough.’”

Keep up with Spritz on their Facebook page at facebook. com/SpritzBev or visit the website at spritzbev.com.

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Sweet News: Macaron pop-up opens in Short North

Regina Fox

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We've adopted many things from the French—kissing, press, bread—but perhaps the sweetest is the macaron. Cincinnati's Macaron Bar recently opened a pop-up location in the Short North at 668 N High St., just in time for the holiday season.

The bakery offers "a premium texture and flavor experience enhanced by our vibrant, cosmopolitan stores," according to its Facebook bio.

Several core flavors are available in the Short North, as well as 3-5 seasonal selections. All the macarons are gluten free. Macaron Bar also offers pour over coffees and loose leaf teas.

Macaron Bar is open Tuesday through Thursday from noon- 7pm, Friday from noon- 9pm, Saturday from noon- 10pm, Sunday from noon- 6pm, and closed on Monday. Visit macaron-bar.com for more information.

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Strip Mall Surprise: North Columbus Vietnamese restaurant is a tasteful treasure

Aaron Wetli

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Welcome back to Strip Mall Surprise, where we highlight locally-owned restaurants and bars that just happen to be located in a, wait for it, Strip Mall.

Let’s warm up with a big bowl of Pho, along with many other Vietnamese delights, in one of Columbus’ best kept secrets: Huong Vietnamese Restaurant.

Pho

Nestled away in the southwest corner of Northland, Huong Vietnamese Restaurant is an unassuming haunt that has kept neighborhood residents swimming in Pho since 2008.

Upon entering, you will discover a quaint and cozy dining area containing a seasonal holiday display and a television paying VCR tapes of 1980’s MTV Christmas videos. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. If the Boys 2 Men and Kenny Rogers "Oh Holy Night" collaboration doesn’t warm your soul, the Pho will.

Served in a bowl the size of a football helmet, the Pho is piping hot, rich and flavorful. You can order beef, chicken, shrimp, or noodles only, and could be split between two adults (I said could, NOT should).

Noodle bowl

If you are in a hurry, Huong offers three different options for carry out Pho: eating at home, eating at work, or eating in the car. Each option is prepared differently for the different environments the Pho will be consumed in. How neighborly is that?

If you aren’t in the mood for Pho (weirdo), the Canh Ga will certainly warm you up as well. Deeply seasoned, but not breaded, these fried chicken drums are crunchy and juicy, come with a Sweet and Sour Chili dipping sauce. They rival ANY fried chicken in Columbus and are guaranteed to warm you up on a cold day.

Fried chicken drumsticks

A menu item to definitely consider splitting, for no other reason than saving room for other delicious treats, is the FOOTLONG Banh Mi sandwich. Choose between chicken, pork, and beef options, enjoy the toasted bun and accompanying small army of cilantro, jalapeño, carrots, and cucumbers. Just be warned that finishing the sandwich in one sitting is a one-way ticket to a food coma.

Banh Mi sandwich

As for the less well known Vietnamese fare, Huong also offers Crepes (I suggest the shrimp), assorted rice dishes (get the pork chop and fried egg), and rice vermicelli salads with choice of proteins and peanut sauces, as well as a concise but versatile selection of vegan options.

Huong Vietnamese is a funky, fun, and festive holiday destination that doesn’t break the bank unless, of course, it becomes your new obsession. You have been warned.

Huong Vietnamese Restaurant is closed on Tuesdays, does not serve alcohol, and is located at 1270 Morse Road.

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