Fall is upon us, the time when you hear about even the most notorious workaholics and serial daters settling down, hooking up and/or falling in love. Perhaps it’s simply fear of the cold — what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes as “cryophobia,” an aversion to snow and ice cubes that you don’t want to fight alone. Or maybe it’s just the sheer challenge of entertaining yourself during long winter nights with only your own mind, Mad Men, 80 e-mails in your inbox and a bottle of scotch.
Whatever the reason, even if it’s just an animal maneuver toward hibernation, people like to fall in love in the fall. By winter, love gets harder; we face windburn, cracked lips, the prospect of the reemergence of UGG boots and so many layers of clothing that the whole lot of humanity looks like Cartman from South Park anyway, so why bother getting it on? But no, now is the time for shiny shoes and skinny jeans. As Charles Hare put it, “Unless a tree has borne blossoms in spring, you will vainly look for fruit on it in autumn.” So let the vanity begin.
Find the most interesting man or woman you know (or your spouse if you’re married), and check out this list of the coolest bars for date nights. With cinematic views and/or digs and staffs that will make you feel like you’re in your own little private film — but not that kind of film — these bars will knock you out of your groove and maybe into a little romance.
Twist Lounge at Pigall’s
Walk into Jean-Robert de Cavel’s Twist, and people turn to look at you like you just walked into their cocktail party. It’s one of the few bars in town where groups of people actually stand up, mill around and cross-pollinate (i.e., talk to each other).
While you’re cozied up on one of Twist’s cushy couches, sipping specialty drinks — including the lush Mango Martini, cheap harbinger of romance — you can play semi-celebrity spotlight. You might see Bootsy Collins, Jim Tarbell and Jean-Robert engaged in deep conversation. So when it comes to that awkward pause in your conversation when you don’t know whether you should kiss, clear your throat or sip your drink, you always have a fourth option at Twist. You can remark, “Hey! Isn’t that Bootsy Collins?” and that’s bound to revive things, even if your date doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about.
127 W. Fourth St., Downtown, 513-721-1345
The Blue Wisp
Jazz musician Ornette Coleman said, “Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time.” For longtime couples who’ve spent night after night together, the Blue Wisp might be the ideal place to uncover a new, mysterious chord.
Opened by Paul Wisby and his wife Marjean in 1973, the Wisp booked famous jazz acts like Eddie Harris, Charlie Rouse and Herb Ellis from the start, and it still draws some of the most well-known musicians from across the country.
Completely dark, except for the spotlight on the stage and the blue neon light steaming through the windows, the Blue Wisp will make you feel like you’re at a real Jazz club — because you are. It’s perfect if you’re tired of
talking, because the first rule of listening to Jazz is that you can’t talk while the musicians play. 318 E. Eighth St., Downtown, 513-241-9477
The Blind Lemon
If Cincinnati had a slightly fallen Garden of Eden, it would be the Blind Lemon. With its outdoor patio covered in vines and lush foliage and guarded by reliefs of gargoyles and goddesses, the Lemon is Eden-meets-Goth romance novel.
Wrought-iron love seats, a flowing cupid fountain and crooners with a penchant for James Taylor and Carly Simon (who still remember when they were together) only add to the scene.
The garden stays open in fall and winter with live music, a roaring fire and spiked coffee drinks. Love inducing specialty drinks like the Cranberry Mimosa and Summer Cooler with orange juice, Absolut Citron vodka and grapefruit juice are served into the fall. A word of warning: People at the Blind Lemon have been known to get amorous. For instance, couples on double dates have forgotten which date is theirs. But what can you say? Love is blind.
936 Hatch St., Mount Adams, 513-241-3885
Orchids at Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza
When the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza opened in 1931, critics said the art deco architecture “challenged the splendor of Solomon’s Temple.” So if you’re having such a good time that you’re moved to recite the Song of Solomon, this would be a good place — maybe the only place — to use a line like, “Let him/her kiss me with the kisses of his/her mouth: for thy love is better than wine.” But before you say anything, wait until you’ve had the wine. Orchids offers a selection of at least 350 varieties. They’re all really good, and depending on how the date’s going you might decide the wine is better. And a date with a love sweeter than Orchids’ No. 10 with Tanqueray, Chambord, ginger ale and a lemon twist might not exist.
The great thing about Orchids is that there are plenty of conversation pieces. For instance, the stage with the backdrop of an original art deco Rookwood Pottery fountain that climbs up to the vaulted, muraled ceiling and is crowned with a pagan goat head. Because the entire scene seems to foreshadow an Aztec sacrifice, it’s a bit anticlimactic when Orchids’ three mild-mannered Jazz musicians take the stage.
When the conversation lags, you can regale your date with the romantic ghost story of the “Lady in Green” who’s been seen walking through the Netherland’s Hall of Mirrors. The rumor is that her husband was killed during the construction of the hotel in 1931, his body was never found and she still walks the place in search of him. 35 W. Fifth St., Downtown, 513-421-9100
The Cricket Bar at The Cincinnatian Hotel
To continue the theme of haunted hotels, there’s also a rumor that the Cincinnatian is haunted, so if you’re dating a medium you might want to avoid it. Seeing dead people can ruin an otherwise good time. For people who aren’t mediums, the Cricket is just a lovely, cozy hotel bar with authentic Jazz and people, including a sincere maitre d’hotel who will make you feel like you’re in an old Hollywood movie.
With plush blue and dusty rose couches flanked by plants for privacy, a liquid silver fountain and subtle neon light sculptures, the Cricket is one of the most low-key cool bars for hanging out. It’s also one of the best for making out. And if someone tells you to get a room, it’s not a problem.
The Cricket has also entertained its share of celebrities — from Billy Joel to Stevie Nicks — who occasionally entertain guests. Joel supposedly played the bar’s piano until 2 a.m. 601 Vine St., Downtown, 513-381-3000
Chez Nora’s Rooftop
Open through fall, it doesn’t get much more romantic than Jazz on Chez Nora’s rooftop. Because the band is indoors, just enough filters out that you can listen and still hear each other talk. If you can deal with the occasional set of stonewashed jeans and feathered hair, light cigarette smoke and more rooftop views than then you’d find in an amateur indie flick, you’ll love this place.
Make sure you try specialty drinks like The Rooftop Ruby (grapefruit juice, vodka and peach schnapps) and Chez Nora’s Sangria; it’s fun to feed the fruit to your date. Chances are the train will pass by while you’re in the middle of scintillating conversation. You can even see it from the roof. It offers a good opportunity to conjure all the romantic quotations about trains you’ve ever read, such as the famous notation Anais Nin made in her diary in the fall of 1932: “Midnight. June. June and madness. June and I standing at the station and kissing while the train rushes by us. I am seeing her off. My arm is around her waist. She is trembling.
‘Anais, I’m happy with you.’ It is she who offers her mouth.” It might even be a good time to kiss. Or you can just sit back and drink your PBR. Whatever works for you. 530 Main St, Covington, 859-491-8027
Photo by Joe Lamb