0 Comments · Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Winter is coming, which means it’s time
to hunker down at your local watering hole.
by Paloma Ianes
at 12:40 PM | Permalink
Brian Gehrisch and Layne Schneider of Obscura share their favorite cocktails
Pop into Obscura (645 Walnut St., Downtown) and you’ll get an
experience you won’t forget. The decor is fit for a scene out of 18th century
France, and as I walked in I half expected to see Marie Antoinette lounging on
one of the plush pastel chairs, eating cream pie and sipping on an Easter-themed
cocktail. The drinks here are one-of-a-kind and offer sophisticated flavor
combinations with a quirky twist.
CityBeat sat down to talk with
Obscura’s General Manager Brian Gehrisch and bartender Layne Schneider.
CityBeat: How did you two get a start in the restaurant
I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was about 15 years old.
CB: You’re not worn out yet?
BG: You can
humble yourself to the point where it doesn't hurt your pride to help out the
greater cause. It’s one unit and everybody needs to make sacrifices, from the
bottom to the top. And for me, I found as manager, as long as you are that one
that is seen by your employees as the hardest worker willing to do anything
that’s necessary to make this place succeed, typically those underneath you
follow suit. So that’s where we are now. The culture here is not one for all,
it’s all for one.
I started out in banquet serving when I was about 14, so about the same age. So
we have roughly the same amount of exposure time to the service industry. I
didn't get into bartending and cocktail waitressing and things like that until
about a year-and-a-half ago. For almost that long we have been starting with
this Obscura thing. We started training August last, so it’s been over a year.
BG: Layne and I
are very fortunate that we were able to be trained by Benjamin Newby and Michael
Huebner. Michael was the assistant general manager at the Aviary in
Chicago which is the premier cocktail lounge in the country right now.
Benjamin, he won the 2010 Bombay Sapphire Mixologist competition and has since
been self-training and has become a bar consultant of sorts.
CB: I was looking through your menu and you guys
have very curious names for your drinks. How does Obscura go about naming their
cocktails? What’s the method?
BG: It’s more
about sticking true to form for Obscura and that is out of the ordinary. These
aren’t going to be your prototypical cocktails and they aren’t going to get
your prototypical names. The Churchill’s Cup, for instance, is made with
Nolet’s Gin, which was Winston Churchill’s favorite brand of gin during WWII.
LS: A lot of
the drinks where named by Benjamin and Michael for the original cocktails. And
then we introduced some new spring cocktails.
BG: I can give
you a story for one of our new fall cocktails, Mood Swings. We went with Mood
Swing because it’s interesting. You find that at Obscura, consistency is hard
to come by. Everybody here seems to be in a different kind of mood and has had
a different kind of day. The Mood Swing opens up sweet, hits tart and finishes
almost starchy. It’s a roller coaster of emotion on your palette, which matches
the clientele of Obscura.
CB: What is the strangest ingredient you use in your
LS: We make a
lot of our own syrups. There have been a few that Brian has been focusing on
lately. He tried a bacon infused simple [syrup] and apple and brown sugar
infused simple [syrup]. I’d say our Togarashi-infused tequila is pretty unique.
We use it in our Make it Work cocktail.
is a Chinese five spice.
LS: [Make it
Work] is our spiciest cocktail. If people come in and say they want something
with a spice kick to it, this is going to be the first one to recommend.
BG: We are also
doing a tobacco-infused bourbon cocktail. So we use tobacco from a cigar. We
are using a tobacco-infused syrup. Essentially, what you do is take a cigar
tobacco, about 5 tablespoons of that, and it’s fermented in equal parts water
and sugar. And after the sugar is boiled down, it leaves a tobacco residue flavor
with the syrup.
CB: Give me your cocktail making style in three
LS: Unique is a
good one across the board.
CB: What kind of cuisine inspires Obscura’s drinks?
BG: We are
going to be presenting our new menu; it’s going to be comprised of all of our
new food items and will have a cocktail attached that best fits the pallet of
the flavor involved. For instance, for our new vegan menu we are going to have
a cocktail made of all herbal ingredients that’s presented next to it.
CB: What’s the best part of your job?
exposing Cincinnati to the true form of craft cocktails.
LS: We are one of a kind in
Cincinnati, pretty much, so it’s nice being the
place that does the cocktails. Not just a bar that happens to have good
BG: We are on the precipice of
something that is new and different to a conservative market. Where craft
cocktails have been present in New York, Chicago, L.A. for the last 15 years,
Cincinnati is really starting to come into its own in that category.
CB: What is your most popular drink at the moment?
LS: The Old Fashioned or the Mule,
BG: We have the best Old Fashioned
in the city.
CB: Really? I’ve heard that A Tavola has the best.
BG: That’s funny. Hey, listen, we
could put this up to test. I have no problem getting the opinion of the rest of
CB: What do you guys drink on your night off?
LS: The Old Fashioned, or one of
BG: Nothing soothes the soul like
CB: What’s the most important skill a bartender
BG: Presentation. Having excellent
mechanics, all the knowledge in the world and the ability to present a cocktail
that leaves the costumer satisfied with the amount they just paid for.
LS: Also being personable.
Wha’ts your favorite bar in OTR?
LS: I would have to say the new
place on Main, Liberty’s Bar and Bottle. I would say Neons, too. But Liberty’s
did a lot of great things. I really love the internal space. They don’t really
have cocktails — it’s pretty much like the furthest from what we do here. They
have an excellent wine selection and I love everything they have on tap.
CB: Can you give us a recipe of one of your
especially unique craft cocktails?
For sure, we’re going to show you how a Mood Swing is made.
Mood Swing1 oz. rosemary-infused Aperol2 oz. strawberry Vermouth 1/2 oz. lemon simple syrup1 dash Angostora bitters 1 dash of peach bitters10 oz. Prosecco 1-inch piece of lemon peelCombine all the ingredients over ice (except for Prosecco)
in a cocktail shaker. Strain into glass. Add the Prosecco. Heat up lemon peel
with a lighter and squeeze peel over glass. Garnish the glass with lemon peel.
by Paloma Ianes
at 09:26 AM | Permalink
Mike Georgiton of Senate, Abigail Street and Pontiac shares his favorite cocktails
Cocktail-mad scientist and adventurist Mike Georgiton is the bar
manager/director of Senate, Abigail Street and forthcoming barbecue joint Pontiac
(all owned by Daniel and Lana Wright). His unique creations make you want to
rethink your regular cocktail order to try something that’s thoughtfully
crafted to perfectly pair with your dish.
CityBeat: When did you
start getting into bar tending and creating craft cocktails?
Mike Georgiton: I’ve
been a bartender for about 11 years. I was working for a while in fast-paced
club kind of environment, and it wasn't until later that I got another job in a
lounge. It was actually the worst job I’ve ever had; I hated it there.
Eventually, the club changed hands, and the new owners brought some guys from
Louisville to train everyone. I went through like 90 hours of training of
cocktail history and that’s when I started making craft cocktails and started
to enjoy the process. It wasn't until I started here that I began researching
and getting creative. I started reading and figuring out more techniques and
developing my own from there.
CB: What would
you say is your technique/method in coming up with original cocktail recipes?
MG: I don’t
like to read too many cocktail books. Books do help in getting kind of basic
idea of what people are doing, but I like to get more inspiration from food and
the way people pair food together. I ask myself, ‘How can I pair this food
ingredient with a liquor?’ and that way I’m coming up with more obscure
ingredients that are my own. Flavor combinations that chefs use in a lot of
their dishes will push me to think, ‘Well, how can I tie in pistachios?’ or ‘How
can I tie in this or that?’ I want to do something that’s completely different and
inspired from my own source — something that no one else is doing.
CB: What’s your
favorite ingredient to use in your cocktails?
MG: My favorite
ingredients are usually more food-type ingredients that chefs are also using in
their dishes. My favorite liquor to use is Domaine de Canton, which is a
cognac-based ginger liquor. I put it in a lot of drinks. It’s one of those that
I love it because it goes good with everything, but I also kind of hate it
because I want to put it in everything.
CB: Do you
notice any changes in cocktail culture within OTR?
MG: I have
noticed that, more than before, people are starting to get more creative in
making original cocktails instead of just taking recipes from a book. People
are using more modern techniques, and I think that’s great because that was
always what I was more into than just traditional cocktails.
CB: What’s the
strangest ingredient that you've ever put in a cocktail?
gras, which is stuffed goose liver. Hands down the most bizarre that I've
It's fatty and it’s easy. You cook it and render it down in a pan and add
some cognac to it. I know cognac has always been a classic pairing with foie gras,
so I thought it would be really interesting to come full cycle and put foie
gras in the cognac. It was one of the initial cocktails that I did more of a
direct food style. In the cocktail I added a fig emulsion, some black pepper
tincture and sprinkled some nutmeg, which are all ingredients you usually find
being used with foie gras. It turned out really great and is on the menu here [at
Senate], but to get one great original cocktail you have to go through five
horrible ones. It takes a lot of experimenting.
CB: What is one
of your favorite cocktails served at the Senate?
Fidel Castro. It goes great with the fall season, and we have it pre-mixed and
ready to serve at Senate.
Fidel Castro2 oz. oak-aged spiced rum1/2 oz. pure maple syrup3 dashes of Angostura bitters1 dash orange bitters1-inch piece of orange peel
Shake all ingredients together (except for orange peel) over ice in a
cocktail shaker. Stir and strain into glass. Heat up orange peel with a
lighter. Squeeze the peel over the glass, running the rim with it before adding
to the cocktail.
Oak-Aged Spiced Rum
750 ml. bottle Bacardi Silver Rum1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise2 whole cinnamon sticks1 T. whole coriander, cracked10 allspice berries, cracked3 black peppercorns, cracked2 whole nutmegs, cracked1 1/2 tsp. whole cloves1 T. cardamom pods, cracked1 star anise1 T. sarsaparilla bark or root (optional)3 4-by-1-inch strips of orange peel, white pith removed5 slices ginger root1/4 cup French or American oak chips
Combine ingredients in a large glass jar. Cover and allow to age,
shaking every few days. It can be used after a few days.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 19, 2013
I had an epiphany recently when I stopped to order my favorite iced coffee from BLOC Coffee Company in Price Hill and their ice machine was on the fritz. “Try it cold, without ice,” the barista suggested. “Some of our customers like it better that way.”
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 15, 2012
I just returned from my third annual
visit to Tales of the Cocktail, an almost week-long event that, for
mixologists and the media who cover them, is what the Cannes
International Film Festival is to movie critics: a little bit glamorous,
a lot of information to drink in and a lot of fun.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Hot days mean cold beer, right? That’s
what I used to think, too. Nowadays, I like summer cocktails that are lighter, more
creative and tastier than the old standby. Sure, they’re not as easy as
opening a frosty bottle, but they don’t have to be a major Tiki-type
0 Comments · Tuesday, May 8, 2012
I once felt as if I had perfected the
chemical alchemy needed for me to write with some success. I won’t
disclose the exact contents of my proprietary blend, seeing as I may yet
trademark it, but one might assume that my equivalent of liquid courage
is not the healthiest of cocktails.