WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
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Homemade Happy Hour: Obscura

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 business? Brian Gehrisch: 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. Layne Schneider: 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 cocktails? 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. BG: Togarashi 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 words. LS: Unique is a good one across the board. BG: Unique, pristine, fabulous. 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? BG: Honestly, 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 cocktails. 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, usually. 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 Cincinnati. CB: What do you guys drink on your night off? LS: The Old Fashioned, or one of our sparklings. BG: Nothing soothes the soul like bourbon. CB: What’s the most important skill a bartender should have? 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. CB: Wha’ts your favorite bar in OTR? BG: Japp’s. 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? BG: 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.
 
 

Tea N’ Bowl (Lunch Review)

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Though I’ve been happy to see a few small ethnic restaurants pop up along McMillan Avenue in Clifton Heights during the past few years, I’ve found it hard to stray from my old favorites like Thai Express and Red Pepper. So I was happy to be assigned to review the quaint and colorful Tea N’ Bowl (211 W. McMillan, 513-421-9111).  

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