Cincinnati Shakes Up: Cocktails in The Queen City

Hi, I’m Jay Erisman from The Party Source in Bellevue, Kentucky, guest blogging for Julie. I attended my second Tales of the Cocktail, the huge cocktail festival and convention, this past July in New Orleans. (By the way, if you think it’s been hot in Cincinnati lately, try New Orleans in mid-July, where the weather considers we humans as so many oysters to be broiled. Fortunately, we had plenty of cocktails to chill us out.) I walked into my first seminar, on my first morning of Tales, and who do I see at the table, laptop at the ready, cocktail in hand? Why, it’s Julie and The Boyfriend! So in honor of friends and fine cocktails, I thought it appropriate to offer my take on the cocktail scene, nationally and locally.*

Mark Twain once stated he wanted to be in Cincinnati at the end of the world, because everything happens there five years later. He was dead right when it comes to the latter day revolution in cocktail culture, which, although it’s been percolating for many years, might be conveniently dated to August, 2005 with the opening in New York City of mixology bar Pegu Club. Now even Cincinnati has a real live classic cocktail bar in the form of Tonic On Fourth. Together with such bartenders as the 19th-century styled Rommel Wells at The Rookwood, Molly Wellmann with her tobacco bitters at Virgil’s in Bellevue, and the improving cocktail lists around town, we can say the cocktail wave has crested over the Queen City.  Personally, from the aisles of The Party Source I’ve felt like a voice in the wilderness when it comes to mixology. So I’m personally thrilled to see so many people taking an interest in their mixing and shaking and drinking, not to mention folks like Julie spending their free time writing about it.

This new golden age of the cocktail—the concoction that the self-proclaimed “omnibibulous”  former Cincinnati resident H.L. Mencken called  “the greatest of all contributions of the American way of life to the salvation of humanity”—has proven a strong incentive to the creation of entirely new styles of spirits, as well as the resuscitation of a goodly number of formerly extinct libations. Examples of the latter include the violet liqueur Crème de Violette, the long missing ingredient in an Aviation cocktail. And an example of the former would be Esprit de June, a French liqueur introduced in 2010. which incorporates a distillation of grape vine flowers into a gently sweet liqueur.  If we could be allowed to swap out the June for the Violette, we can make a nifty new drink, just the thing for our wonderful humidity.

The Lunken

1½ oz dry gin, such as G’Vine Nouaison

½ oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

½ oz Esprit de June

1 teaspoon Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

Combine with ice in a shaker. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon strip or, even better, an edible flower.

Finally, can I take a moment to tell Julie and Terry, no doubt reading this in some far flung hotel room, some good news? That gin you discovered at Tales of the Cocktail, from the makers of Esprit de June? Yes, G’Vine gin, that’s the one. Well, my sweeties, I have it here waiting for you when you get back. In big bottles and little minis for the suitcase. I expect they are leaving skid marks en route to Bellevue this very moment.

10 thoughts on “Cincinnati Shakes Up: Cocktails in The Queen City”

  • For the record, Twain wasn’t talking about the slow pace of progress in Cincinnati when he made the ‘ten years later’ comment. He was complaining about the terrible speed of room service in his hotel.

    • Thank you, Harmless, I stand corrected. I guess over the years the intent of the quote has shifted to something we all can complain about. One wonders what Twain thought of the heat in his pre-air conditioned hotel.

  • Hi Jay,
    Great post. I love finding new types of liquor and liqueur , one of my favorites being St. Germain. You’re doing an excellent job of stocking the shelves of The Party Source with unique and exquisite items. My fiance and I joke that we can’t ever leave the Party Source without spending less than $100.

    By the way, when are you going to have the Skinny Girl Margarita?


    • Thanks for the kind words, Emily. I fully agree on St-Germain Elderflower; it is no less than a future world classic liqueur. The Esprit de June is very much in the same flowery camp as St-Germain.

      I’d be happy to help you with some personal shopping assistance when your wedding rolls around. In the meantime, you can look forward to Skinny Girl Margarita hitting our shelves the first week of September; it should run about $14.99 a bottle. Yay, Jay

  • After reading about the Esprit de June, I am very intrigued and tried to find a bottle here in northern Cincinnati but struck out twice. Does the Party Source curently stock “June”? Also, what is the price? Hopefully, I will be heading to KY this weekend for a little “June”!!! Thank you.

    • Hi Kim! We buy it at The Party Source; it’s in the aisle with other liqueurs (I want to say 9A? I just sort of instinctively go there) and it’s on the top shelf near St. Germain. If you don’t see it, ask and they’ll order it, but I know that they normally stock it.

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