In the Queen City cocktail scene, handcrafted classically leaning cocktails are king. Holding court at 21c Cincinnati’s Metropole bar is local bartender, Catherine Manabat. Manabat, who has been with Metropole since its opening last year, agrees that the classic cocktail is enjoying a resurgence in Cincinnati, especially with an emphasis on housemade ingredients.
“At Metropole we marry the two trends by making quirky twists on old favorites and take the time to try and handcraft a lot of the ingredients we use to make the cocktails. There is a general sophistication that comes with local menus because the average guest is so knowledgeable and intrigued by a thoughtful cocktail.”
Manabat says that the local spirit makers like Oyo and Watershed, not to mention all of that Bourbon and Rye from across the river, afford them so many great local options to focus on as well. She says, “Sometimes we find a product we find really unique, like Watershed’s new Bourbon barrel-aged gin, and just play around with ideas.” Being able to use the kitchen at Metropole, sometimes incorporating the seasonal ingredients Chef Michael Paley, is a huge plus for the bar team. “We make our own ginger beer, house tonic, blackberry jasmine tea and ginkgo tea – which is our house version of an energy drink for all of the Red Bull diehards. In the works for fall we are trying a housemade root beer, our own bitters and even cocktail cherries.”
Another cool thing the Metropole bar is playing around with are shrubs, such as the raspberry vanilla cilantro shrub in the Jimmy Piper.
Manabat explains, “Shrubs are drinking vinegars made from fruit or vegetables. The shrub dates back to colonial times as a way to preserve fruit in season prior to refrigeration. We make them by blending juiced or puréed fruits and vegetables and then adding vinegars and other flavors. I use spices, herbs, different types of sugars and even play around with the vinegars I add. The fun thing about making cocktails with shrubs is that by adding this one ingredient you bring such a complex and layered flavor profile to any spirit.”
From the shrubs to the house cold-smoked blueberries that they use in the Picasso cocktail, Catherine and her fellow bartenders are always looking ahead and culling ideas from the art around them, both on the walls and on the tables. “For being a newer bar, it is so amazing to me how quickly we found our identity and that it happened in this very cohesive and magical way. We draw a lot of inspiration from Chef Paley’s ingredient driven menu and we try to take advantage of the unique methods we have available to us – like smoking or fire roasting, for example.” She adds, “I also think we do well when we are modernizing classic cocktails, which I think is exactly parallel to what 21c as a company does. You make homage to your past and at the same time put a whimsical twist on it.”
> Thirsty? The Metropole Bar is open daily.
> To book a a table call 513.578.6660