Bartender preparing cocktails at Ginger Rabbit (photo by Brock DuPoint)
Food + Drink

Behind the Bar: Ginger Rabbit and The Spirit Room at the Phoenix

From a jazzy spot perfect for a night out to an upstairs whiskey bar, here are two spots to write home about this season.

Ginger Rabbit

Jazz and cocktails go together like Charlie Parker and a saxophone. Nowhere is that combo more in tune than at Ginger Rabbit, a swanky, 1940s-style jazz club and cocktail bar in an intimate spot in Columbus, just off High Street on Buttles Avenue.

Decked out with plush seating, chandeliers and just the right amount of red velvet, the cozy club hosts live music five nights a week and features a snacks menu loaded with flavor. Try the highbrow-lowbrow union of caviar and potato chips.

“It has a very homey lived in feel, which is important when you’re kind of paying homage to the past and to the history of the music,” says co-owner and restaurateur BJ Lieberman.

While the cocktail menu features classics such as a French 75 and a Mai Tai, the spirit of choice here is gin. The eponymous Ginger Rabbit cocktail, for example, mixes Watershed Four Peel Gin, Manzanilla sherry, ginger syrup, lemon juice, carrot juice and celery bitters for a drink that’s sweet, boozy, earthy and vegetal.

For a story as intoxicating as the drink, try a Remember the Maine, a cocktail that mixes Old Overholt Bonded Rye, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Cherry Heering Cherry Liqueur, bitters and absinthe. Its creation is in commemoration of the sinking of the battleship U.S.S. Maine, which helped to kick-start the Spanish-American War in 1898, said beverage director Seth Laufman.

“No idea why this fantastic Manhattan variation was named as such but here we are,” Laufman says. “I love it for its subtle complexities and being absolutely delicious.”

Try It at Home: Remember the Maine
Recipe courtesy of Ginger Rabbit

2 oz. Old Overholt Bonded Rye
¾ oz. Cocchi Vermouth di Torino (sweet vermouth)
½ oz. Cherry Heering Cherry Liqueur
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Add all liquids except absinthe to a cocktail mixing glass. Add ice and stir about 30 revolutions. Splash a little absinthe in desired glassware to rinse and coat the inside of glass. Dump excess in glass out and strain the cocktail into the absinthe washed glass. Garnish with luxardo-type cherry and enjoy.


The Spirit Room at the Phoenix

There’s something wonderful haunting the second floor above the Phoenix Brewing Co. in Mansfield. While the brewery has been delighting locals for nearly 10 years, the owners turned the spot’s second floor into a woodsy whiskey bar called The Spirit Room at the Phoenix in 2023.

Home to more than 90 varieties of whiskey, from bourbon and rye to scotch, The Spirit Room serves as a quiet spot to slow down and sip.

“People can go up there, they can sit on a couch and relax and have a conversation,” says Isaiah Papst, a bartender at The Spirit Room. “And that’s really what we were going for — a quieter place from the rest of the establishment.”

On the menu, whiskey lovers can find pours of Blanton’s Single Barrel, Old Forester 1920 and WhistlePig Small Batch 10 Year. If you have a hard time making a decision, four different flights give you a bit of everything, including one featuring Ohio distilleries such as Western Reserve Distillers and Cincinnati Distilling.

You can also mix things up with cocktails such as a Revolver made with Rebel 100 bourbon, Toledo Spirits King & Dane Coffee Liqueur, orange bitters and an orange peel.

Another favorite is the Spirit Room’s take on an old fashioned, made with Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond, brown sugar-based simple syrup, Angostura bitters, orange peel and a Traverse City cherry garnish.

“People seem to respond really well to that,” says Papst. “The cocktails have been a pretty big hit up there.”

Try It at Home: The Revolver
Recipe courtesy of The Spirit Room at the Phoenix

2 oz. Rebel 100 bourbon
½ oz. King & Dane Coffee Liqueur from Toledo Spirits
4-5 dashes Angostura orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice, stir well and strain into a glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

Proof Magazine is for Ohio spirit lovers. It is produced by Great Lakes Publishing three times a year. Don’t miss an issue by subscribing to Ohio Magazine. View a digital version of the Proof Magazine Spring 2024 edition here.