Best Of 2019

Cincinnati musicians and mixologists MayaLou Banatwala and Kristen Kreft combined their talents and passions for their 2018 collaborative book project, Rocktails: An Amped Up Spin on Mixology. Kreft and Banatwala, who possess two of the best voices in the local music scene (showcased in their bands The Perfect Children and Heavy Hinges, respectively), were inspired to create the book after hosting regular Rocktail “pop up parties” at local bars, featuring drink menus with handcrafted cocktails inspired by a variety of musical acts, like their tribute to Siouxsie Sioux of Goth-y AltRock pioneers Siouxsie and the Banshees, which combines “the grit of pear juice with the sexy notes of round dark rum, bitter Campari, grape soda and a black licorice garnish.” The duo’s local-music roots show in other recipes. The “Dirty Blues” cocktail was inspired by area trio All Seeing Eyes and it’s incredibly imaginative, described as “Absinthe soaked, flamed candy cigarettes affixed into gummy orange slices as garnishes, atop a smokey Laphroaig rinsed whiskey and beer cocktail spiked with Watershed’s Nocino Black Walnut Liqueur.” At the book’s launch party last year, Kreft and Banatwala honored the local bands performing at the event with special new concoctions: “Peace of Mine” — dedicated to Indie Rock group Carriers (and named for one of their songs) — was a ginger-beer cocktail; and “Bottom of the Barrel,” a tribute to Lung (who were celebrating their own new release, the All the King’s Horses album, on the same night) included bourbon barrel gin and lemonade. Find out more about the book or hire the duo for your own party at americanrocktails.com.

Music & Nightlife


2. The Blind Lemon

3. The Overlook Lodge

2. Sundry and Vice

3. MOTR Pub

2. Dutch’s

3. Oakley Pub and Grill

2. Fox & Hound

3. Back Porch Saloon

2. Coppin’s Restaurant & Bar

3. Bobby Mackey’s

2. The Crow’s Nest

3. Knotty Pine Rock Club & Tiki Bar

2. MOTR Pub

3. The Southgate House Revival

2. The Southgate House Revival

3. Madison Theater

2. Sundry and Vice

3. Queen City Exchange

2. Molly Wellmann (Japp’s)

3. Sara Hutslar (MadTree Brewing)

2. Giacomo Ciminello (Night Drop)

3. Nick Squeri (Queen City Exchange)

2. Higher Gravity

3. Queen City Exchange

If there’s one thing Cincinnatians love more than a local brewery, it’s a local brewery with an outdoor drinking area — especially if that drinking area happens to be elevated (cough Rhinegeist cough). So when Braxton Brewing Co. announced a $5 million expansion plan in January, which includes a 5,000-square-foot rooftop deck, it just gave us one more reason to love the Cov and Braxton. The plan permits the brewery to ramp up annual production to 30,000 barrels to allow them to better serve beer drinkers locally and throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Renderings show astroturf, lawn games (aka cornhole), outdoor seating, string lights and fire pits plus a view of the city. The upstairs bar will pour Braxton brews and serve cocktails and the brewery’s new Vive hard seltzer. The rooftop is currently under construction and is expected to open in summer 2019. Braxton Brewing Co., 27 W. Seventh St., Covington, braxtonbrewing.com.

2. Arnold’s Bar & Grill

3. Hang Over Easy

4. The Eagle OTR

5. Northside Yacht Club

6. Maplewood Kitchen and Bar

7. Higher Gravity

8. Taste of Belgium

9. Redwine & Co.

10. S.W. Clyborne Co.

Best Bloody Mary We’ll Miss
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

At the end of February 2019, The Anchor-OTR announced it was closing its doors after seven years of slinging super-fresh seafood to Cincinnatians at the corner of 14th and Race streets. It’s always sad to lose a favorite neighborhood haunt, and the loss of the Anchor will be felt quite deeply by fish fans … and bloody mary stans. The restaurant conjured up what might be the city’s most decadent drink via its Longshorman’s Bloody Mary. Named in homage of 1934’s “Bloody Thursday,” when longshoremen went on strike along the Pacific Coast, this drink balanced spice, acidity, sweetness and several sea creatures. The housemade base consisted of tomato juice, horseradish, pickle and olive juice, four different hot sauces, sugar, cayenne, garlic and a touch of umami with Old Bay seasoning. But it went big with the garnish, showcasing the Anchor’s fresh seafood with the option to add a lobster claw, shrimp or an oyster for an upcharge. It was big, bold and beautiful. And its loss is enough to shed a salty tear over.

2. Sundry and Vice

3. Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar

2. Newberry Bros. Coffee & Prohibition Bourbon Bar

3. Wiseguy Lounge

2. Jungle Jim’s International Market

3. DEP’s Fine Wine and Spirits