Best Of 2020

Best Place to Have A Positive Tequila Experience
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

A lot of us have a “tequila” story. And if yours doesn’t end with you on the floor (or in jail), congrats, you’ve survived the worst aspects of the agave spirit. But the reason so many have a regretful tequila experience is because it’s associated with shots. La Ofrenda, Cincinnati’s new tequila bar, lends a different approach. Their 2-ounce pours are meant to be sipped and savored. And with over 130 varieties of tequila, mezcal and sotol, there’s a lot to be appreciated. The 1940s Mexican cinema-themed bar has channeled the spirit of Mexico from owner Jacob Trevino’s own childhood influences. Most importantly, the intention of La Ofrenda is to be a celebration of life, changing the narrative of bad tequila-driven nights one sip at a time. La Ofrenda, 30 Findlay St., Over-the-Rhine, laofrendatequila.com.

Music & Nightlife
Illustration: Taylor Speed


Veteran Cincinnati Hip Hop artist Santino Corleon (now going by just Santino) kicked off what is looking to be a helluva 2020 by signing a record deal and getting some prime national TV exposure. If you saw the commercials for Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time — the game show’s prime-time tournament on ABC featuring its greatest champions — you got a little taste of Corleon’s talents. Santino’s song “GOAT” — a possible future “Jock Jam” classic — was featured in the promos for the show. The single was the first music released as part of Corleon’s new record deal, as he became one of the first signings to 83 Sound, the label founded by producer Cook Classics (whose work includes hits like Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes” and Ava Max’s “Sweet But Psycho”) and Platinum-selling Pop artist and songwriter Outasight. Santino, facebook.com/santinocorleon.

Twenties, the descriptively named 1920s-themed cocktail bar that took over the former Myrtle’s Punch House spot in East Walnut Hills, is a jazzy sort of destination that plays on century-old cocktail culture with a drink menu featuring classic libations and updated takes — think an Old Fashioned made with mezcal or rum instead of your standard bourbon (but they have the bourbon version, too) — as well as local craft drafts, wine and spirits from Cincinnati distilleries. The generously sized bar features ample seating throughout the space as well as in the cozy catacomb-style cellar, which is more like a speakeasy with cool ambient lighting and less about skeletons. TVs play black-and-white films for some anachronistic flair, and they recently opened a billiards parlor inside. For a real deal, the bar offers $7 select drinks on Thursdays. If you’re looking for a spot to try out your new futuristic flapper look, this might be the place. Twenties, 2733 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills, facebook.com/twentiescincy.

If Rock legends KISS are going to roll around the country to graciously give fans one more chance to see them/give them money on their “farewell” (insert eye-roll emoji) tour, the band could have at least hired a merch director who knows how to spell the names of the cities they are visiting. When the group came to rock Riverbend one last time over the summer, they were selling the local version of their city-specific tour T-shirts, which were created to make fans feel like KISS cares so much about our town, they went and made an exclusive Cincinnati shirt. Or, rather, “Cincinnatti” shirt. The misspelled tees — photos of which quickly went viral on social media — were priced at $50 and are probably collector’s items of some sort, so hold onto yours if you bought one. Heck, maybe that was the game plan all along — if nothing else, KISS are pretty savvy when it comes to making money off of merchandizing. Maybe Jean Simons held back a few boxes for himself to sell on eBay as he gets further into his twilight years?

2. March First Brewing         

3. The Village Tavern 

2. Northside Yacht Club        

3. The Comet 

2. MOTR Pub  

3. Arnold’s Bar & Grill

2. Mt. Lookout Tavern

3. Latitudes Bar & Bistro      

2. The Hannaford      

3. The Southgate House Revival

2. The Crow’s Nest   

3. Blue Note Harrison

2. The Southgate House Revival        

3. MOTR Pub  

2. The Southgate House Revival        

3. Madison Theater

2. Streetside Brewery

3. The Belle and the Bear      

For its fourth anniversary, Covington’s Braxton Brewing Company expanded in 2019, adding a giant rooftop deck to its flagship taproom and opening the Braxton Barrel House in a former Remke Market on Dixie Highway in Fort Mitchell. The brewer converted the grocer into a 20-tap drinking destination with a patio on the old loading dock and 20,000 square feet of storage for housing bourbon barrels and other assorted barrels to age their beers. The Barrel House also offers a private barrel-aging program, where anyone with the funds can “experience the barrel aging process from the initial brewing all the way to the packaging,” says Braxton. Guests work with brewers to create a custom beer and then age it in either their own whiskey or bourbon barrels (if they have one on hand; some people might) or one of the brewery’s. Braxton says the barrels can range between $1,500 to $5,000, take one month to one year to age and produce 200 bottles of barrel-aged beer, which Braxton will help you name and package. “To our knowledge, this is the nation’s first dedicated private barrel program, and we’re so proud to open the doors to our newest location,” said Braxton co-founder and CEO Jack Rouse in a release. Braxton Barrel House, 2501 Dixie Highway, Fort Mitchell, braxtonbrewing.com.

2. Valerie Diehl (Northside Yacht Club)

3. Ceris Christopher (The Belle and the Bear)    

2. Alex Meece (Mellow Mushroom)

3. Yahezequiel Walker (Northside Yacht Club)

2. The Comet            

3. 16-Bit Bar+Arcade

2. rhinehaus   

3. Hoppin’ Vines

Best Biweekly Wine Tastings
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Technically, any time you go to a wine bar that offers wine flights, any night is a wine tasting night. And even if said wine bar doesn’t offer a specific, listed wine flight, you can still drink glasses — or even half-pours if they have them! — of several different wines (as long as someone else is driving) and call it a tasting. Don’t let anyone tell you what a “tasting” is. That being said, Oakley Wines has a great wine tasting program. This cozy spot off of Madison Avenue’s main drag features a first-floor wine bar and bottle shop with big windows and flickering candles. Downstairs is The Cellar, a low-lit speakeasy space with room for live music. The vino venture is now under the ownership of Stephanie and Dave Webster, who also own The Rhined cheese shop in Over-the-Rhine, and the duo decided to keep the wine bar’s famous Friday night tastings: five wines for $12 from 5 to 8 p.m. (This event is what made Oakley Wines so popular that they had to open The Cellar in the first place.) But they also have tastings again on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Same deal. And, because of its association with The Rhined, the snack menu at Oakley Wines is putting bites front-and-center. There’s charcuterie, marinated olives, mussels, mushroom toast and other stuff that’s easy to put in your mouth to complement a glass of wine, plus plenty of restaurant and chef-centric pop-ups. The current is relocating, so keep an eye out for updates on that front. Oakley Wines, 4011 Allston St., Oakley, oakleywines.com.

2. Northside Yacht Club

3. The Crazy Fox Saloon

4. Maplewood Kitchen and Bar

5. The Birdcage         

6. The Eagle

7. Clyborne’s

8. Streetside Brewery

9. Taste of Belgium

10. HangOverEasy (TIE)         

10. Lucius Q (TIE)