Best Of 2021

University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music alumna, Classical pianist and music professor Brianna Matzke created The Response Project in order to commission artists and composers to “respond” to existing artworks or ideas. Since its inception in 2014, the project has produced concerts, short films, art shows and interpretive dances, to name a few. These installments introduced artistic interpretations of themes such as “Something is Happening Here,” a look at Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited; the phrase “On Behalf,” inspired by Killer Mike and Stephen Colbert asking composers to write on behalf of a person, thing or idea; and the controversial composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Mikrophonie 1. Debuting throughout January, the fourth iteration of The Response Project challenged five composers (Evan Williams, Tina Tallon, Nate May, Charles Peck, Jason Charney) and five visual artists (Joomi Chung, Samantha Parker Salazar, Christian Schmit, Samantha Haring, Ryan Strochinsky) to respond to late American composer Pauline Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations. The Oliveros Response Project premiered four short films and an art show that not only enacted deep listening through brand new compositions but also explored the way history and place relate to the experience. Produced by local filmmakers Biz Young, Jason Nix and Andy Gasper, the films debuted the musical responses as performed by Matzke, percussionist Chris Graham and a Classical ensemble concert:nova. But it wasn’t just a concert series. Four beloved and historical Cincinnati buildings were chosen to house the performances featured in the films. Acoustics and historical significance were among factors considered in the selection process, which boiled down to performances taking place in The Imperial Theatre Mohawk, the Kauffman Brewery tunnels, the King Records building and the Emery Theatre. theresponseproject.org.

Best Of Cincinnati Music & Nightlife (Reader Picks): Cincinnati's best music and nightlife picks as selected by CityBeat readers

Best Of Cincinnati Music & Nightlife pig

Best Of Cincinnati Music & Nightlife (Staff Picks): Cincinnati's best music and nightlife picks as selected by CityBeat staff

Best Of Cincinnati Music & Nightlife pig


Staff Picks

Best Place to Party Like It’s Sunday

Best Boozy Hand Sanitizer

Best Inadvertent Patio Movie Sing-Alongs

Best Li’l Sebastian That Isn’t a Mini Horse

Best Book About Cincinnati’s Music History to Come Along in 2020

Best Member of The National to Win a Grammy for His Work on Taylor Swift’s folklore

Best Swift Gift

Best Place for a Casual Gathering If You Don’t Have a Backyard

Best Worst Name for a Pumpkin-Flavored Beer

Best Basic Pumpkin Spice in a Can

Best Holiday Bar Pop-Up to Wear Your Worst Ugly Christmas Sweater

Best Repurposed Gas Station

Best Socially Distant Concert on Wheels

Best Gift to Northern Kentucky’s The Lodge Recording Studio

Best Petite Pendleton Cocktail Escape

Best Very Specific Happy Hour Gimmick

Best Wussy Benefit Concert

Best Makeover for MainStrasse’s Pachinko

Best Jazzy Wine Bar with a Focus on Female and BIPOC Winemakers

Best Botanical Ice Cubes

Best Sold-Out Local Reunion Concert We Hope Happens Eventually

Best New Tiki Bar with a River View

Best Local Brewery Making a Beer Alternative That Isn’t Hard Seltzer

Best Over-the-Top Alcoholic Milkshakes

Best New DORA District

Best Cover Song Performance Organized by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

Best Brewery Expansion Across the Ohio River

Best and Only Cincinnati Drinking Destination to Make “Esquire” Magazine’s Best Bars in America 2020 List

Best First Solo Album

Best Local Front Porch Happy Hour Movement To Go National

Best Bar Making Its Own Amaro

Best Online Cocktail Class with its Own DIY Kit

Best Blend of Interpretative Composition and Historic Spaces

Best Beer Collaboration to Foster Inclusion in the Industry and Raise Awareness of Social and Racial Injustice

Best Beer Collaboration to Use Turkish Coffee

Best Brewery That Hosts Its Own Farmers Market

Best Funky Cocktail Kits You Can Make at Home — with a Playlist to Boot

Best Themed Outdoor Patio

Best Groovy Suburban Brewery

Best Over-the-Rhine Craft Beer and Bottle Shop

Best Way to Turn America’s Largest Oktoberfest into a Socially Distant Celebration

Best Use of a Theater Marquee During a Pandemic

Best Surprise Christmas Concert Livestream

Best Bourbon Offering Relief to Restaurant Workers

Over-the-Rhine’s Wodka Bar was the only one of the two dozenish bars across the country praised by Esquire in their most recent “Best Bars in America” list to be located in Cincinnati. Food & Drinks editor Jeff Gordinier wrote of the cocktail lounge, “The very existence of a bar devoted to vodka feels like a rebuke to all the bartenders who’ve scoffed at the spirit. But this spot takes the defiance a step further, offering shots of vodka infused with (among other things) mangoes and peanut brittle.” And, of course, plenty of pierogi and other Eastern European eats. wodkabarotr.com.

This winter, Longfellow crafted and bottled their own amaro, a popular herbal digestif, for purchase and in special themed snack packs. They also began making their own line of cocktail bitters, infused with chamomile and coriander, which fans can get to-go. longfellowbar.com.

1. Village Tavern

2. The Monkey Bar & Grille

3. March First Brewing

1. Northside Yacht Club

2. Tillie’s Lounge

3. The Comet

1. Below Zero Lounge

2. Arnold’s Bar and Grill

3. 16-Bit Bar+Arcade

1. Streetside Brewery

2. Latitude’s Bar & Bistro

3. Mount Lookout Tavern

1. Crazy Fox Saloon

2. Southgate House Revival

3. Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar

1. Knotty Pine Rock Club & Tiki Bar

2. The Crow’s Nest

3. Blue Note Harrison