Steven Rosen has decades of experience writing about Cincinnati’s arts scene. (Full disclosure: He previously worked as CityBeat’s arts and culture editor and remains a regular freelancer.) Rosen is also immensely knowledgeable about local music, making it no surprise that he penned Lost Cincinnati Concert Venues of the ‘50s and ‘60s. While not exhaustive, the book deep dives into Queen City music history, covering topics like the Ludlow Garage’s impact in drawing national acts, jazz’s deep roots in Cincinnati, festivals that came and went, and the major players working behind the scenes. Rosen has bylines in Cincinnati Magazine, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, American Songwriter, Documentary Magazine, Indiewire, Variety and more, but Lost Cincinnati Concert Venues marks his first book, a great starting point for anyone interested in the bygone days of Cincinnati nightspots, venues and arenas. Want to go deeper? Consider checking out the Cincinnati Vinyl Club and the Mercantile Library’s Rock & Read book discussion group, both of which Rosen is a member. stevenrosen.net.
Need an unusual gift for a music lover or Cincinnati fanatic? Legendary funkateer Bootsy Collins is forever immortalized as a super-cool action figure. Created by collector toy company Super7, the figure features the famous bassist wearing his jumpsuit and funky glasses, SpaceBass in hand. Bonus: You can cut out your own Bootsy-esque glasses from the packaging. super7.com.
13 Below Brewery doesn’t just brew excellent beer; this micro craft brewery also has an extensive list of fruity, hazy hard seltzers. Starting with just five flavors, the list has now grown to 14, including one of the brewery’s favorites, orange cream. The citrus and vanilla in the drink blend together to make it taste like a grownup creamsicle — perfect for summertime and nostalgic feelings. And if the other 13 hard-seltzer flavors intrigue you, you can try them in a flight of four. 13belowbrewery.com.
Dubbed a “wizard speakeasy,” Pennifold’s Pub is a Quidditch-themed bar near Findlay Market that is everything a Harry Potter fan could ever ask for. The bar offers up wizarding-world-themed cocktails and mocktails in a warm and inviting atmosphere. The bar holds no official affiliation with a certain author, either, so you don’t have to worry about your money landing in the hands of anyone practicing the dark art of hatred. pennifoldspub.com.
Admit it, a first birthday party is more for the parents than the kid. It’s like a second baby shower, except Mom can actually drink this time, so why not have the party at a bar? Enter Queen City Radio. The sprawling Over-the-Rhine bar has a private room you can rent for just about anything, including a cake smash. Parents will love the frozen bourbon slushies, and babies will love the white noise of bar chatter and DJ-spun beats. Pro tip: Ask your guests to take the streetcar or park in the nearby Washington Park garage; both are just a skip away from QCR. qcrbar.com.
Public House embraces both the German and Irish roots of Cincinnati’s heritage, but its Irish side holds a claim to fame in the Queen City: It’s the only bar in the city certified to pour the perfect Guinness pint by Guinness brewmaster Fergal Murray. The two-part pour is an art form that requires precision in angles and timing, and once you have a perfect pour, you won’t want a Guinness any other way. Savor the drink with some delicious pub fare off Public House’s menu on their patio to complete the experience. thepublichousecheviot.com.
Northside Yacht Club got a bit of a naughty holiday makeover as the mermaid mascot donned a pair of sparkling red pasties and a Santa-beard merkin over the holiday season. Next holiday season, keep an eye out for colored lights, a giant mounted fish in St. Nick cosplay and Santa beards on almost every item in the establishment. northsideyachtclub.com.
The immersive Christmas experience at Overlook Lodge Miracle Pop-Up gets top billing on Santa’s Nice List for its over-the-top holiday decor, which spans every inch of the space. Fully decorated Christmas trees — big and small — dot the room, and wrapping paper covers the windows to give you the feeling of being inside a gift box. Tinsel, ribbons, lights, ornaments, wreaths and more fill every nook and cranny, leaving no inch untouched from the festivity. The event is ticketed, but for the price you get two holiday-themed drinks, a shot and a holiday clip show. thatshiningbar.com.
There’s exposed brick, then the exposed brick at Milton’s The Prospect Hill Tavern. Warm brick adorns this old-as-hell beer-and-shot bar from all sides, making you feel like you’re in a true-blue Midwestern dive. You can’t help but feel like you’re in a movie when playing pool surrounded by brick and branded neon — it’s downright cinematic. The backdrop makes Milton’s perfect for meeting an old friend for drinks or even sipping alone with a book (or a CityBeat). facebook.com/miltonstheprospecthilltavern.
If your interest in music is so expansive it takes in every genre from art rock to hip hop, and you like reading about them from a local source, then the blog on the website of Clifton’s adventurous Torn Light Records is for you. It features deeply researched posts, written by blog creator Hannah Blanchette, that include a deep dive into Japanese musician Toshimaru Nakamura’s use of a no-input mixing board, which — according to the story — “forgoes any external audio input, instead feeding a mixing board’s output back into its input in defiance of the owner’s manual.” (Feedback is a risk.) For those interested in something less sonically experimental but still offbeat, there’s a story about the “whimsical, heartfelt folk of Norma Tanega,” who had a long if under-the-radar career after her 1966 hit “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog,” and until her death in 2019. Torn Light also has an email newsletter listing its recent arrivals of new and used records. tornlightrecords.com.