September 06, 2019

21 Secret Cincinnati Bars and How to Find Them All

The Queen City may be jam-packed with nightlife options, but there are a few local gems that are challenge to find. From secret garden patios to a speakeasy hidden in a video store, these bars may be playing hard-to-get... but they're totally worth the struggle.
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The Video Archive
965 E. McMillan, Walnut Hills
Named in honor of the video rental store where director Quentin Tarantino once worked, The Video Archive is a video store that doubles as a speakeasy, like a Blockbuster with a back-alley bar. Upon entering, you’d think you’ve arrived at an indie flick shop, until you discover the secret door — opened by selecting a specific VHS movie from the shelves — that leads you to the booze room with Tarantino-themed drinks, movies projected behind the bartenders, shattered mirrors and framed photos of Mia Wallace impersonators. It all creates something that, while not serious, is delightfully magical. 
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

The Video Archive

965 E. McMillan, Walnut Hills
Named in honor of the video rental store where director Quentin Tarantino once worked, The Video Archive is a video store that doubles as a speakeasy, like a Blockbuster with a back-alley bar. Upon entering, you’d think you’ve arrived at an indie flick shop, until you discover the secret door — opened by selecting a specific VHS movie from the shelves — that leads you to the booze room with Tarantino-themed drinks, movies projected behind the bartenders, shattered mirrors and framed photos of Mia Wallace impersonators. It all creates something that, while not serious, is delightfully magical.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Comfort Station
793 E. McMillan Ave., Walnut Hills
From the team behind OTR’s Sundry and Vice comes Comfort Station. Opened in late June, this cocktail bar is located in a century-old Walnut Hills rest area. Without much signage outside, guests enter via the original women's room door — now painted a beautiful bright blue — into an industrial and airy space with skylights, inventive cocktails and a living plant wall. A back patio and lounge creates an indoor/outdoor feel. 
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Comfort Station

793 E. McMillan Ave., Walnut Hills
From the team behind OTR’s Sundry and Vice comes Comfort Station. Opened in late June, this cocktail bar is located in a century-old Walnut Hills rest area. Without much signage outside, guests enter via the original women's room door — now painted a beautiful bright blue — into an industrial and airy space with skylights, inventive cocktails and a living plant wall. A back patio and lounge creates an indoor/outdoor feel.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Mecca OTR
1429 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine
This hip OTR hideaway is a welcoming hangout for those interested in no-frills drinking, L.A. vibes, vinyl tunes and free popcorn. Find the main courtyard entrance tucked away down 15th Street, and cross the big-ass gravel patio, past colorful street-art murals, a panoply of rainbow lighting and a plethora of communal seating to enter a world of hanging plants (in summer the patio is decked out in greenery) and the most creatively decorated — dare we say selfie-ready — bar bathrooms in the city. Get yourself a Chunker, an airplane-sized bottle of liquor inverted into a can of sparkling San Pellegrino flavored water.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Mecca OTR

1429 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine
This hip OTR hideaway is a welcoming hangout for those interested in no-frills drinking, L.A. vibes, vinyl tunes and free popcorn. Find the main courtyard entrance tucked away down 15th Street, and cross the big-ass gravel patio, past colorful street-art murals, a panoply of rainbow lighting and a plethora of communal seating to enter a world of hanging plants (in summer the patio is decked out in greenery) and the most creatively decorated — dare we say selfie-ready — bar bathrooms in the city. Get yourself a Chunker, an airplane-sized bottle of liquor inverted into a can of sparkling San Pellegrino flavored water.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Yonder
621 Main St., Covington
Inspired by owners Chris and Tess Burns' love of Kentucky State Parks, this new concept by the folks behind Covington's Commonwealth Bistro features a chic treehouse-esque rooftop bar with a small rotating menu and craft cocktails, as well as inventive mocktails. Head down the alleyway to the left of Commonwealth’s entrance to find a set of stairs that will take you to the second floor space (open Wednesday through Sunday).
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Yonder

621 Main St., Covington
Inspired by owners Chris and Tess Burns' love of Kentucky State Parks, this new concept by the folks behind Covington's Commonwealth Bistro features a chic treehouse-esque rooftop bar with a small rotating menu and craft cocktails, as well as inventive mocktails. Head down the alleyway to the left of Commonwealth’s entrance to find a set of stairs that will take you to the second floor space (open Wednesday through Sunday).
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Night Drop
1535 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills 
Folks from Northside’s Littlefield Restaurant Group rehabbed the historic 1920s-era Central Trust Bank building in East Walnut Hills, opening the aptly named restaurant Branch and its adjacent downstairs speakeasy Night Drop in December. Cocktails take their sobriquets from financial terms, like the Reverse Mortgage, Cosigner and Accelerated Depreciation, the latter of which contains bourbon, light cherry notes and is finished in smoke. Find the door to Night Drop around the back of the building. 
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Night Drop

1535 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills
Folks from Northside’s Littlefield Restaurant Group rehabbed the historic 1920s-era Central Trust Bank building in East Walnut Hills, opening the aptly named restaurant Branch and its adjacent downstairs speakeasy Night Drop in December. Cocktails take their sobriquets from financial terms, like the Reverse Mortgage, Cosigner and Accelerated Depreciation, the latter of which contains bourbon, light cherry notes and is finished in smoke. Find the door to Night Drop around the back of the building.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The Blind Lemon
936 Hatch St., Mount Adams
Mount Adams’ favorite backyard bar since 1963. Walk down a set of stairs to find a secret, little hideaway. Outside, the relaxed garden patio is like a boho blend of Bourbon Street and Paris café life. With live music every night, it’s one of the most romantic drinking destinations in the city.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

The Blind Lemon

936 Hatch St., Mount Adams
Mount Adams’ favorite backyard bar since 1963. Walk down a set of stairs to find a secret, little hideaway. Outside, the relaxed garden patio is like a boho blend of Bourbon Street and Paris café life. With live music every night, it’s one of the most romantic drinking destinations in the city.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Wiseguy Lounge
1211 Main St., Over-the-Rhine
While inspired by the prohibition and speakeasies, this lounge nestled above OTR’s Goodfellas Pizzeria doesn’t require a secret password. Instead, just walk up the stairs and order one of the more than 250 bourbons, hand-crafted cocktails or wide variety of beers from your knowledgeable bartender. 
Photo: Facebook.com/GoodfellasOTR

Wiseguy Lounge

1211 Main St., Over-the-Rhine
While inspired by the prohibition and speakeasies, this lounge nestled above OTR’s Goodfellas Pizzeria doesn’t require a secret password. Instead, just walk up the stairs and order one of the more than 250 bourbons, hand-crafted cocktails or wide variety of beers from your knowledgeable bartender.
Photo: Facebook.com/GoodfellasOTR
Aster on Fourth 
8 E. Fourth St., Downtown
This social sippery is a casual cocktail space located above the downtown location of Sleepy Bee Cafe. The beverage director and Bee chefs worked together to create a menu that brought "the farm to the cocktail world." Tapping into the latest trend in mixology, there's also a smattering of non-alcoholic and low ABV cocktails that go beyond soda and virgin mixed drinks to accommodate everyone in your party. Socials — carafes of drinks for sharing with friends old and new — are perfect when imbibed on the rooftop patio. The bar also offers shareable bites. Enter through a hallway and take the elevator up to the third floor.  
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Aster on Fourth

8 E. Fourth St., Downtown
This social sippery is a casual cocktail space located above the downtown location of Sleepy Bee Cafe. The beverage director and Bee chefs worked together to create a menu that brought "the farm to the cocktail world." Tapping into the latest trend in mixology, there's also a smattering of non-alcoholic and low ABV cocktails that go beyond soda and virgin mixed drinks to accommodate everyone in your party. Socials — carafes of drinks for sharing with friends old and new — are perfect when imbibed on the rooftop patio. The bar also offers shareable bites. Enter through a hallway and take the elevator up to the third floor.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
21c Museum Hotel's Cocktail Terrace
609 Walnut St., Downtown
Slink your way down Gano Alley and take a secret, escorted elevator ride up 11 floors to the seasonal 21c Museum Hotel rooftop terrace and watch the sunset over downtown with a 'pop-tail' in hand. The uniquely flavored popsicles are made from scratch and then added to chilled spirits to be sipped, stirred or licked. The terrace also offers adult slushies, masterful mixology, a streamlined snack menu and more from its aerial 75-seater vantage point.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

21c Museum Hotel's Cocktail Terrace

609 Walnut St., Downtown
Slink your way down Gano Alley and take a secret, escorted elevator ride up 11 floors to the seasonal 21c Museum Hotel rooftop terrace and watch the sunset over downtown with a 'pop-tail' in hand. The uniquely flavored popsicles are made from scratch and then added to chilled spirits to be sipped, stirred or licked. The terrace also offers adult slushies, masterful mixology, a streamlined snack menu and more from its aerial 75-seater vantage point.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Social OTR
1819 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine
Social OTR features an ambitious New American menu and two spaces: a front dining room and a cozy back bar with an entrance from the alley. The menu includes about eight “Snacks,” 10 to 11 “Small Plates” and just two “Large Plates,” with a drink list that’s almost longer than the food offerings. Whether you prefer tequila, rye, gin or any other spirit, the house cocktails have you covered. The nonprofit restaurant also aims to fill a multitude of societal and business needs in the community through its workforce development program.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Social OTR

1819 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine
Social OTR features an ambitious New American menu and two spaces: a front dining room and a cozy back bar with an entrance from the alley. The menu includes about eight “Snacks,” 10 to 11 “Small Plates” and just two “Large Plates,” with a drink list that’s almost longer than the food offerings. Whether you prefer tequila, rye, gin or any other spirit, the house cocktails have you covered. The nonprofit restaurant also aims to fill a multitude of societal and business needs in the community through its workforce development program.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger