Walk into Fifty Fifty Gin Club in Over-the-Rhine and you’re in a different era. It’s still Cincinnati, but time’s turned back in all the right ways.
Nostalgia pours from the blue walls, sandy wood furniture and red lighting. The room makes you feel like you’re about to run into an old friend. The drink of the night is gin and it’s got a lot of its own stories to tell.
Attached to Homemakers Bar, which describes itself as a slightly retro, mostly modern cocktail bar, Fifty Fifty Gin Club offers around 60 different gins, from locally distilled to imported Japanese varieties alongside representatives from seemingly every distinguished gin-producing region. The cocktail menu runs the gamut (or gimlet) of all of gin’s expressions, making it an alluring destination for juniper lovers.
“I love the experience of going to new cities and discovering little nooks,” Julia Petiprin, the bar’s founder, tells CityBeat. “This was the perfect opportunity to create a little nook in the city — it’s almost like a little hideaway.”
Petiprin’s credentials in OTR’s drinkeries are notable, as she’s the co-founder and owner of Sundry and Vice as well as Homemakers Bar. Regular patrons of Homemakers Bar, which has been open since 2019, would recognize Fifty Fifty Gin Club as the former mentioned bar’s extra seating area. The original building’s beautiful doors were being put to waste in the scant used space, so Petiprin’s instinct was to set up an additional bar.
“I’m a bar person, so I’m like, ‘Put a bar everywhere!” Petiprin says.
The bar seats 22 guests, so don’t plan on simply dropping by with a large crew and expect enough seating. The menu includes the inventive mixology that made Petiprin’s other bars so highly regarded, harboring a genuine spirit of adventure with unique recipes that are obviously the result of years of joyous gin-fueled experimentation. There’s nuanced adherence to proven standard recipes with no shortage of creativity. For example, instead of using simple olive brine in a dirty martini like so many other bars do, Fifty Fifty uses the pickling brine from its own house-made gardiniera (a mixture of peppers and aromatic vegetables pickled in tart and salty vinegar-based brine) — still salty and savory, but with an added little kick.
There are plenty of other cocktails, too. The current menu offers a watermelon negroni, which pairs Salers – an aperitif – with Hendrick’s gin, Dolin Blanc vermouth, clarified watermelon juice and salt. The sparkling beverage is a refreshing and light way to cool down after a hot day. Other drinks include several iterations of gin and tonic, plus wine, beer, and even cocktails made with vodka or bourbon.
While the menu is gin-forward, it doesn’t discriminate against those who don’t have room for the herbaceous spirit on their palate.
The selection of light bites shows a deep sense of solidarity with other locally owned culinary entrepreneurs. There are roasted marcona almonds from Tablespoon Cooking Co.; a mini cheese board with seasonal preserves and quark, a creamy European-style of cheese from Urban Stead; and bread and dipping oil with some chimichurri from The Empanada Box, which recently opened its first permanent brick-and-mortar restaurant in Covington.
For those not familiar with what distinguishes gin from other spirits, Petiprin and her staff can talk through history and options with patrons.
“We offer cocktail classes, more gin-centric stuff in the future, for sure,” Petiprin says.
Fifty Fifty Gin Club is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings for walk-ins, though Petiprin says reservations are preferred.
Fifty Fifty Gin Club, 35 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine, fiftyfiftyginclub.com.