HomeMakers Bar is a new Over-the-Rhine venture from owner duo Catherine Manabat and Julia Petiprin, awash in retro vibes and aiming to celebrate makers of all kinds.
“(It’s) this idea that Cincinnati is our home. We both made this; we choose to call this place home,” Manabat says.
She and Petiprin are transplants from Los Angeles, though they didn’t know each other there.
“The idea of a ‘maker’ is really intriguing and something we want to celebrate. It’s more of this idea of making something of yourself,” she says.
The definition of a maker is fluid, but it was directly inspired by the alchemic art of mixologists (though Petiprin says they don’t really use that term) and bartenders — the folks who release their creativity and passion through the process of crafting cocktails.
Manabat and Petiprin have their own respective histories with drink-making and met by a stroke of serendipity at a Watershed Distillery-sponsored event. Manabat was a Watershed sales rep at the time, with a résumé that includes a stint as a bartender and member of the 21c Museum Hotel’s opening team; Petiprin was one of the owners and founders of Sundry & Vice, where she is still a partner, though not involved in operations.
“I think the reason Julia and I work so well together is we have a lot of the same values, and we’re really invested because we’re not from here, we see how special this is — that kind of outside perspective,” Manabat says. “We’re really committed to being part of the community and helping build it, because we know how talented people are here.”
Petiprin says she and Manabat first discussed the prospect of opening their own bar about two years ago, when they were running a cocktail competition. A year ago, they started looking for a space and HomeMakers officially opened in June.
The interior of HomeMakers is a well-struck balance between retro, kitsch and contemporary, thanks to Petiprin’s background as an interior designer. Open and airy, the walls are cerulean blue and salmon pink, with blond wood floors and furniture. There are cute bands of colorful stripes running along one wall, tasteful neon signage, a chandelier made from forks from a kid’s camp and an arcade game. HomeMakers feels a bit like stepping into a perfectly preserved suburban 1950s kitchen. More remnants of a prototypical family kitchen can be found in the bar top itself: it’s made from hundreds of shards of decorative plates, encased in a sort of epoxy.
“The whole idea behind a lot of the items here is repurposing,” Petiprin says. “It’s taking those things that might be antiquated, or that remind us of something, but using them in a different way.”
I visited on a recent Thursday evening and my drinking companion and I stuck to the “A Stiff Drink” portion of the menu, though the lighter-bodied beverages under “Keep It Light” sounded tempting, too.
“Catherine and I bonded over our love of vermouth,” Petiprin says. “We’re really trying to highlight aperitifs, digestifs and low-proof spirits. We incorporate all of those things we love very much, that might be unfamiliar to those not involved in cocktails, (and) we try to make them in the style of ’50s and ’60s cocktails using those European spirits.”
“I think it’s great to be able to deliver a unique experience in a familiar vehicle,” she says. “If you look at the menu, it’s intentionally not overly verbose. We don’t use long Italian names for the things we’re using because it can be intimidating. We want people to focus on the flavor profiles they like, and we want to help them tailor their experience when they’re here, but also share (with them), you’re drinking this really cool Italian amaro or French aperitif.”
I am not a big gin fan, and I ordered the It’s Toasted without realizing it was made with bourbon-barrel gin instead of straight bourbon. All’s well that ends well because I actually loved it. The coconut LaCroix and candied ginger garnish were my favorite parts of the cocktail. The Hires To You, with rum and root beer-infused aperitif wine, went down fast and the Big Rest, with mezcal and grapefruit, packed a very pleasant punch.
In true “maker” spirit, many of the items on the menu are made in-house. The raspberry vermouth for the More Bounce spritz (an Americano-inspired cocktail), the strawberry shrub for the Taste the Fruit and the tepache (fermented pineapple) for the Big Rest are all made in the bar’s kitchen. All the juices are freshly squeezed; they go through three cases each of limes and lemons a week and one case of grapefruit.
Manabat and Petiprin are resourceful, too, turning the strawberry from the strawberry shrub into jam, and serving that on their quirky and fun bites menu. Lots of bars treat food as an afterthought, and while restaurants that serve alcohol are distinct from bars that serve food, I, for one, welcome the move more bars are making lately by incorporating more substantial snacks into their offerings.
“We wanted to do something that very much was part of the concept, so it’s all based on cocktail party food from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s; twists that make sense for us,” Manabat says. “We just wanted to have fun with it. In one of the cream cheeses (for the salami roll ups), we use some of the cucumbers we use to infuse the vermouth.”
Other menu options include ham salad and buffalo chicken salad finger “sammies,” served crustless; pesto dip spiced up with banana peppers; a cheese bowl using local Urban Stead quark; and Welcome Wagon charcuterie boards. Newly introduced are late-night Home Pockets — what Manabat calls a “grilled cheese-pop tart hybrid, with Sixteen Bricks dough.”
On the horizon for HomeMakers is the opening of a small back-room bar that will utilize a reservation service for those after a low-key respite, plenty of food pop-ups and collaborations, and continuing DJs on Friday and Saturday nights.
HomeMakers Bar, 39 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine, homemakersbar.com