Enter the Fifty Fifty Gin Club in Over-the-Rhin and you are in another era. It’s still Cincinnati, but time has rolled back in all the right ways.
Nostalgia pours out of the blue walls, sandy wood furniture, and red lighting. The play makes you feel like you are about to meet an old friend. The drink of the evening is gin and it has a lot of stories to tell.
Attached to the Homemakers Bar, which describes itself as a slightly retro and mostly modern cocktail bar, the Fifty Fifty Gin Club offers around 60 different gins, from locally distilled varieties to imported Japanese varieties, alongside representatives from all gin-producing regions. . The cocktail menu runs the gamut (or gimlet) of all gin expressions, making it an enticing destination for juniper lovers.
“I love the experience of going to new cities and discovering little nooks,” says Julia Petiprin, the bar’s founder. CityBeat. “It was the perfect opportunity to create a little corner in the city – it’s almost like a little hideaway.”
Petiprin’s credentials in OTR’s bars are notable, as she is co-founder and owner of Sundry and Vice as well as Homemakers Bar. Regular patrons of the Homemakers Bar, which has been open since 2019, would recognize the Fifty Fifty Gin Club as the additional seating area of the aforementioned old bar. The beautiful doors of the original building were wasted in the little 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!’ said Petiprin.
The bar seats 22 guests, so don’t just plan to drop by with a large crew and expect plenty of seating. The menu features the inventive mixology that has made Petiprin’s other bars so beloved, harboring a true spirit of adventure with unique recipes that are obviously the result of years of joyful gin-fueled experimentation. There’s a nuanced adherence to tried-and-true standard recipes without lacking in creativity. For example, instead of using a simple olive brine in a dirty martini like so many other bars do, Fifty Fifty uses brine brine from its own homemade gardiniera (a mixture of peppers and aromatic vegetables marinated in a tangy, salty vinegar-based brine) – still salty and flavorful, but with a little extra kick.
There are also many other cocktails. The current menu features a watermelon negroni, which combines Salers – an aperitif – with Hendrick’s gin, Dolin Blanc vermouth, clarified watermelon juice and salt. The sparkling drink is a refreshing and light way to cool down after a hot day. Other drinks include several iterations of gin and tonics, as well as wine, beer, and even vodka or bourbon-based cocktails.
Although the menu is avant-garde, it does not discriminate against those who have no room for the grassy spirit of their palate.
The selection of light bites shows a deep sense of solidarity with other local culinary entrepreneurs. There are toasted marcona almonds from Tablespoon Cooking Co.; a mini cheese platter with seasonal jams and quark, a creamy European-style cheese from Urban Stead; and bread and oil dipping with chimichurri from The Empanada Box, which recently opened its first permanent brick-and-mortar restaurant in Covington.
For those unfamiliar with what sets gin apart from other spirits, Petiprin and his staff can talk the history and options with customers.
“We’re offering cocktail classes, more gin-centric stuff in the future, of course,” says Petiprin.
Fifty Fifty Gin Club is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights for walk-ins, though Petiprin says reservations are preferred.
Fifty Fifty Gin Club, 35 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine, fiftyfiftyginclub.com.
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