The emergence of the big-city-style, 12-dollar craft cocktails here in Columbus has been well documented. In this very publication, we’ve explored the phenomenon from the most luxurious at-home bars to the most authentic public offerings. As artisans, mixologists have no qualms about taking time and care in making their creations.
Somewhere along the way, even the most ardent cocktail aficionado can get impatient. The pomp and grandeur behind making a drink can be fun. Less fun, across the board, I would argue, than actually drinking. And where would that leave a high-volume bar? Cocktail-less?
Enter Pint House, the Park Street-style beer garden crossover that took up residence in the Short North last April. From outside, on a busy night – with the big bay windows open and the photo booth flashing – there is certainly a bravado, a blustery quality to PH that does not exude the same controlled quietude of your average bespoke cocktail bar.
Fortunately, Pint House brass brought in Hans Maggard, formerly of The Top and past Cocktail Hour subject, to consult, manage the bar, and help bridge the gap between beer garden and bitters.
The product of this union: draft cocktails. (Quiet, purists. Grown-ups are talking). The draft cocktail program rolled out in late November of last year with the idea to streamline cocktail service to the benefit of all.
At nine bucks a jar (and anywhere from 15 to 23 percent alcohol by volume), Pint House rolled out an opening menu offering the vodka-based Lavender and Blackberries (a Jeni’s homage), a Tart Apple Mojito, and a White Grape Sour.
These days, the former two remain, and you’ll now find the hot-selling Blueberry Lemonade and a Rum Punch filling out the list. Maggard plans to have new concept cocktails rolling out once every month or so.
The first and most obvious question is one of quality. Are you getting the same caliber of beverage from the inside of a big batch keg as from a single Boston shaker? In theory, when you mass-produce anything, quality goes down. But this is still a small-batch process. One man, one pot.
“It’s much more like baking than cooking,” Maggard expressed when pressed on the subject. “Quarts and liters as opposed to quarters of ounces. But it’s no less precise in the end.”
Maggard makes all the infusions, custom syrups, and the like. One could even argue that, without the pressure of making a drink on the spot, to order, the mixer can take ultimate control and fine-tune the product at his leisure.
When I asked Maggard if he thought that draft cocktails would have a negative impact on the trade, he just poured me some of his house-made ginger beer and said, “If someone ruins [cocktails], it’s gonna be the people who would’ve ruined cocktails anyway.”
You can find Maggard at Pint House every night, but Sunday and Monday, and if you’re lucky, you might bend his ear as he pulls you a cold one (though he’s typically behind the scenes rather than behind the bar). Whether it’s a selection from PH’s surprisingly rangy craft beer selection or one of Maggard’s own mixes, your whistle will be wet in no time flat.
The Short North Pint House & Beer Garden
780 N High St.