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Photo by Chris Casella
Photo by Chris Casella

Something’s Tasty in Denmark

The windows that stretch across the eastern wall of the lounge look out onto High Street, the hulk of the Greater Columbus Convention Center controlling most of the visual space. It’s a view shared by other area establishments, though nowhere is it more a part of the ambiance.

It could be a bit symbolic, as the new cocktail bar known simply as Denmark aims to bring people together and produce some fresh ideas: not entirely unlike the convention center. Only smaller.

Okay, a lot smaller. But the space is being used wisely.

Denmark is one of three new offerings taking up residence in the old Yankee Trader building at 463 N. High St. The folks behind this new second-story Euro-spot also own The Secret Cellar, appropriately located in the building’s basement. It provides Denmark with a sort of working stockroom that operates its own bodega-style model of commerce, selling a carefully curated selection of gourmet local goods. The whole building is licensed for consumption, by the way, so feel free to take your drinks down with you. The whole thing smacks of Copenhagen – at least, that’s the goal.

Sandwiched in between on the ground floor, appropriately enough, is Brooklyn import Bareburger, an eco-friendly farm-forward exotic burger joint that Denmark cocktail guru Garry White is happy to consider a sister restaurant.

The eco-friendly bit is apparently a family tradition. White’s journey to this point has led him all over the industry landscape, in and out of kitchens and bars, large and small, helping new spots open and watching old ones close.

Now his kitchen is the bar.

Faced with the prospect of complementing the rangy cocktail menu with food from a kitchen that didn’t exist, the Denmark crew had to get creative. A rapid-cooking service oven with a touch screen that looks like the thing belongs in a Prius helps turn out a selection of hot, crispy flatbreads. Key partnerships with North Market icons (Omega Bakery, The Greener Grocer, etc.) and chefs (Dan Varga of Explorer’s Club) bolster the offering. A sous vide machine opens the door to a whole world of infusion techniques.

“There’s no hood. Which means no flame,” says White, gesturing to the micro-kitchen behind the bar. “It just made sense to combine the two, the kitchen and the bar.”

And that’s where White is making his mark. In an industry in which it is difficult at times to prevent waste, White is using his love for food preservation—gardening, canning, pickling—to help Denmark embrace the self-sustenance lifestyle and help carry the banner.

“It started with jams and jellies. After a while, I said, ‘Why not turn these into syrups for cocktails?’ That quickly made its way into bitters, cordials, liqueurs, and shrubs. With what I have here, I can make what used to be a six-week product in just a couple hours.

Once we started working with sous vide, we wanted to push it farther. I love mason jars – I have them all over my house. So instead of plastic bags, which are wasteful, I started using the jars.”

It’s part of the overall philosophy. Take the Spiced Pecan Old Fashioned. Whole pecans seasoned with salt, pepper, and cayenne get the sous vide treatment with bourbon, sealed up tight to prevent the alcohol from evaporating. The cocktail gets a deep pecan infusion and plenty of spice from the cayenne. The boozy nuts are the happy byproduct and make their home on a beautiful cheese board with White’s own strawberry basil jam and a local brie from Mayfield Road Creamery.

Golden beets get pickled with thyme and other spices; blueberries get soaked in balsamic. The beets go on to become salads and the blueberries get skewered; the leftover brines turn into shrubs and shine in various cocktails, like the Black & Blue Manhattan. It all fits.

“We’re so small, we have to try to reduce waste and keep our offerings in balance,” says White. “It winds up providing a natural link between the food and the cocktails.”

And Denmark itself can be a natural link between districts. North of downtown but south of the Short North, White considers the spot to be something of a gateway between the two.

“We can give the locals what they love up here [in Denmark] and down in The Secret Cellar show out-of-towners some of the best of what Columbus has to offer,” he says. “We want to help drive the community.”

Secret Cellar, Bareburger, and Denmark are located at 463 N High St., which is alluded to in Denmark’s “4,6,3” happy hour: $4 selected wine pours, $6 classic cocktails, and $3 pints – all from 4 – 6:30 p.m. For more, visitwww.463northhigh.com.

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