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Cocktails and Class

May I see a cocktail list?

That’s a question you’re likely to toss out at many of Columbus’s finest establishments.

But Watershed hands you much more than just a menu, instead opting for an in-depth document detailing the hopes and dreams of its drinks—and the dreamers and those who help shape them.

Did the distiller and now kitchen + bar make up their John Wesley Powell School for the Shaken & Stirred? Yeah, probably. But now, everytime you walk in to Watershed, you get to sit down with an honest-to-God “yearbook,” where the staff gets creative in telling you which drinks are destined to be somebody outside their walls.

Owners Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo sit in the superintendent role, the wait staff is the Debate Team, and the Alex Chien (bar) and Jack Moore (kitchen) preside as principals, respectively.

Since the yearbook was the brainchild of the HR Department (Watershed’s in-house marketing team and JWP’s head counselors), we had to get a little extra gossip about the Class of 2017.

Can you give us a little history about the founding of John Wesley Powell? Well…When John Wesley Powell defined a Watershed as that area of land…within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community we removed the word ‘community’ and replaced it with the word ‘school.’ Then we made a school!

Can you tell us a little but about the curriculum, or what a day in the life at JWP is like? The curriculum can be a little tough at times. We spend our mornings learning about syrups, and infusions, and the differences between egg whites and their vegan substitute, aquafaba. We have a course that teaches us different techniques on things like when to shake a cocktail versus when to stir a cocktail. Our instructors let us try spirits that are made here, and ones that come from all over the world so we can build a palate that helps us come up with balanced drinks that everyone can enjoy.

Did the superintendents give you editorial free reign when it comes to the yearbook? Heck yeah! Except for the one time someone scanned a butt and tried to put that butt on one of the pages … they didn’t like the butt. Other than that, we spend about three months brainstorming, and finalizing drinks with Vice Principal Alex Chien, and getting the best designs possible from our amazing Art Teacher Greg Davis. It’s a lot of work, but when we get to see the final product, the whole school is pretty proud.

As school counselors, what are your biggest challenges when it comes to handling a school where all the seniors students are alcohol? It can be difficult sometimes. Some of our spirits can be bullies if you don’t reign them in. Sometimes Bourbon tries to push wimpy flavors like strawberry into a locker, and they’ll get away with it, too, if you don’t step in. Balance between our Senior spirits, and our underclassmen liqueurs and flavors is one of our top priorities. We have weekly meetings with our syrups, and new flavor techniques to talk about their future and potential.

As far as those students, I know you don’t wanna play favorites, but which of them do you think have the most potential, post-JWPSS? We are proud of all of our pupils at JWPSSS, but there are definitely some exceptional students among them. Most Likely to Succeed was voted well…Most Likely to succeed for a reason. Also, Most School Spirit has a way of getting people going, and really bringing well…Spirit to those around them.

Along those lines, who from JWP do you worry about once they leave your warm embrace? One of your staffers appears to be raging against a machine….
Oh, you’re referring to Grant Bain. He can be a little hot-headed at times, but this year he really stepped up as the Debate Team coach, and despite them finishing 8th at districts he can comfortably argue why they deserved 6th at least.

What do the JWP staff do when school is out?
You could say we take it pretty easy. When we aren’t ripping beers on the patio of Seventh Son, we’re probably straight crushing brunch cocktails on Lindey’s patio. You might catch us absolutely slamming Lushies at Oddfellow’s, or getting a mad mind freezer from a Frozen Irish Coffee on the rooftop of Little Rock. For real, hit us up some time. We’ll hang this fall for sure.

What is the class motto for the Class of 2017?

“No regrets”…that, and “everybody Wang Chung tonight.” •

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Travis Hoewischer

I’ve been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.

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