Spirited Away To Columbus, Ohio

Watershed distillery in Columbus, Ohio
Watershed Distillery
Noble Cut Distillery in Columbus, Ohio
Nobel Cut Distillery

YOU HAVE a new reason to go to Columbus beyond the lively, diverse neighborhoods: the microdistilleries dotting the city, racking up international awards. Their appeal is due to more than high-quality tipple—namely, convivial spirit-makers with stories to tell and in-house eateries worthy of praise in their own right. Here’s the, um, proof.    

With Nashville hotspots, such as Miranda Lambert’s bar and restaurant, Casa Rosa, serving its products, Noble Cut Distillery (614-532-9888, noblecutdistillery.com) has a list of purveyors that continues to grow. What drives the demand? “We use a proprietary yeast for distinctive alcohols,” says owner Tony Guilfoy. The unique mash bill of their whiskeys is also key. “Before you waste money on a new whiskey, compare the mash bill to a whiskey you know you like. They’re all online. The more corn, the sweeter.”

Watershed distillery in Columbus, Ohio
Watershed Distillery

The hourlong tour at Watershed Distillery (614-357-1936, watersheddistillery.com) makes you privy to the process from grain to glass for their eight products, a bottled Old Fashioned among them. Later, grab a seat at the copper-top bar in the chic eatery for “Pickledillies” and hay-smoked baby backs. Mr. Sparkle, a salted plum, apricot, and whiskey slushie, makes a refreshing cocktail-to-go.

Entering Columbus’s Middle West Spirits (614-299-2460, middlewestspirits.com), you confront a huge, ornately carved, wooden-back marble bar dating to the 19th century before meeting guide Andrew Huffman. “Bourbon is exploding,” is his first observation. Be that as it may, much fuss is made over their Vim & Petal gin. “It’s less juniper-heavy than gin usually is,” explains Huffman. “It’s finished with 17 other botanicals.” Is that his favorite? He demurs, but offers that their honey vanilla vodka, mixed with cream soda, is “amazing.” Top Chef ’s Avishar Barua is the brains behind the new menu at Service Bar, Middle West’s restaurant. 

DISTANCE 176 miles
DRIVE TIME 2¾ hours
STAY Drop your bags at the Art Deco Hotel LeVeque (hotellevequecolumbus.com), which shares the landmark LeVeque tower with the gilded Palace Theatre. A jazz-themed Starbucks awaits in the lobby, no small thing after a day of imbibing. Ask for a room on an upper floor with a river view.
EAT Brunch at Katalina’s (katalinas.com), a cozy cafe serving up Latin-leaning comfort food. While you wait for the pancake balls stuffed with sweet and spicy bacon or Mazatlan pork sandwich, sign your name on a wall. It’s encouraged.
INFO experiencecolumbus.com/columbusdistillerytrail