In Columbus, Ohio at the corner of East 5th Avenue and Summit Street there is a place called Bristol Bar that sells snow cones flavored with alcohol. That notion itself was enough for me to cancel my plans on a Wednesday night and investigate immediately. Upon arriving at Bristol Bar I could feel the creative and open-minded spirit of Columbus’ Short North flowing through me. I was met by a doorman who was genuinely happy to be alive, a trait I rarely see in those guys. I walked in to find a hip modern interior all around me. The place was very clean, the floor was all hardwood, and the side of the building facing the street was almost entirely glass. Just inside to my right was a large bar and to my left was a doorway splashing me with a gout of ultrapop electronica that I guessed was coming from the DJs in the next room. I turned down the rhythmic temptress and descended on the bar to seize my first of many snow cones.
I looked at a paper menu for all of ten seconds and decided on the Nutty DDS. Amaretto, Crème de Coco Dark, and Orgeat Cordial were listed as the pieces to the masterpiece and they rewarded me for my choice. I felt the child in my heart grow as his favorite summertime treat evolved around him. I alternated between eating the flavored ice from the top and using the straw to siphon more liquor up from the bottom of the snow cone cups.
I ventured into the other room which opened up into another smaller bar, a DJ working his craft to a dance floor and the rest of the room filled with leather couches and tables. It was a great set up to either sit and enjoy my drink or dance up close and personal with the DJ as he poured liquid gold from the speakers to my eardrums. During a lull in the music I struck up a conversation with a very helpful waitress named Jillian. I asked her why I didn’t see more people with snow cones. Was it wrong that I planned on enjoying at least three more that night? She explained that many people were eating them and that I must have missed them. When I told her how I thought the two halves of the bar complimented each other she asked if I had been out on the back patio.
Until that point I didn’t realize there was a back patio. She directed me past the bathrooms and through a door that led to the outside. The patio looked like a steam room or sauna and there were tons of people on the benches talking, laughing, and listening to the music coming out through a window to the smaller bar. I found out a bit later that you can also order from the bar through that window. I got the normal bar feel in the first area of Bristol Bar and could dance the night away in the second; this back patio is where I could bring friends and enjoy each other’s company under the Columbus night sky. I was thoroughly impressed with the dynamic layout of the Bristol Bar. Content with my exploration I decided it was time for another drink.
During my second trip to the bar I actually looked over the menu a bit and saw they had plenty of other appetizing drinks that weren’t snow cones. This time I chose the Polamo which consists of blanco tequila, grapefruit juice, salt, and 7-Up. It was a light drink and the citrus flavor of the grapefruit juice proved to be the most dominant, with the occasional saltiness being a pleasant surprise. The bar had filled up at this point and I began to notice how truly diverse and interesting the crowd had become. The DJ had his own scene crowd but there was an outer rim of people that my friend Sean would describe as, ‘people who’ve been indie so long, it’s no longer a label.” Of course there were also the polo shirts and Greek members who frequent the bars in the area. I even noticed a couple people that I’ve never seen outside of a house party. I know of them only because they dress like the Beastie Boys and my brother fits into that group. It was a very eclectic crowd and everyone was very friendly and approachable.
At this point I met with the Bristol Bar Director of Public Relations, Colby Friedman. Colby had a light frame and a friendly tone and seemed to know everyone in the bar. I took this as a clue that he must be very good at his job. He told me Bristol Bar had just reopened after remodeling four weeks prior and the crowd that night was a testament to the fact that they were recovering from a two month hiatus very rapidly. He also pointed out the artwork on the walls and explained that Bristol Bar showcases work from a different artist each month with the help of the Roy G. Biv Gallery in the Short North. This month’s featured artist was a friend of his: Lea Gray.
We made our way to the main bar and Colby had me try two of the more popular martinis and one that isn’t on the menu yet. I started off with In the Land of Milk and Honey, a blend of vodka, honey liquor, half and half, Amaretto, Orgeat Cordial, and Cracker Jacks served with a graham cracker. I had seen this on the menu before and was very interested in trying it. I snatched up the cracker, dipped it deep into the white drink, and slammed it into my mouth. On the 7th day, God rested and tipped back these babies. Second up was the mystery drink. It was a deep purple and tasted of a blend of berries and deliciousness. When this thing gets set loose on the public it’s going to cause a commotion. I knew better than to ask what was in it, and accepted that I’ll have to wait patiently for its target launch date this winter. I left Bristol Bar’s signature drink, Summit Slut, for last. I knew full well I was about to indulge in greatness. Vodka, peach schnapps, white grape juice, and cranberry. Summit Slut created a paradox for me. It was clear and crisp so I wanted to keep drinking it, but it tasted so good I wanted to slowly savor every drop. I was fully immersed in martini goodness and decided I was breaching the outer limit of my professional drinking limit. After taking some time to enjoy the dance floor and saying my goodbyes to Colby and Jillian, I headed home from my successful adventure.
I had been drawn to Bristol Bar by the novelty of snow cones and found myself enjoying their quality martinis and phenomenal atmosphere. It was quite an experience and I found myself compiling a list of friends that needed to know this place existed. A good spot for almost any kind of night, Bristol Bar is one of the places I plan on frequenting when I move to Columbus in September. If you find yourself in Columbus, tired of the usual bar scene, stop by 132 E 5th Avenue and enjoy everything Bristol Bar has to offer. If you see a tall guy passed out on a couch, still twitching to the beat, and surrounded by snow cone cups, wake me up and introduce yourself.
By: Joey Rovinsky Photos by: Drew Slatton