In 2013, the number of craft cocktail bars in Cleveland more than doubled thanks to the addition of Society Lounge, Katz Club and Porco Lounge and Tiki Room. Velvet Tango Room turned 17 and the Fairmount finally dropped the "Martini and Wine Bar" descriptor from its moniker. Meanwhile, area restaurants doubled down on craft cocktails, and trends like barrel aging began to take hold.
It's a golden age in Cleveland for painstakingly prepared cocktails, but whether or not there's enough demand to sustain it remains to be seen. To a large extent, many locals are still testing the waters. What follows is a list of some who are dipping a toe in the shallow end, all the while yelling at the lifeguard for forcing them to get in the pool.
"Can You Make That with Vodka?" Lady
Saddles up to the bar and orders a classic gin cocktail – hold the gin, please.
Old Fashioned Bro
Arrives wearing a tuxedo T-shirt with six of his closest bros and surprises everyone when he actually knows how to order at a cocktail bar. To his group of bros, Old Fashioned Bro is that kid in gym class who went through puberty two years before everyone else.
Dirty Diaper-Face Friend
Reacts to new flavors like a 3-year-old trying asparagus for the first time. Dirty Diaper-Face Friend has managed to remove the word "yucky" from his or her lexicon but still can't keep from showing public displeasure after a single sip of Fernet-Branca.
Bar Glass Kleptomaniac Gal
What began innocently enough with coasters and swizzle sticks has escalated into full-on thievery of barware. But please, do keep cramming stuff into your purse – that one copper Moscow Mule mug is really going to be a hit at your next party.
The "Do You Know Who I Am?" Guy at VTR
Cites his position as VP of Vice Presidents at Major Bank as the primary reason why rules should be bent and service should be expedited. In the dim and moody lighting of VTR, no one can read your business card.
Talks about His Drink Too Much Guy
"Did you know that George Dickel Rye is the same thing as Bulleit Rye and Templeton Rye? Hey, wait up! Where are you going?" Guilty as charged.
The Overconfident Free-Pouring Bartender
You're so good at free pouring that you needn't measure your drinks, yet you're compulsively sniffing the cocktail shaker to check your work? Got it. Hold the nose hair garnish, please, and please try not to wave my drink under any of your orifices.
Also, if you're going to make a Ramos Gin Fizz, don't let me catch you eyeballing the half and half directly from a wide-mouth carton. And if you do mess it up, don't let me catch you shrugging afterwards.
"Does That Have Sugar in it?" Lady
Agave nectar and honey are fine, but simple syrup is an absolute no-no. Not sure why? Oh, she'll explain. Like "Can You Make That With Vodka?" Lady, this customer is extremely particular about a single aspect of her drink but could not care less about the rest.
Over-40 Only Drinks Martinis Guy
Don't hate. If you came of age knocking back bad whisky sours and cocktails like Sex on the Beach, you'd have strong opinions about olive brine too.
Under-25 Only Drinks Martinis Guy
You're in business school, ready to show the world that you've arrived. You've got a pinstriped power suit and you're counting down the days until that first well-done filet mignon on the company card. It's dog eat dog out there – in the 1980s.
The Post-Mixology Hipster Bartender
He built a career on hand-crafted cocktails but is now leading the backlash against them just as they're all the rage in Cleveland. The Post-Mixology Hipster Bartender "just thinks that drinks should be fun, you know?" and has a great idea for a bottled Negroni.
Flubber Panties Lady
Gin makes her mean. She had a bad night with rum. Tequila makes her panties fly off. Flubber Panties Lady assumes no responsibility for her behavior while intoxicated and yet can speak "authoritatively" on broad categories of spirits (based on the bottom-shelf swill she drank in college).
1890s Anachronism Bartender Guy
I appreciate the period garb and facial hair, but are you planning to make me a drink or tie my wife to the train tracks?
Vodka Preference Guy
Walks into a craft cocktail bar and rattles off his 17 favorite vodkas, but orders a Dortmunder Gold upon learning the bar stocks none of them. His palate might be refined enough to assess spirits which are by definition largely odorless and flavorless, but heaven forbid he try the Ohio made OYO vodka – or a cocktail.
Red Bull Guy
Best friends with Vodka Preference Guy and equally as disappointed.