It’s cold. Like, really cold. The last thing I thought I wanted to do was shiver my ass off at an outdoor patio on a blustery evening that feels like it could be negative 15 degrees. But when I walked into the back patio at Basi Italia the other night, I felt instantly comforted. The enclosed, heated space felt warm and cosy and they even had blankets at each seat. I used mine as a butt warmer.
I came to Basi, not to try their amazing food (which I ate anyway because it’s, well….amazing) but to sample Chris Manis’ winter cocktail menu. I first became intrigued by Manis’ work when I reviewed his cocktail menu at Tree Bar in the fall. After sampling those scrumptious spirits, I knew I had to make a trip to Basi to try more of his creations.
Once again, Manis did not disappoint. The menu is diverse, but well-rounded with a clear and coherent winter theme. When I asked him to codify that theme, he said, “Anything that warms me up.” Ranging from accessible to complex to downright rich, there is a spirit for everyone at Basi. I started with the lightest drink on the menu, the Mary’s Cloak. Made with Rosemary Infused Watershed Vodka, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, fresh meyer lemon juice and Grand Marnier, this cocktail is bright and flowery, but wintery. The flavors were perfectly balanced — the Elderflower gave botanical complexity and played off of the Rosemary perfectly. Perhaps my favorite part about the cocktail was the garnish. Manis turned the half lemon inside out so it floated at the top of glass, then stuck a sprig of Rosemary in it and roasted it in the Grand Marnier. Sexy, huh? It even LOOKS provocative.
Next, I tried the Red Cross, a concoction of Four Roses Bourbon, Campari, Cinzano Sweet Vermouth, fresh blood orange juice, simple syrup and Peychaud’s & Regan’s Orange Bitters. Manis turned absolutely giddy when he started talking about the blood orange in this drink. It’s his favorite flavor, and with good reason. It worked really well in this cocktail, balancing the bitter Campari and making the drink nice and wintery.
My final (and favorite) cocktail was the Mexican Hot Chocolate. The base is, of course, house-made hot chocolate made with cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg and an orange rind. It’s complemented by Avion Tequila, Demerara syrup, and a toasted house-made Chartreuse marshmallow. Let me tell you, this was the best hot chocolate I have EVER had. It was so smooth and warm and gooey and delicious, and the marshmallow…oh that marshmallow! I swear it is made of dreams and unicorns and rainbows. I almost hallucinated after tasting it!
The cocktail menu is rounded out by a Cardamom hot toddy and a dark and delicious Cafe Cognac. There are nightly cocktail specials as well, subject to Manis’ whim. Perhaps the best thing about these delicious drinks is the man behind them. Manis has a true passion for his craft. They’re more than spirits to him; they’re art, and he makes them just as complex as a fine bottle of vino.
My typical nightly winter regiment consists of me laying in bed in my pajamas with about seven blankets on top of me, drinking cheap beer, and watching repeat episodes of Arrested Development. But I was glad I braved the cold to hang out on the (warm) patio at Basi and sip some delicious cocktails. If you can bring yourself to emerge from hibernation, I suggest you head over to Basi and try them yourself.
Basi is located at 811 Highland Street.
This is a guest post by Molly Borchers. Molly moved to Columbus two years ago from Washington,
D.C. and she’s been enjoying the city’s libations ever since. Molly began studying wine four years ago, attending wine tastings and classes, conducting tastings in her home, and reading as many books on wine as she could get her hands on. She even poured wine at a wine bar part-time for a summer. When she’s not out on the town imbibing culture, wine and cocktails, she can be found in a yoga studio doing headstands. Check her out online at mollyborchers.com.