Axford is a short, stocky mixologist who can rattle off recipes for 500 different cocktails and 200 martinis. Among his signature drinks is the Bazooka Bubblegum Shooter, made with Southern Comfort, banana liqueur, grenadine, and cream. He's also known for his cherry-garnished Stiletto martini with Skyy Berry vodka, blue curaçao, and sour-lemon mix. But to Axford, bartending is more than just making a potent libation. "You can always go to Borders and pick up an Idiot's Guide to Bartending to learn how to make a drink," he says. "If you can't have a conversation with your customers, you're not giving them a memorable bar experience."
Deep amber in color, with subtle hints of spice, Rocket Fuel is brewed with a blend of Belgian yeasts, double malt, and more hops than LeBron at tip-off, yielding a flavor so rich, it may require its own seat at your table. Brewer Matt Cole says Rocket Fuel's pressure-fermentation process explains its deceptive punch. We don't know what that means either, but the beer's 8 percent alcohol is just this side of knock you on your ass. Drink it on tap in the brewery's boisterous confines, or take it home in a half-gallon growler.
As the Bible says, "Man cannot live by brewskies and shots alone." If you're looking for a dessert beverage -- something sweet yet powerful -- it's time to hit Bounce, a gay club in Ohio City that's home to the best Harvey Wallbanger in Cleveland. Think of this bad boy as a screwdriver with a kick -- vodka, Galliano, and orange juice ensure that you meet your daily requirements for vitamin C while getting trashed.
Twenty years ago, Iza Riazian took a trip down to South Carolina, where he walked into a noisy oyster bar and realized it was exactly what Northeast Ohio needed. He immediately opened the Noisy Oyster, and he's been serving the area's only oyster shooters ever since. The cocktail includes one oyster, delivered fresh from Louisiana and shucked on order, with a sprinkling of lemon juice, a dab of cocktail sauce, and a healthy dose of vodka. It goes down smoothly, with hints of the sea and spice adding an exotic touch.
McNamara's has catered to its shot-and-a-beer clientele ever since Cleveland firefighter Gary McNamara bought the old Gleason's pub in 1998. The eight beers on tap -- from Guinness to Harp to Blue Moon -- are priced at a remarkable $2 a pint. "The people who come here have found out by word of mouth," says weekday barmaid Erin. "It's our getaway from the rest of society."
The View does everything it can to discourage riffraff. The bar is discreetly located in a brick building guarded by beefy security guards with condescending expressions worthy of Olympic skating judges. Upstairs, women in skin-tight Seven jeans and sparkly Chloe tanks cluster on the black leather seats, sipping appletinis. At the rooftop bar, men drink $12 glasses of Crown Royal and ginger, and survey the skyline. This is one View worth admiring.
You'll enter from the broken-down street to find a tuxedoed man playing jazz at a grand piano. Owner Paulius Nasvytis bestows a fresh rose on each arriving female patron. Dine on truffles, fondue, and exotic fruit. Drink a glass of Grand Marnier for $12, or a glass of Hennessey Timeless cognac for $750. But be warned: Codes of dress and behavior are strictly enforced.
Walls plastered with Buckeye memorabilia, 16 flat-screen TVs, and a menu that includes $5 pizzas and dishes named for Jim Tressel and Chris Spielman: No wonder this place is all scarlet and gray on Saturdays.
Jonesin' for some "Dr. Feelgood"? Check out Big Hair Wednesdays at this gearhead-themed bar. Maria, the sultry midday DJ from WMMS 100.7, hosts all the best '80s and '90s metal. Go forth and bang thy head.
This dark little place has live Irish music on Thursday and Friday nights. The bartenders know how to pour a good Guinness, and sometimes they hold competitions for customers to try their hand at it. And if there's a soccer match being televised anywhere in the world, it'll be on one of the TVs.
The Harp is the most Irish bar you can find without flying to the Emerald Isle. This West Side institution has 11 Irish, Scottish, and British beers on tap, plus rare Irish whiskeys. The menu includes boxty, an authentic Irish potato pancake. And each meal comes with homemade Irish soda bread.