When Shawn Ford first heard about Stefan Was and his plans to open Porco Lounge, a proper tiki bar in Ohio City, he knew he had to be a part of it. And he was, from opening day until six months ago, when he left to open his own bar. That bar is the Crafted Cocktail Co. (991 High St.) in Wadsworth.
“I spent a lot of time at Duffy’s Love Shack in St. Thomas, which has been the point of reference for tiki for like 18 or 19 years,” Ford explains. “When I saw that they were opening a tiki bar in Cleveland, I wanted to be a part of it.”
Ford, who was making the nightly journey to Ohio City from his home in Portage Lakes, quickly noticed that a good portion of his clientele was doing the exact same thing.
“When I was working at Porco, nearly 40 percent of my clientele were driving in from Akron, Canton, Fairlawn, Bath, Medina and Wadsworth,” he says. There was nothing in the area that could compete at the same level of quality.
In November, Ford and partners Jeff Wolf and Daniel Strecker purchased the one-year-old Bar 252 – and quickly changed everything about it. Ford brought in and trained an entirely new staff, he rewrote the menu, and polished up the interior. His goal was and is nothing short of being the best cocktail bar around. Like all of the best bars, everything here is made from scratch, including mixers like grenadine, bitters and orgeat syrup. The back bar heaves beneath the weight of 39 different bourbons.
“Our main goal is to be the first proper cocktail bar in the Greater Akron area,” he says. “This market can only ignore the trend for so long.”
While there is plenty of overlap between the classic cocktail world and the tiki world, Crafted Cocktail is not a Porco knock-off.
“Obviously, being a craft cocktail bar, we have some tiki influence. However, we didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into one particular genre of cocktails.”
In addition to cocktail classics like Moscow Mules, Billionaires, and Old Fashioneds, Crafted Cocktail whips up tiki mainstays like Fog Cutters, Zombies and Trader Vic’s famous Mai Tai. The proprietary Amnesia, with nearly eight ounces of strong booze and “enough fruit juice for you to swear there’s no alcohol in there,” became an instant hit, says Ford.
“It’s become a rite of passage,” he says of the 18-dollar drink. “We sell about 15 per night on weekends.”
Most cocktails are priced in the $9-12 range.
Management recently added some food offerings to the mix, including the flaming Pu Pu Platter for two ($22), with Caribbean shrimp sate, Thai-chile chicken sate, chips and queso.
“These are fun times,” Ford says. “After 22 years standing in a puddle in this industry, I've finally got my own bar.”
This Thursday, March 12, Crafted Cocktail will celebrate its official ribbon cutting.