CINCINNATI — After visiting Homemaker's Bar and listening to its owners, it's not hard to image famed American Chef Julia Child mixing drinks behind the counter – if she had spent her life crafting cocktails instead of cooking fine cuisine.
"I want people to be excited,” said Catherine Manabat, co-owner of Homemaker's Bar. "They have to get so excited and not find cocktails intimidating. We want it to be fun and approachable.”
While not directly inspired by Child, Manabat and her business partner, Julia Petiprin share an enthusiasm for cocktails similar to Child's love of French cuisine.
Child, who died at 91 in 2004, spent decades on television introducing audiences to French food. Starting in the early 1960s, the chef used her quirky sense of humor to make sophisticated-sounding dishes less intimidating for millions of Americans. She also encouraged viewers to try the recipes at home and be more adventurous when dining out.
Before opening Homemaker's at 39 E. 13th St. on Wednesday, Manabat and Petiprin said everything about the cocktail bar reflects their passion for getting more people to enjoy well-crafted drinks.
"All cocktail bars that you think about or go to, traditionally are very dark,” Petiprin said. "They are kind of secret. I kind of just wanted to flip that on its head.”
Manabat agreed, "A lot of these spirits (used in cocktails) sound so fancy and unapproachable and so you have to deliver them in a way that is approachable and fun."
To that end, the bar's decor is a kitschy ode to mid-to-late 20th Century American design.
Homemaker's is decked out in pink and blue walls, light oak tables and flooring, tall windows and twinkling lights strung from high ceilings. The bar's top features pieces of broken fine china under a layer of glass.
Behind the bar, a well-trained staff mixes spritzers and highballs made with low-proof spirits. They're also ready to ask questions, educate and tailor drinks to individual tastes using an array of dry vermouth, sherry, fortified wines and Italian bitter-sweet liquors, according to Petiprin.
"What we do with those is then we take them into this idea of the era of the '50s and '60s and ‘70s,” she said. “We twist cocktails using those ingredients.”
Manabat added that she's very aware how lucky she and Petiprin are whenever someone decides to venture out and spend their hard-earned money on a new cocktail at their bar.
"So, if they are going to spend their money, I want it to be on something they really love," she said. "I think our staff knows how to ask the right questions."
The pair has also applied familiar twists to Homemaker's fanciful food menu of light bites that Child might have appreciated.
"It’s all based off of cocktail parties from the '50s and ‘60s,” Petiprin said. “If you were to find one of those old recipe books, you’d see some of these recipes, but once again, we’re taking it and doing a modern twist on it. Instead of a cheese ball, we have a cheese bowl. On our charcuterie board, we have salami roll ups. So, we’re having fun with it.”
By the way, those charcuterie boards are served on primary-colored lunch trays featuring cheeses from Urban Stead in Evanston. There is also a humus dip created especially for the bar by nearby Aladdin's Eatery and freshly baked bread from Sixteen Bricks on the menu.
Together, Manabat and Petiprin applied more than 30 years of experience working in the bar industry to opening Homemaker’s.
Manabat moved from Los Angeles to Cincinnati in 2012 to help open Metropole inside the 21c Museum Hotel. She then helped craft its award-winning cocktail program and continues to teach a craft cocktail making series at the hotel.
"I want people to be excited about making cocktails at home because the more excited they are at home, when they come out to bars the weirder we can get,” Manabat said.
Petiprin moved from Los Angeles to Cincinnati in 2015 to open Sundry & Vice in Over-the-Rhine as one of its co-founders. She also used her skills as a formally-educated interior designer to design Sundry & Vice's interior. She left that cocktail bar earlier this year to launch Homemaker’s.
"Our biggest thing about this space is we want it to be happy,” Manabat said. "We want people here to see little moments and it makes them smile. We just want it to be a joyful, welcoming space.”
Homemaker’s Bar is open 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday; 1 p.m.-midnight Saturday; and closed on Tuesday. For more information visit www.homemakersbar.com.