Mouton - a suave and new Short Norther - is currently my preferred place in Columbus to sip cocktails. Its head-shakingly impressive, expertly shaken quaffs are bright and adult, not those shake-n-fake, flabby and kiddie-sweet drinks so prevalent these days.
That's why I don't mind much that Mouton keeps odd hours, or that its air conditioning is barely up to the task. And I hardly care that Mouton doesn't make any of its own food, because the snacks it has are on the fabulous side.
Taking over the former Ohio Art League location, Mouton's white-painted space retains plenty of its identity as an art gallery. Outfitted with simple, artisanal, Amish-made wooden tables, a small marble-topped bar and handsome, facade-spanning windows, the look is crisp, spare and elegant.
Mouton's marvelous cocktails follow that same sophisticatedly stripped-down aesthetic. They're not striving to be creative concoctions but rather are tight and clean-tasting classics made with near scientific precision. No simple feat.
There's an aromatic Manhattan; a Gin Gimlet that hammers you with its fetching flavor of freshly squeezed lime juice; a pale-gold, fizz-tastically refreshing French 75 topped with a Cremant d'Alsase; an invigoratingly bitter Negroni; and a spot-on, lovely margarita.
Because the 20 or so old-school cocktails ($7-$13, $2 off during happy hour) are all so delicious, they overshadow the small, if well-chosen list of wines. If that seems odd given this place's name (Mouton is French for sheep, and here it's an homage to the famous Bordeaux wine Mouton de Rothschild), then it's also odd you have to inquire which wines are actually available - they're not listed by name, only by description.
On the noshing front, Mouton offers excellent cheeses (recently it was a creamy and pungent aged Bijou goat cheese) served with a fitting foil of almond, sea salt and date crisps. There's also sprightly olives, great bread from Eleni Christina and the Speck Americano from prestigious Iowa pork producer La Quercia (like silky, sweet and beautiful prosciutto with a whiff of smoke).
If one day soon Mouton extends its hours and service to include good morning coffee and more chewable diversions, then all the better. In the meantime, I'll just have another mildly minty Whiskey Smash and one more slice of that kick-ass Iowa ham.