The bartender talks new spirits in an old neighborhood establishment
What is it like to drink booze, Fruity Pebbles and magic? Ask bartender Greg Burnett, who created the Pebble's Punch cocktail at Wunderbar, which opened earlier this month in the former Max & Erma's space in German Village.
“When I explain it to people, I have to build them up to the idea that I'm going to batch this giant cocktail, and then we pour it into milk,” Burnett said. “The milk breaks from the lemon and separates in curdles. Then, it's somewhat of a long process to strain all the milk solids out. … We soak the milk in Fruity Pebbles first, and then strain out all the Fruity Pebbles.”
The result is a silky, pink-tinted, clarified milk punch with the colorful cereal sprinkled on top for good measure. Even though the menu is full of other imaginative cocktails such as The Polynesian rum drink and the Baja to Bangkok tequila offering, the watering hole isn't branding itself as a cocktail bar.
“People can drink whatever they want,” Burnett said, likening cocktails to just one of several tools “to give people an awesome experience.”
Another contributing factor is the food, provided by Pierogi Mountain, which shares the building, along with the Kollektiv co-working space.
“They had a really cool chicken cordon bleu [pierogi],” Burnett said of the ever-changing offerings. “And they smoke their own sausage back there. It's so good.”
Though changes have been made to the interior, patrons of the old Max & Erma's will recognize some familiar decor, including the Tiffany Lamps, framed photos and mounted animal heads.
“Everything on the walls is original,” Burnett said. “We took everything down and then we did all of our renovations … and then put things back up, but not where they were, and not everything.”
A couple of the old stools built with human-looking legs remain, as well as the distinctive sculptures of women, both mounted behind the bar.
A new chalk art piece by Bryan Nicholaus Grey depicts a diverse group of patrons partying at the bar. The real-life establishment sees a similar variety.
“Lots of younger neighborhood people [and] older neighborhood people,” Burnett said. “And then you have some college kids, which I was surprised about because there's 100 bars between here and campus.”
Once a student at Ohio State, Burnett opted for a career in the bar industry instead of becoming a high school teacher. In addition to working at Wunderbar, he helps manage the 614Tiki pop-up bar.
“We get to go into work every day and make people happy, and it's something new every day,” he said. “It's a gift.”