Cocktail Hour: The Seelbach Cocktail

Chris Seelbach with the original hotel sign

Okay, just a disclaimer.  I picked this particular cocktail and the profile of the City Council candidate who shares its name because a) I like the cocktail, b) it’s Derby and appropriate and c) he’s a neighbor.  So as not to be partisan, if any other Cincinnati  City Council candidate for 2011 out there would like equal time, I’m happy to give it– as long as you have a cocktail that matches your name.  Fair?  Cocktails will have to be found on and can’t be of your own devising.  Contact me at to chat!

When I was thinking about drinks to talk about for Derby, the first one that came to mind is the Seelbach Cocktail.  Named for the Seelbach Hotel ( in Louisville, it celebrates Kentucky’s bourbon legacy with a shot of champagne.  I’ve liked this cocktail since the first time I made it: it’s got a bourbon kick, sure, but it’s cut a bit by the champagne and triple sec.  Plus, it has Angostura *and* Peychaud’s. What’s not to like?

I also thought about my neighbor Chris, who’s running for City Council.  What better way to talk about the cocktail but by talking to a local whose grandfather owned The Seelbach?  So we sat down at the Lackman Bar in OTR– no Seelbach Cocktails, sadly– and chatted.

Chris was born in Louisville, the great-grandson of Charles Seelbach, who immigrated from Koln, Germany and opened a small cafe that added 30 sleeping rooms, then eventually expanded to become the Seelbach Hotel.  The Seelbach eventually became a premier hotel in the US, hosting eight sitting presidents, mentioned in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” and has Kentucky’s only AAA Five-Diamond restaurant.  Though a Seelbach hasn’t owned the hotel since 1926 (they are now owned by Hilton), Seelbachs still work at the hotel, and the bar still serves up its namesake cocktail.

He moved to Cincinnati in 1998 to attend Xavier University, and later got a law degree from the University of Dayton.  He’s since been involved in many human rights-related campaigns in Cincinnati, including heading up the repeal of Article XII, and is running for council as the first openly gay council candidate.  He’s running on a platform of livable neighborhoods, lowering crime, balancing the budget and creating economic growth.  He “loves the vibe of OTR”, the neighborhood in which he’s lived since 2004.

I’m not a political blogger and won’t pretend to be one, but I did ask him about something I know is near and dear to the hearts of many wine me, dine me readers: small businesses.  “I know how important having restaurants, art options, and walkable communities is to wine me, dine me readers.”  He proposes investment in walkability, livability, and transit as well as finding out “how do we make Cincinnati a place to build business?” and making Cincinnati more attractive for those businesses. He is also concerned with making neighborhoods, like OTR, safer not with more police officers, but with upkeep– the “broken window” philosophy of crime: if a neighborhood is maintained and people are invested in it, crime will drop as people will be more watchful.  He’s a graduate of Citizens on Patrol training, and a big proponent of expanding the program.

Enough with the political stuff. Let’s ask the fun questions.

DSC_0056First, what is his favorite restaurant?  He hemmed. He hawed.  He debated.  “I love the vibe of Senate.  I love Nada. I love Palomino.”  He paused.  “Senate. Final answer.”  He briefly had a hot dog named after him at the OTR eatery– a vegetarian dog, as he has been vegetarian since the age of five.

What’s his favorite cocktail?  It’s not the Seelbach.  He’s a vodka drinker.  “I love Bloody Marys, but you’re really not supposed to order them at a bar,” says Seelbach.  “So I started drinking a very specific cocktail.  Ketel one, frozen with Sprite Zero– from a can, fresh from the refrigerator.”

I’ll have to try it.

Thanks for spending time with us, Chris!  Who’s next?


The Seelbach Cocktail

1 oz bourbon (I used Four Roses)

.5 oz triple sec (I used Patron Citronage)

7 dashes Angostura Bitters

7 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters


Pour bourbon, triple sec and bitters in a champagne glass. Stir.  Top with cold champagne (about 4.5 oz for a six ounce champagne glass). Drink as you’re rooting for the pretty filly to run for the roses.