Owners behind Settle Down Tavern open innovative cocktail-forward bar next door

Settle Down Tavern co-owners Brian Bartels, Ryan Huber and Sam Parker reimagined a former men's boutique into a new cocktail bar, Oz by Oz.
Ozbyoz Black Squirrel cocktail
Photo by Ryan Huber
The Black Squirrel Old Fashioned is made with toasted pecan bitters which are made in house by co-owner Brian Bartels.

Settle Down Tavern co-owners Brian Bartels, Ryan Huber and Sam Parker reimagined a former men’s boutique into a new cocktail bar, Oz by Oz.

Oz by Oz opened in mid-October at 113 King St., where Context Clothing was owned and operated by Huber and Parker for 15 years. It is a physical extension of the Settle Down’s space but offers a different vibe from the tavern next door.

interior of Oz by Oz with moody lighting and a selection of art on the walls

Oz by Oz has an evolving collection of art that is tied to the bar’s cocktail list. (Photo by Ryan Huber)

“I do a lot of collecting of antiques and oddities and art,” Huber says. “And with Brian being a writer, we wanted to use his abilities to work that into the story of Oz. … During COVID we were talking about looking at how we as people interact with the world around us, how we look at our health and things like medicinal herbs and how we experience the world in general [with things like] astrology and religion. We wanted the space itself to communicate that both in the beverages and the aesthetic.”

The house cocktail menu, listed under “Poisons/ Antidotes,” is Bartels’ brainchild and many of the drinks feature some of his inventive bitters, including the Black Squirrel Old Fashioned made with house-toasted pecan bitters and brandy.

clear bloody mary from Oz by Oz

The Freezer Bloody Mary — it’s clear! — is made with tomato and celery gin and house celery bitters. (Photo by Ryan Huber)

“It’s a drink a lot of people are gravitating towards,” Huber says. The Freezer Bloody Mary — a surprise in that it is clear-colored — features tomato and celery gin paired with celery bitters and vermouth. Oz by Oz also has an extensive amaro menu, which Huber says has been used traditionally for medicinal purposes. “If you look at history, people got amaro and bitters from the pharmacy,” he says. Beer and wine are also available, along with complimentary miso popcorn from Settle Down Tavern’s chef Joslyn Mink.

Featuring an evolving collection of artwork (most of which is for sale), one of the centerpieces of Oz by Oz is the ouija board engrained in the wooden bar which was created by local artist, Tuohy. “Some people look at as an art piece and are wowed by it, others see it as a ouija board and say ‘I don’t want any part of that,’” Huber says. “Others are like, ‘I can talk to spirits while I have a drink? This is amazing! Where is the planchette?’” A planchette — a little piece of wood said to reveal mysterious written messages — is in the works, Huber says.

Another feature of the bar is Corduroy, Bartels’ 13-week-old puppy, who cozies up with bar patrons who make their way to the love seat near the back. “We are around him all of the time so I took him for granted but when you see people’s reactions [to Corduroy,] it’s pretty magical,” Huber says.

Amaro On The Shelf at Oz by Oz

Oz by Oz has an extensive amaro list, known for its medicinal properties. (Photo by Ryan Hubar)

Oz by Oz has minimum signage but has been discovered by locals since opening just a couple of weeks ago. “People in Madison will find a new bar,” Huber says. Huber also credits the long history of guests, friends and family who visited the space when it was Context Clothing. “And Brian’s cocktails seem to really resonate with people in Madison,” Huber says. “The creativity of the layout and the cocktail list really mirror one another. The art on the walls is really engaging — it looks like it grew out of the walls — and the cocktail menu really ties in and connects with that energy.”

Footer that says Subscribe with covers of Madison Magazine