Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Smoking Dun

Drink: The Smoking Dun
Type: Alcholic
From: Gram & Dun
Price: $10
Description: Sultry

Sitting on the large patio on The Plaza discussing the Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival, I couldn't help but try out Gram & Dun's signature cocktail: a Templeton Rye based cocktail with smoked ice, cherry, lemon, and rosemary.

The drink: sweet, smokey, citrusy, light.

This cocktail has great rye flavor with the tart addition of lemon juice and the sweetness of Rotham & Winter Orchard Cherry. The smokiness from the ice and rosemary is a subtle addition that adds depth and great flavor.

Five Points

Drink: Five Points
Type: Alcoholic
From: Julep
Price: $10
Description: Light

This cocktail lounge has a great atmosphere in which to relax with seating available at the lovely bar, at high top tables near the large windows, and on plush couches. While The Monarch is my favorite, I was glad I tried this herbal cocktail off their summer menu.

The drink: clear, refreshing, herbal, light.

The addition of fresh thyme makes it truly unique and gives it a lightly herbal smell. The whiskey based cocktail has a subtle flavor that isn't overpowering and perfect for sipping while enjoying the wonderful Low Country Crab Dip.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Paris of the Plains

In lieu of the normal #ThirstyThursday posts about local cocktails, this week is all about celebrating our great city of Kansas City, known fondly as the Paris of the plains since the Prohibition era.

Side Note: this makes a great tattoo. Just ask Ben Retter.

A week's full of events all over the metro area culminates in the bartending competition at the Uptown Theatre at 6p.m. on Sunday, August 24. Tickets are only $20, and it's going to be fantastic. 

I'm feeling especially excited about Brock Schulte of The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange and Top-Hatted Tex (Jonathon Bush) from Manifesto

Check out the full schedule of events: 

Tickets and information can be found at the PopFest website!  - Cheers!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lemon Tini

Drink: Lemon Tini
Type: Alcoholic
From: BC Bistro
Price: $7
Description: Fresh

As delicious as the BC Tea is at this local bistro, which a bunch of other cocktail options, I decided to branch out and try this lemon martini. Hand made by the incredibly friendly staff (who are not at all judgmental on the number of times I frequent their establishment...), this cool, summer martini is exactly what you want a lemon drop to be.

The drink: fresh, light, citrusy, sweet.

One of the best things about this martini is is that it doesn't have the bitter vodka flavor that lingers oftentimes, which is a testament to both the quality of ingredients and ability of the staff. This little corner bistro has great food, a great staff, and delicious cocktails. 

Iced Mocha 2

Drink: Iced Mocha 2
Type: Coffee
From: The Friendly Bean
Price: $3.63
Description: Chocolatey

Thanks to some Yelper friends, I finally made it to The Friendly Bean over at the corner of North Oak and Barry Road. Small, but full of charm, this coffee shop definitely lives up to its name. The staff is incredibly friendly, as were the patrons who were sipping on coffee, chatting, and plucking away at laptops.

The drink: smooth, creamy, light, full of mocha.

Along with a delicious brownie, I enjoyed the iced mocha, reminiscent of chocolate milk with the hint of espresso aftertaste that isn't overpowering or harsh. It was light and felt like a true treat.

Full Steam Black Tea

Drink: Full Steam Black Tea
Type: Tea
From: Hugo Tea Company
Price: $9.99 per tin
Description: Smooth

This local tea company has been on my radar for awhile. Hugo Tea Company is based here in Kansas City, providing organic loose - leaf teas all around the metro area. Sold in both grocery stores, restaurants, and coffee shops, this tea is definitely worth checking out.

The drink: pure, clean, light, tasty.

This black tea is perfectly blended without being tart or sweet. There's a wonderfully pure tea flavor that comes through, both when brewed traditionally and made as sun tea. Found in the Natural Section of my local Hen House, I had trouble selecting which tin to purchase: Berry Rooibos, True Jasmine, White Cloud, or the Full Steam. I'm glad I selected this black tea - it's incredibly versatile.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Springtime in Paris

Drink: Springtime in Paris
Type: Alcholic
From: The Farmhouse
Price: $10
Description: Citrusy

The Farmhouse has been on my list since I started this blog, and I finally made it through the coercion of my friend Margot, who just happens to be one of the kick-ass bartenders at this restaurant in River Market. Made with Citadelle gin, St. Germain, grapefruit and Chinese five spice cordial, fresh lemon and fresh grapefruit, this summer cocktail is very refreshing and tasty.

The drink: flowery, tangy, citrusy, sweet.

During our fresh and delicious lunch (pork tenderloin sandwich for me and the veggie sandwich for my buddy) in the old brick building with a lovely patio and open spaced bar, we were treated to delicious food and this gimlet-esque cocktail. Locally sourced produce and food really puts this restaurant over the top, as do the house-made condiments (and fries). Can't thank Margot enough for a great time!

BC Tea

Drink: BC Tea
Type: Alcoholic
From: BC Bistro
Price: $6
Description: Happy

This take on the Long Island is a near-perfect copy-cat of the Long Island Iced Teas at Heroes in downtown Warrensburg. Every Thursday we used to hit up Pine Street for those tasty cocktails served in giant glasses, and have lamented the fact that we've never found anything even close around here in Kansas City.

I can't express how excited I was to discover this Long Island Iced Tea at BC Bistro. This gem is only a block from my house in Platte Woods in the Northland. The food is wonderful, created by Brent Mattison, formerly of Nick & Jake's, and the front of house is run by Coley Rice, who presumably created this perfect iced tea cocktail.

The drink: sweet, refreshing, delicious, strong.

I got mine without tequila, since it tends to upset my stomach, and it was still completely awesome. Happy Hour is 3-6pm on Tuesdays-Fridays, with specials on martinis, wells, beers, and small-plates. I especially appreciate the $4 SD Strong Vodka on the menu. The atmosphere is nice, clean, and the staff is friendly and the bar area is fun. Oh, and if you like a good chicken salad sandwich, get one here with the house-made chips.

Iced Mocha

Drink: Iced Mocha
Type: Coffee
From: One More Cup
Price: $3.25
Description: Blended

On a hot day, I just can't so no to an iced coffee. The only issue being sometimes they're overly sweetened and upset my stomach. This was not the case at One More Cup in Waldo. The drink was a perfect blend of coffee and mocha flavor.

The drink: creamy, light, chocolatey, with great coffee flavor.

What I think my favorite part of this coffee shop, besides the delicious and unique drinks, is the obvious family aspect to it. The space is so warm and inviting, leaving no one feeling socially awkward or unsure. The staff is incredibly friendly, especially owner Stacy, and concerned with making sure each guest feels as though they're at home. The small shop (with an awesome patio out front and out back) is cozy and perfect for relaxing, reading, catching up on work, or spending time chatting with friends. Next time I'm definitely getting one of their signature Cali-Colas.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Booze School - Distilling

Kansas City's Yelp! (headed by the awesome Matt E.) has been hosting Booze School this year. Each class is dedicated to one type of booze (i.e. whiskey, rum, hops, champagne) with the host location changing to a location befit the education. This was the sixth booze school event, and the first distillery tour.

July's Booze School, D is for Distilling, was hosted by the family-run Dark Horse Distillery in Lenexa. 

The first impression of this distillery is just how gorgeous the space is. The group was greeted with high ceilings and lush furniture, a well-stocked bar, and floor to ceiling windows looking in on the distilling process. The bar was tended by friendly staff whipping up their signature Barn Sour, a white whiskey based cocktail*, refreshing and frothy.

Dark Horse moved into the space in 2010, got their first bourbon and ryes into barrels in 2011 and then started on their vodka recipes. Rider Vodka and the Long Shot White Whiskey came out in 2012, and the Reserve Bourbon Whiskey and Reunion Rye Whiskey began selling in 2013. 

The guys at Dark Horse are adamant about being a small craft distillery. The idea is to be different and memorable. They intend on staying small batch and are not interested in competing with the big brand names.

"Craft" is about transparency and openness.

DHD brings in as much local grains as possible (i.e. wheat, rye, corn) and do all their own milling. They only use yellow corn number one, which is cleaned and sorted and high quality, and their rye is 100% rye with no secondary ingredient.

Rider Vodka: super light, 100% wheat, smooth, designed to drink neat. 

Fermentation Tanks

Mash: Heat the grain and cook it in water to change the starch to sugar. Each grain is different; the corn has to be boiled, but the rye cannot be boiled or it will be ruined. The last step of mashing is adding the yeast to the mash cooker before transporting it to the fermentation tanks. 

Fermentation: All the grain and liquid gets added to ferment together. There are three byproducts of fermentation: heat, carbon dioxide, and alcohol. The heat is kept under control by a custom water-cooling system, the carbon dioxide is taken out through vents, and the alcohol is kept in the tanks for 6-7 days. 

The alcohol gets distilled in their copper distiller and taken out of the mash stuff by steam and vapor. 

Dark Horse's 500 gallon copper still is their work horse. It was commissioned out of Louisville, Kentucky and was the first piece of equipment ordered. The number on the still is what is provided in order to get a liquor license. Chester Copperpot (as they call him) is a hybrid that took 7-8 months to build before trucked to Lenexa and put together over a week. 

The alcohol receiver (seen above) transports all kinds of alcohol and allows the staff to test and taste to find the best parts. Out first comes the heads, which contain all types of bad alcohols. The alcohol receiver that has chambers to filter out the heads and tails. The system is sensory and done by hand, nothing is automated for cutting the chambers. They wait until completely clear hearts come through the receiver before cutting on the chamber. 

Refining: 1000 lbs. of grain, 500 gal water yields about 50 gal of hearts, which is a very small batch (unfortunately a relative term - there are no guidelines in terms of what that means). The entire process has been based on learning, research, and refining the process for what works best for Dark Horse. 

Long Shot White Whiskey: Clear, warming, and the closest thing to the hearts you can taste. 51% wheat. The white whiskey doesn't sit in the barrel; it's dumped in a big barrel that they made and it runs out the bottom so that it "touches the barrel" as per the law. Has a similar feel to agave, but a completely unique and full taste. 

The byproduct that is left is called stillage. It's hooked up to hoses and pumps in order to remove it from the copper still. Some backseed is saved to help with the next batch (for consistency, and in order to make it a sour mash recipe). The liquid is strained and the rest goes to stillage containers and used as feed for a local dairy farmer and an angus beef farmer. The feed is donated three times a week and has lots of grain and protein for the cows. It's often called cattle crack. Occasionally the mash is used for making bread. 

Dark Horse typically does 7-8 distillations per week, and can do up to 10. 

Barrel Aging: Aspects that affect barrel aging:

- Honeycomb and groove charcoal (#3 char), which is the char on the inside of the 30 gallon barrles.
- The warehouse is not climate controlled. The more expanding and contracting (from climate changes), the more flavors that are imparted into the spirit. 
- Four sizes of barrels. 
- All the wood is aged outside for two years before being made into a barrel. 
- Angels Share (spirits that evaporate during barreling) and Devil's Cut (spirit that spills out of the barrels) leads to a caramelization on the barrels that act as a scratch-n-sniff. 

The guys explained that it is a myth that to be considered a bourbon, the spirit has to be made in Kentucky. The requirement is that to be considered bourbon, the spirit has to be barrel aged in a New American Barrel, and none of the barrels can be reused. Dark Horse sells their barrels to all sorts of other uses. 

Reserve Bourbon: 80% corn and 20% rye, aged two years. Sweet, mapley, smokey and sweet. Smooth because of the use of only the hearts. 

Reunion Rye Whiskey: 100% rye mash. Harkens back to prohibition rye and was the first to be put into barrels. My personal favorite from the tastings. Patrick (the distiller) sits and hand writes and signs all of the bottles to verify. 

At the end of the tour, the bartenders crafted Elder Fashions*, a take on Old Fashioneds made with the reserve bourbon and Elderflower liqueur. 

The tour was informative, fun, and eye-opening. All the staff were friendly and knowledgable, and clearly excited about the products they are crafting. The passion and interest that goes into this distillery has lead to some very impressive spirits, all of which are certainly memorable. 

Barn Sour

1 1/2 oz Long Shot White Whiskey
3/4 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz lemon juice
1 dash Angostura Aromatic Bitters
Egg White

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and shaker tin. Dry shake for at least 5 seconds then add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with drops of bitters, swirling into the meringue. 

Elder Fashion

1 3/4 oz Dark Horse Distillery Reserve Bourbon
3/4 oz St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
2 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters
1 tsp. club soda

Combine all ingredients into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass and stir slightly until cold. Garnish with an orange peel and serve.

Lemon Prickly Pear Snowcone

Drink: Lemon Prickly Pear Snowcone
Type: Snowcone
From: Little Freshie
Price: $3.25
Description: Tart

I haven't been able to decide what I like most about Little Freshie on the West side. It might be how adorable the shop is, the delicious pastries, the hand-crafted espresso, or the fact that all of their naturally-based flavors are available as sodas, slushies, and snowcones. Flavors change weekly, but are available online to see. They always have their spicy ginger fizz, sparkling lemonade, and house made shrubs. Other flavors I've seen are raspberry rose, root beer, and green tea pear.

The drink: citrusy, refreshing, cool, flavorful.

While not technically a drink, this snowcone was amazing. It was lemony with the tartness and pucker factor of the prickly pear. If you haven't tried prickly pears, they tend to be polarizing. My grandfather had a tree in his garden and they are truly unique. This is a great way to experience the fruit in a pleasing way, with the lemon and sweetness of the syrup adding to the taste.

I think for my next trip I'll order one flavor three ways and see how each method changes and enhances the flavors.

Be sure to check out this soda from Little Freshie!