Thursday, May 29, 2014

Booze School - Rum

So while not a specific beverage post, Yelp KC's Booze School is so awesome it demands its own. Run by the LAB 5702 marketing team and Matt from Yelp.

Booze School is hosted at different locations around KC, each class focusing on a particular liquor. So far A is for Agave at Port Fonda, B is for Beer at Kansas City Bier Company, J is for Juleps at Julep, and this one: R is for Rum at The Kill Devil Club.

The purpose of booze school is to provide base level information in a setting where people can feel safe to ask questions and learn about different types of liquors, wine, and beer. Tickets can be purchased online!

Homer (the GM at Kill Devil Club) and Travis hosted at the lounge located at P&L in 2012. It was recently named as one of the top new US bars by Food and Wine in 2013 among other accolades. It's the best rum bar you can get to. According to the guys, Spanish settlers called rum "strong enough to kill the devil," inspiring the name for their jazz-filled bar. 

Rum is any distilled spirit made from sugarcane; although, today, all but a few are made from molasses. Styles come from what the rum is derived from (molasses, syrup, or extracted juice), the types of barrels used and the length of the aging time, the distilation process itself, and what spices and flavorings are added and the time they are added. Rum doesn't have set "rules" like other liquors, making it unique in every way - flavor, coloring, taste. 

Experts on the matter delivered information in a casual and enlightening manner - Homer and Travis really know their stuff. As a teacher, I can appreciate a well-rounded and prepared lesson that obviously has planning and effort behind it.

The discussion covered:

Rum Drinks and their Origins

- Daiquiri (1900-1920)
- Mojito (1920-1930)
- Caipirinha (1930-1940)
- Mai Tai (1940-1950)

How to Taste Spirits

- Don't smell like a wine, it's too small
- Small sip to work in all corners of the mouth
- Exhale with mouth lightly open to hit the soft palette

Bar Practice

The guys brought students behind the bar to help showcase both classic and new rum drinks. They did a great job really involving everyone and giving great technique pointers, carefully walking everyone through the creation of mojitos, a rum old-fashioned, their take on a dark and stormy - Tempest, and a frothy egg drink I can't recall the name of (I blame all the rum)*

*I looked it up: Bacchanal.

Rum Tastings

1. Plantation 3 year rum. Blend, Silver Rum: sweet, smooth, with a unique depth of flavors and character. Lightly spicy and tingly at the end. 

2. Plantation 5 year rum. Blend. Sweet smell with soft, almost coconut or vanilla flavor. Feels syrupy and smooth with a tangy spiciness. 

3. Plantation Nicaragua (1999) aged 9 years. Depth of smell, sweet and dry at first then tingly strong, acidic, lightly floral and spicy at the end.

4. Plantation Jamaica (2000). Smells fruity, tastes like a spicy fruit. Sweet, extra smooth and extremely light with a hint of light and fragrant spices. Super intense depth to the layers of flavors. 

Fleur Diable

Kill Devil Club specializes in rum punches and avant-garde techniques. 

Kill Devil Punch
1 L Don Q Light Rum
1 L El Dorado Dark Rum
1 L Batavia Arrack
1 L Cinnamon Bark Syrup
1 L Lime juice
1 L Water

Mix all ingredients. Party.

Bandulu Punch
1 L Velho Cachaca
500ml Plantation Overproof
2 L Pineapple-Coconut syrup
160z falernum
25 dashes Angostura bitters
sprigs of mint

Mix all ingredients. Party!

Rum Old Fashioned

Upcoming: N is for Negronis at Extra Virgin on Sunday, June 1.


Drink: Pendergast
Type: Alcoholic
From: The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange
Price: $10
Description: Amazing

The Rieger is located in The Crossroads District on the corner of Main and 20th. You can't miss the J. Rieger & Co Whiskey sign on the side of the brick building (side note: J. Rieger Whiskey is coming back). It's also the restaurant that houses Manifesto in its basement. The atmosphere is classy, laid back and authentic. You can watch chef/owner Howard Hanna and his crew in the open kitchen as you sip on some seriously great cocktails. The house-made tonics, bitters, and freshly squeezed juices put these drinks over the top.

If you like Old Fashioned and Manhattan - type drinks, you've got to try this one. Named after the Mayor that made Kansas City the Paris of The Plains, it's made with Bourbon, Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine, and bitters it's unique and flavorful.

The drink: spicy, strong, sweet, and aromatic.

The bartenders will whip you one up in no time, serve it cold with a twist, and your night will be made. It's one of the most popular drinks at the bar for a reason.

Fazenda Lagoa Brazil Roast

Drink: Brazil Roast
Type: Coffee
From: The Roasterie
Price: $2
Description: Wonderful

After going on a Factory Tour at The Roasterie, I felt compelled to buy a cup of one of their air-roasted coffees. I ended up going with the brew of the day, which was the Brazil. Served up at a beautiful bar surrounded by industrial chic decor (including parts of airplanes) with views into the roasting facility, this cup of joe was great! (Also the fact that the building has an airplane on it - awesome)

The drink: smooth, buttery, flavorful, with hints of tarty sweetness.

Based right here in Kansas City, you can't miss this coffee business. With several cafes located around the metro area, and online purchasing availability, along with their new single-cup serve options (read: KCups), there's no reason not to take this brand for a spin. You should also take the free tour, which provides a solid foundation on which to enjoy your coffee.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Springy Cashew

Drink: Springy Cashew
Type: Alcoholic
From: The Cashew
Price: $11 (2 for 1 on Mondays)
Description: Great

As per usual, a great deal brought me to this bar one night: two for one martinis. The Cashew (also the 2000 Grand) is a cute bar with loads of personality and local artwork. They have an entirely new menu, with a lot of house cocktails - including some intriguing ones with Lavender Water. The Springy Cashew has citrus vodka, St. Germain Liqueur, simple syrup, fresh lemon and a splash of cranberry juice. It's not too sweet, but has a lot of fruity and citrusy flavors. It was perfect for the warm night, cooled and served in fun tip-proof martini glasses. (The tall stemmed ones make me a bit nervous - I'm a klutz).

The drink: tart, citrusy, smooth, juicy.

Located in the always-fun Crossroads Arts District in downtown, this bar boasts a gorgeous bar, swivel chairs, and convenient sidewalk seating with a great view of downtown. If you're looking for variety and something new, check this place out.


Drink: Latte
Type: Coffee
From: Quay Coffee
Price: 12 oz. $3.50
Description: Flavorful

This adorable coffeehouse is located in the heart of The River Market district and is about as hipster as coffeehouses come. Mustachioed baristas will whip you up one of the few drinks on their simple menu. They keep it simple because of the high quality beans they use from Oddly Correct Roasters. There's loads of indoor seating, which can be found peppered with customers with laptops and books, plus sidewalk seating under the shade of the trees.

The drink: full coffee flavor, light, airy, creamy without being heavy.

With such a hearty (and not bitter) coffee flavor in the latte, I'm looking forward to going back from a regular cup to experience the true flavor from the Oddly Correct beans. You'll probably find me on the patio with a book.

White Peony King

Drink: White Peony King
Type: White Tea
From: Shang Tea
Price: $15 for 2 oz.**
Description: Soothing

This is my first foray into white tea, and it was worth the wait. Shang Tea in Crown Center does frequent tea tastings in their quaint shop surrounded by authentic oriental porcelain and beautiful tea wares. The employees are well-informed and friendly, and the owner is often available to tell you about his trips to China, where the family owns and grow their own tea plants. They have a great selection of white, jasmine, red, and wu-long teas, which can be hard to find at other locations.

The drink: smooth, silky, subtly sweet and light.

Best served hot, this tea, which is grown at the top of the Tai Mu Mountain, is fragrant and light - perfect for a spring afternoon.  After brewing in hot water for 2-3 minutes, it stands well on its own, but pairs well light tea cookies and cakes, and would be a great addition to asian cuisine. With all the health benefits of green tea, this would be a lovely substitute when you're looking for something sweeter. Additionally, this tea won the Golden Grand Prize in the Fujian Province Awards (the number one white tea in that part of China).

Teas are classified into black, green, and white based on when they're picked from the plant. White teas are very young, often even buds. Shang has a wonderfully informative blog if you're interested in learning more about their teas and services.

** 1 teaspoon per 8 oz. water

Thursday, May 15, 2014

S.D. Strong LemonDrop

Drink: S.D. Strong LemonDrop
Type: Alcoholic
From: Rusty Horse Tavern
Price: $5 (on special during happy hour)
Description: Refreshing

Rusty Horse has the best happy hour in the Northland, hands down. Monday through Friday 2-6 p.m. you can get $2 wells and their greatest deal: The Horse Thief Special (two sliders, fries, and a beer). But if you're not feeling the beer or well drinks, you should try their martini. It's made with local S.D. Strong vodka (made in Parkville) and is perfect for the upcoming warm months.

The drink: smooth, not bitter, not sugary-sweet - more like a tangy lemonade than a vodka cocktail.

The LemonDrop is mixed and cooled well, like a strong and light hard lemonade, but with the added bonus of locally distilled vodka served in a martini glass lightly sugar coated with a fresh lemon slice.

Old Fashioned 2

Drink: Old Fashioned
Type: Alcoholic
From: Westport Cafe & Bar
Price: $8
Description: Strong*

I love this restaurant: it's vintage looking (with my favorite type of light fixtures - yes, I have favorites), and has a great menu (seriously - get the bar hamburger). I couldn't help but try my favorite cocktail, especially when the house makes it with Old Overholt Rye Whiskey.

The drink: strong, sharp, aromatic, citrusy.

The first thing I noticed about this cocktail was the fresh citrus from the orange peel. It was perfectly matched with the bitters, sugar, and whiskey. It's one of the better old fashioneds (and more authentic) I've had around town, and I definitely recommend it.

*Switching from grades to descriptions to better clarify each beverage. Check it out here.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Old Fashioned

Drink: Old Fashioned
Type: Alcoholic
From: Manifesto
Price: $11
Description: Amazing

An Old Fashioned is exactly that - an old fashioned cocktail. It consists of whiskey, sugar, aromatic bitters, orange peel, and a dash of water. Easy enough, and yet not so much. The variations on the amounts, types, brands, and even the addition of other ingredients, can lead to very different results. What Manifesto (and it's upstairs restaurant, The Rieger) does best is use high quality ingredients and create true, honest cocktails. I've had a lot of old fashioneds from a lot of locations, and this one is hands down the godfather of all old-world cocktails.

The drink: spicy, sweet, tangy, smooth. Perfection.

If you're not a fan of whiskey, this drink isn't for you. The addition of briefly burning the orange peel to release the oils and rubbing it along the rim of the double-old-fashioned glass puts this drink over the top. They use the large block ice cubes so as to keep your drink cold, but not watered down. The orange peel is used to muddle and add more of an aroma (as opposed to half an orange smashed with a poison-maraschino cherry that you usually get) than as an actual "ingredient".

Have you ever wanted to know what Don Draper was on about? Get down to Manifesto and order the Old Fashioned. And for the love of all that's holy, don't ever order it with Maker's Mark. Try the Old Overholt rye whiskey instead.

In addition, I found this awesome article while researching. I can't speak to it's current accuracy, but it seems a good jumping off point.

Wedding Tea

Drink: Wedding Tea
Type: White Tea
From: The Tea Market
Price: $4.35 per 1/2 oz.
Description: Tasty

I'm so happy I somewhat accidentally found myself at this tea shop. It's hard to find truly great tea shops that carry high quality loose leaf teas. This is definitely one of those places. I was welcomed by Gatsby, the sweetest little pup, and a cup of Cranberry tea (which was warm, fruity, and light) in a flowery tea cup.

After smelling dozens of teas, ranging from greens and herbals to black, rooibos and specialties, I settled on the Wedding Tea, which had the most heavenly smell. The white tea is from China and should be steeped for 3-4 minutes at 180*:

"Silver Needle and Mutan white tea leaves are mixed with pink rosebuds, vanilla and lemon myrtle leaves - a blend that inspires long-lasting happiness..."

The drink: subtle, floral, and soothing. Perfect for a warm spring day.

Mocha Latte

Drink: Mocha Latte
Type: Coffee
From: Broadway Cafe and Roasting
Price: ~$3.75
Description: Wonderful

With window seating and great people watching, Broadway Cafe has got a lot to offer. After ordering my latte (and grabbing a croissant), the first thing I noticed was of course, how beautiful the foam and steamed milk was. I think it's such a lovely tradition and talent, and definitely adds to the drinking experience.

The drink: smooth, rich, foamy, warming.

Broadway's espresso is very good. It has almost a carmel flavor to it's subtle sweetness, and I loved that the mocha wasn't overpowering or too sugary. It was definitely one of the best latte's I've had. I can't wait to go back and try one of their coffee tastings (offered on Wednesdays).

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mint Juleps

This weekend is the 140th running of The Kentucky Derby and what better way to celebrate than with  the derby drink: the Mint Julep.

Tavern in the Village and Tavern at Mission Farms are putting on their fourth annual Derby Day Parties on Saturday, May 3 from 2 - 6 p.m. Dark Horse Distillery is helping them provide this classic cocktail, along with several unique interpretations.

The signature cocktail of the day will be the Thai Mint Julep:

Thai Julep

  • .5 oz. lavender simple syrup
  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 slice cucumber
  • 4-5 Thai or regular basil leaves
  • 4-5 mint leaves

  • In a mixing glass, muddle cucumber slice with lavender simple syrup, add ice, Dark Horse Longshot Bourbon, Thai Basil, and Mint - shake vigorously and pour into a high ball glass. Garnish with a sprig of basil and serve.

Traditional Mint Julep

  • .5 oz. simple syrup
  • 3 oz. bourbon
  • 4-5 mint leaves

  • Muddle mint with simple syrup in a mixing glass, add ice and Longshot Bourbon shake 15 times and strain into martini glass, garnish with a sprig of mint and serve. 

Peach Julep

  • .5 oz. simple syrup
  • 1 oz. peach nectar
  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 4-5 mint leaves
  • Peach bitters

  • In a mixing glass, muddle simple syrup and mint leaves, add ice, peach nectar, Longshot Bourbon, and 4-5 dashes of peach bitters - shake vigorously and pour into a high ball glass, add a splash of water, garnish with a slice of peach and a sprig of mint - serve. 

Non-Alcoholic Mint Julep

  • .5 oz. simple syrup
  • 4 oz. house made sour mix or unsweetened lemonade
  • 4-5 sprigs mint
  • .5 oz. water

  • If using unsweetened lemonade, do not use simple syrup. In a mixing glass, muddle mint and simple syrup, add ice and house made sour mix - shake vigorously and pour into a high ball glass, add a splash of water, and garnish with a sprig of mint before serving. 

Thanks to the Tavern team for providing these great recipes!! More information on their parties can be found here

You can also get your bow-tie and floppy-hat game on at Julep, Barrel 31Kansas Town, Rye, Burg & Barrel, Westport Ale House, and even VanBrock!  

The Chesterfield

Drink: The Chesterfield
Type: Alcoholic
From: The Chesterfield
Price: ($9/$6hh)
Description: Unique

This bar had been on my list for awhile, and got bumped to the top when they tweeted out their great all-day Happy Hour one Sunday afternoon. Low key atmosphere, friendly staff, and great drink selections led to a fun afternoon. We also tried the Pear Cider and Old Fashioned - both were great. The Chesterfield has a citrusy flavor backed by bitters and rye whiskey.

Aside from a great happy hour, this bar (located in the lobby of The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema), hosts a wide array of live music and dancing. Swing dancing on Fridays, salsa dancing on Saturdays, and even karaoke on Sundays. It's definitely worth a stop, especially if you're down near the Power and Light District.

Check out what I mean by the descriptions here.

Brew 101


First of all, if you haven't had tea brewed from true loose-leaf tea leaves, then you need to pause for a moment and re-evaluate your life choices. I'll wait.


Growing up, my mother was a big iced tea drinker, and I always found it bitter. My mom's a big fan of Lipton, she even uses the *shudder* Lipton instant iced tea powder (sorry mom, you know how I feel about this). So it wasn't until I was in college that I started buying different types of bagged tea. With a healthy amount of honey, or sugar, and lemon it was soothing and delicious. (Or so my poor, undeveloped taste buds thought). 

My life changed during a trip to Vancouver where I shopped at my first loose-leaf tea shop. One deep whiff from the Cream Royal black tea container and I was hooked. 

This tea didn't need sugar, or honey, or lemon. It was perfect.

Since then, I've written off the pre-packaged, pre-bagged crap they sell in the drink isle of the grocery store, because the real deal is so much better. And here's why:

  • Health: When you buy premium loose-leaf teas from a reputable vendor, you know what it is you're brewing in your hot water. 
  • Flavor: The best loose leaf teas are flavored with actual ingredients. i.e. the walnut green tea that I drink is green tea with pieces of walnut in it. The walnuts give it walnut flavor. It seems so simple, right? But with cheaper pre-bagged "big name" teas use fake flavoring. Why would you even?
  • Ritual: I've found that over the years, even beginning the ritual of tea brewing is soothing. Measuring the tea, boiling the water, and letting it steep while I prepare to settle down is such a nice habit. 
  • Tradition: the history of true tea is so much more fun than throwing in some cheap bag of dust in your water and letting it get cold and soggy. Plus, there's an elevated experience that happens when you serve at true cuppa to friends in a nice teapot. 
So now that you're (hopefully) hooked on the idea of loose-leaf tea, the next step is to transition to it! And it doesn't have to be intimidating. Tea shop owners and loose-leaf vendors are always passionate individuals who have a desire to get everyone hooked on loose-leaf teas, so you never have to feel shy about asking questions. But in the rare case that you're at all introverted like myself, here's the basic how-to:

It is important that you brew the tea properly, because otherwise you won't be enjoying the full experience of flavor and health benefits. Always feel free to contact me with questions or recommendations!

White tea leaves

How to Properly Brew Tea:

  1. Bring filtered or drinking water to recommended boiling point.
  2. Measure loose leaf tea into brewing bag. 1 tsp of tea per 8 oz water.
  3. Place bag into the water and brew for the recommended brewing time.
Recommended Brewing Times and Water Temperature:
  • Black, Herbal, Oolong, Rooibos 3-6 minutes at 212*
  • Green 3-5 minutes at 160-185*
  • White 7-10 minutes at 185*

Red Velvet Rooibos

Drink: Red Velvet Rooibos
Type: Rooibos Tea
From: Anna Marie's Tea Shop
Price: $5.50 for 2 oz.**
Description: Comforting

This is my absolute favorite tea. I buy it by the pound - not even joking. My mother-in-law took me to a formal tea party at Anna Marie's in Liberty for my birthday last year and I've been hooked ever since. The best part is the quaint tea shop located in The Terrace Avenue Inn open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 124 S. Terrace Avenue. The ladies who work there are passionate about loose-leaf tea and make a real effort to value their customers. After choosing your tea from their wide array, they'll scoop and bag it while you browse tea accessories, snacks, and try whatever sample they have available.

The drink: aromatic, soothing, sweet.

This rooibos tea is naturally decaffeinated and has a smooth, chocolatey taste that's not overpowering. It's perfect to drink by the potful on a cold winter's night. I love pairing it with a few spiced cookies and a good book. This tea is best brewed at 212* for 5 minutes. I especially love that it doesn't leave the dry, tannin-y feeling in your mouth after drinking it in large amounts (a problem I've found with a lot of black teas).

Anna Marie's offers online ordering for self-pick-up or delivery. It's worth a bit of a drive into the historic part of Liberty, and (as many friends know) if you come to my house, this is the tea you'll likely be served. What I love most is the natural flavorings of the teas they sell at this shop. In this tea you can see the white and dark chocolate chips alongside sprinkles mixed in the red leaves. There's nothing I can appreciate more than straight-forward ingredients.

** 1 teaspoon per 8 oz. water