Story by Dave Eckert | @eatsanddrinkswithdave
Spring has sprung! The birds are chirping. The grass is green from the April showers. Temperatures are on the rise. Time to celebrate with something new, lighter, and refreshing in your glass. This article is devoted to spring cocktails and a few of the best people and places around town to seek them out.
My first stop brought me to Conroy’s Public House in Westwood where mixologist Ryan Rafferty had just put the finishing touches on a couple of new cocktails to herald Spring’s arrival. “For me, the picture I get in my head is patio, outdoors, pool, something kind of spritzy, something kind of bubbly, and really fresh citrus flavors like apple,” Rafferty shared. As for the alcohol base of the cocktail, Rafferty says he favors rum and flavored whiskeys along with ciders, aged IPAs and the aforementioned bubbles. Rafferty first shared his love of effervescence in a cucumber, lime, Prosecco cooler with some simple syrup and Bacardi Limon. As delicious as that sounds, it was even better to consume. With the addition of eight picnic tables along with additional lighting and extended space for the patio at Conroy’s Westwood, Rafferty is expecting an extended and extremely popular patio season. He is ready with his cocktail creations. Number two from Rafferty – a cider sangria with an apple whiskey. The weight of the drink was perfect for the warmer weather and the flavors and textures danced across my palate.
One of my favorite spots to hit through the years is Michael Smith’s excellent Crossroads eatery, Extra Virgin. The food at Extra Virgin has always been delicious and creative, and the bar program, starting with a really solid wine list curated by Smith’s wife and top-notch sommelier, Nancy, is also great. Behind the bar, you will often find the affable and wickedly talented mixologist, Jeff Lichtenberger. I asked Lichtenberger what he conjures up when thoughts of spring begin to bloom? “Spring to me is everything fresh, herbaceous, and carefree. I picture the wind blowing and a really cool feeling,” Lichtenberger told me. “I would say my biggest thing about spring is a fresh new start.” Lichtenberger says that’s the feeling he was going for in the cocktail creation he shared with me. Like Conroy’s, Extra Virgin is expanding its patio space in anticipation of a huge outdoor season. Lichtenberger’s fantastic drink, which he titled “Bob’s Burga-Mot,” starts with a base of Kettle Citron, then adds a Burgamot-flavored cordial, a cucumber-flavored spirit called Italicus, some red pepper-extracted simple syrup, lime, grapefruit, and an orange twist. I won’t, but I COULD drink many of these over the course of a spring evening!
Out to Drastic Measures Cocktail Bar in Shawnee for some springtime insight from partner Jay Sanders. “I try to think of an experience I really enjoyed or a nostalgic moment and try and translate that into flavors so other people can enjoy that moment with me,” Sanders said. I’m not sure what nostalgic moment Sanders was remembering in his cocktail creation, but I’m happy to share it with him anytime as the tequila, strawberry, ginger, lemon, and mezcal beverage served with a house-made strawberry angostura popsicle was to die for. Jill Cockson, Sanders’ partner at Drastic Measures and the owner of the terrific Swordfish Toms Speakeasy, also weighed in, creating a Blackberry Boulevardier with Rye, Blackberry Liqueur, Sfumato, Pasubio, and a dehydrated orange garnish. “This is a well-balanced, smoky, bittersweet blackberry treat inspired by weather conducive to camping. I am typically inspired by activities of the season, as well as the regional source of agricultural ingredients of the cocktail: If it grows together, it goes together,” Cockson summarized.
Finally, a visit to perhaps my favorite watering hole, in town, The American Reserve Restaurant in The Ambassador Hotel. There, I am sure to find one of two terrific mixologists, Jake Phillips or Nick Boden. On this evening, I found both, so I queried them both about mixing it up for spring. “Bright and refreshing, something in contrast to the heavier concoctions we’ve been serving all winter,” Boden stated. Phillips chimed in with these thoughts, and his Dream of Spring cocktail. “I’ve been wanting to make something that makes the pallet scream ‘this is spring.’ I think we need this with the wild ride we’ve had both literally and metaphorically.” This list of ingredients is long, too long for this article. But you’ll find the recipe online, and you’ll almost always find Philips behind the bar at the American Reserve.
That’s it. Spring has sprung, and you should spring into action and check out these cocktail recipes created by some of Kansas City’s finest mixologists! Cheers.
“Dream of Spring”: Clarified Milk Punch
- 4.5 oz Orange Oleo Saccharum *
- 5.5 oz Lemon Juice
- 4 oz Double Brewed Jasmine Green Tea **
- 4 Yellow Chartreuse
- 2 oz Rhum Clement Blanc Agricole Rhum
- 2 oz Tanqueray London Dry Gin
- 1 oz Rittenhouse 100 Proof Rye Whiskey
- 1 oz Craigellachie 13 Year Old Speyside Scotch
- 4.75 oz Whole Milk
Combine all ingredients except the milk into a vessel that’s easy slowly pour from like a 4 cup measuring cup.
In a similar sized and type of vessel gently heat your milk (DO NOT BOIL IT). Slowly pour in the punch and allow the milk to cuddle, it sounds and looks gross at first but the final product is devine and bartenders have done this since the early days of America. Let sit for 30 minutes in the refrigerator, this will allow the milk solids to pull the pigment and tannins from the cocktail
Finally line a taller vessel with 2 layers of cheesecloth (I recommend a chemex or some sort of coffee pour over set-up). Put a rubber band on the outside so it doesn’t fall into the punch. Before straining create a small dip in the cheesecloth.
Very carefully and slower than you think necessary pour the punch onto the cheesecloth and let it completely strain. This takes so time so make room in the fridge and watch some Netflix or do some spring cleaning!
Once the vast majority of the liquid has passed carefully remove the cheesecloth without disturbing the milk solids too much. DON’T SQUEEZE. Now, move the liquid back to the first vessel and clean the carafe it was just in.
We’re going to reuse those milk solids as a natural filter so carefully reposition the cheesecloth back over top like before and ensure the majority of the solids are in the middle. This should be the final strain.
Once finished discard the solids and enjoy this silky cocktail over ice with a lemon twist! I recommend serving 3 oz at a time
Drastic Measure’s Cocktail
This is the one for Drastic Measures by Jay Sanders. tequila, strawberry, ginger, lemon, mezcal. House made strawberry angostura popsicle.
“I try and think of an experience i really enjoyed or a nostalgic moment and try and translate that into flavors so other people can enjoy that moment with me.” – Jay Sanders
Swordfish Tom’s Cocktail
My drink for Swordfish Tom’s will be a Blackberry Boulevardier.
Rye, Blackberry Liqueur, Sfumato and Pasubio with a dehydrated orange garnish. This is a well-balanced, smoky, bittersweet blackberry treat inspired by weather conducive to camping. I am typically inspired by activities of the season, as well as the regional source of agricultural ingredients of the cocktail: If it grows together, it goes together.
Cocktail recipe: Jeff Lichtenberger, Extra Virgin | Photo: Vanessa Rao
Extra Virgin bartender and cocktail creator extraordinaire Jeff Lichtenberger is known for his genius with spirits and an offbeat sense of humor. This delicious drink was inspired by the popular animated sitcom “Bob’s Burger’s”—and Lichtenberger’s love of the star’s famous pun-intended burger names.
- .75 ounces Ketel One Citroen Vodka
- .75 ounces Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto Liqueur
- .5 ounces Plume & Petal Cucumber Splash Spritz
- .75 ounces grapefruit juice
- .75 ounces lime juice
- .5 ounces Red Pepper Syrup
- 1 ounce egg white
- Orange peel
Combine all ingredients in shaker. Top with ice. Shake vigorously to blend ingredients and emulsify egg white. Strain through tea strainer. Add chip ice. Express essential oils from orange peel. Wipe orange swath around rim of glass.
Red Pepper Syrup Ingredients
- Juice of 3 red bell peppers
- Equal parts sugar
Juice three red bell peppers. Add the equivalent measurement in white sugar to the juice (i.e., 1 cup juice/add 1 cup sugar). Stir until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate any leftover syrup. Will last up to a week.