Story by Dave Eckert | Intro photo courtesy of Drastic Measures
I don’t know about you, but I love a change in seasons. It’s like we get to reset everything: our wardrobes, our cuisine, and, for me, the one reboot I enjoy most, our beverages. Let’s visit the summer adult beverage reset through the eyes and palates of some of the metro’s most talented mixologists and restauranteurs.
Let’s start where I started, District Pour House and Kitchen. District is known for its infusions, its Bourbon Slush, and its freshly made Sangria, among many other things. I sat down with owner Dan McCall for a chat about those and District’s summer cocktail program in general. “We’ve got 20-some infusions that we rotate seasonally. The drink menu is way too big, which the bartenders aren’t too crazy about, but it all works out in the end,” McCall shared.
Photo courtesy of Brady & Fox
McCall says the biggest seller at District Pour House is the Bourbon Slush. “During Covid, we started selling cocktails to go, and The Bourbon Slush was number one with a bullet. It just took off, and ever since, it’s just been a huge product for us,” McCall said. I had a Bourbon Slush and a Sangria during a recent visit. While I was impressed with both, the Sangria blew me away. DPH serves up both a red and a white Sangria, both of which are made fresh to order. “They’re both pretty in the glass, and they’re the perfect summertime drink when KC is ablaze,” McCall told me.
Photo courtesy of Drastic Measures
From the light and space of District Pour House, I transition into the dark coziness of Drastic Measures just off Johnson Drive in downtown Shawnee. You line up outside the bar. If the light’s green, you knock and a concierge lets you in. If it’s red, as it often is, you wait. Many people classify Drastic Measures as a speakeasy, but partner Jay Sanders disagrees. Sanders calls it a neighborhood bar with delicious cocktails. “We write our menus seasonally based on what we can find in the market. The summer is especially exciting for me because there’s so much delicious fresh produce available that I can buy and turn into amazing cocktails,” Sanders said.
So, what to serve with all those great products? Sanders says it comes down to what someone would drink after mowing the yard. “We use the word ‘crushable’ a lot, which doesn’t mean chugging the drink, but something that sips really easily,” Sanders shared. I had one such drink the Hummingbird, a lovely combination of a Mexican white rum, fresh lime juice, and a guava-ruby port wine reduction. Crushable indeed. Drastic Measures, trust me, it’s worth waiting for the light to turn green.
Photo courtesy of Brady & Fox
The cocktail program is still a work in progress at the new Irish American hot spot, Brady & Fox, but mixologist Greg Hyatt has plenty of ideas and loads of expertise to execute them. Among other things, Hyatt is a Sangria wizard. “First of all, you need to start with a decent red wine for a strong base. Use good fresh fruit-apples, oranges, and depending on the wine, berries are a good choice. I prefer to make my own triple-sec, but if not, a good quality store-bought will do. Finally, a solid rum. I especially like a spiced rum,” Hyatt mused. “Let it age for a day or so, give it a splash of soda water for some fizz, and it’s good to go.”
Hyatt says he also enjoys a good bourbon smash, which is all about the mint, and, at Brady & Fox, will likely be all about Irish whiskey rather than bourbon, though Hyatt says he’s not just going to randomly swap out Irish whiskey for another alcohol without putting some thought into the creation. “I don’t want to do that. I’m not going to make a drink featuring Irish whiskey unless it is unique and special to Brady and Fox. I don’t want to just sub in Irish for bourbon and call it an ‘Irish Whiskey Smash,’” Hyatt shared.
Photo courtesy of OurHouseKC
Finally, a chat with Maggie Zahner, co-owner, with her husband, Joe, of OurHouseKC. OurHouse is a favorite recent discovery for me. I was first attracted by the food. The Burnt End French Dip, served with the best jus on the planet, is amazing, as is everything else I’ve had there. The cocktail program has also been a huge hit for the restaurant-a surprise to Zahner “I didn’t know what to expect, but we sell a ton of cocktails here,” Zahner shared.
OurHouse’s most popular cocktail is their margarita, but before you say, “Oh, it’s just a margarita,” hear Zahner out. “The thing that sets our margarita apart is that we infuse the tequila with pineapple for two days. We use fresh-squeezed lime juice. We rub with rim with Tajin seasoning. I mean, it’s just special and really popular,” Zahner said.
There are many other spring and summer adult beverage delights to explore at OurHouseKC, which I plan to indulge in as the summer unfolds. Perhaps you’d care to join me? Cheers!