The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2013

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Page 134 of 152

WHO'S WHO Drink Slinging in "The Paris of the Plains" GUN-SLINGERS MOVE OVER—THESE MIXOLOGISTS ARE REVIVING COCKTAIL ARTISTRY IN KANSAS CITY KENNY COHRS: CAFÉ TRIO I t's a familiar setting: In the dim light of a well-stocked bar, the bartender's flashing hands juice lemons, muddle mint, drop bitters and shake spirits. Familiar across the country, but until recently the artisan cocktail movement has been associated with the coasts, not the heartland. Lately, though, Kansas City is reclaiming its origins of a vibrant cocktail scene. With Kansas Citian Ryan Maybee recently named Imbibe magazine's 2013 Bartender of the Year, the Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival drawing passionate professional bartenders from around the country and a rich artisan cocktail culture blooming, Kansas City can no longer be called behind the times. Held in the grip of legendary Mob Boss Tom Pendergast during the Jazz Age, Kansas City was famous for opulence, excess, jazz and booze. "If you want to see some sin, forget about Paris and go to Kansas City," said Omaha World Herald journalist Edward Morrow in the 1920s, but although his quote stuck, the Prohibition's wettest city grew drier and drier through the years. When around the turn of the century, Kansas City bartenders started revisiting the inspired drinks of the past and putting their own twists on them, creativity flowered in bars across the city. The result? A memorable, thriving cocktail scene that's growing by leaps and bounds, hand-in-hand with award-winning culinary and specialty coffee cultures. PHOTO: BRYAN AZORSKY, COURTESY OF KENNY COHRS Mixologist Kenny Cohrs in action behind the bar. 134  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2013 TP1113_109-156.indd 134 Kenny Cohrs's Fortunes Big & Small cocktail. Cohrs won the Small's American Gin Contest. PHOTO: BRYAN AZORSKY, COURTESY OF KENNY COHRS by Emily McIntyre Like most bartenders in Kansas City, Kenny Cohrs is focused on connecting with customers. "We take our craft very seriously but we don't take ourselves very seriously at all. I think at the end of the day we're focused on hospitality, not just the bartending and making craft cocktails. As a bartender (and " former Bar Manger) for Café Trio, Cohrs has been experimenting with infusing bourbon with applewoodsmoked bacon fat for a savory breakfast-inspired cocktail. A few shifts a week at Manifesto and at a local wine bar give Cohrs an even broader base of customers to serve, and competitions like the recent Small's American Gin Contest (which he won) allow him to relate with the greater bartending community. Cohrs sums up the Kansas City cocktail scene: "We're a pretty close knit group of folks who get to hang out regularly, and I love that it's an open environment. With a small" but-growing crowd of passionate bartenders who aren't afraid to share inspiration, an increasingly dedicated drinking public, and a rapidly-expanding culinary scene, Kansas City is a cocktail city to on the move. 10/24/13 9:17 AM

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