At the bar: Manifesto
Yes, Manifesto reopened last month. Yes, I only just went. And yes, it was worth the wait. Little has changed—buzzing the back door entrance, the dark staircase and hallway, even the drinks menu. That last is a happy fact, since there were so many Manifesto creations I’d yet to taste when the bar closed last March.
I started with the Old Oaxacan, which is made with Del Maguey mezcal, a spirit Doug Frost has raved about for years but that has only recently captured my imagination. It didn’t disappoint. The mezcal was rich and smokey, balanced with agave sweetness and Peychaud’s bitters, served in an old fashioned glass with one of the bar’s 2×2-inch ice blocks and an orange twist. Okay, I was disappointed, but only when I reached one last time for the glass and found it empty.
The husband went with the Brass In Pocket, which Manifesto owner Ryan Maybee tells me is one of his current best-sellers. It starts with Yamazaki 12-year-old, a Japanese malted whiskey David Broom’s The World Atlas of Whiskey describes as “medium body, but packed with character.” Indeed. Maybee combines it with Benedictine, Cherry Heering and whiskey barrel and cherry bitters. A tricky combination? Maybe, but it works.
Next up were a pair of Old Tom cocktails. You know I’m a fan of Old Tom gin, but I usually reach for the wood-aged Ransom. Manifesto’s Improved Old Tom Cocktail and its Boroughs Cocktail make a strong argument for Hayman’s, a brand that bridges the gap between, as David Wondrich put it to me, the Charles Dickens years and the advent of London Dry gin.
The Improved Old Tom Cocktail matched Hayman’s with St. George absinthe, sugar and orange bitters, stirred and strained into a coupe glass with a flamed orange garnish. Absinthe is an aggressive spirit that easily overwhelms cocktails, but it didn’t here—a mere hint of anise proved a pleasant counterpoint.
The Boroughs was a similar exercise in restraint. Hayman’s, Dolin Dry vermouth, housemade grenadine, a bit of orange and Angostura bitters in another coupe, with another flamed orange disk. Worth every cent of its $11 price tag, assuming that you’re into this kind of thing. People must be, the bar was full. The Rieger upstairs was packed. The staff was clearly working up a sweat keeping them all fed and watered.
Ah, the staff. Maybee is nothing if not proud of his staff. He should be. He’s assembled a highly decorated crew that brings both skill and a spirit of hospitality to the game. Here’s a short list of who’s workin’ there and their accolades:
~Arturo Vera, bar manager for The Rieger, Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition Grand Prize Winner (2009) and Gran Gala Shakedown National Grand Prize Winner (2010)
~Beau Williams, bar manager for Manifesto, GKCBC 3rd place (2007), GKCBC finalist (2008), GKCBC 2nd place (2009) and national semi-finlist in Domaine de Canton’s signature cocktail competition (2011)
~Dylan Sly, bartender
~Brock Schulte, bartender, Bombay Sapphire KC “Most Inspired Bartender” (2010)
~Valdez Campos, bartender, KC Mag’s Best Bartender (2009, 2010) and GKCBC finalist (2010)
~Jennifer Tosatto, bartender, GKCBC 3rd place (2008) and GKCBC finalist (2009, 2010)
~Travis Stewart, barback, GKCBC Finalist (2010)
~Mandy Burks, server
~Chad Owen, server
Yes, I’ll be back.