Freelance Food & Drinks Writer

Kansas City: a great place to drink

Kansas City’s a great place to get a drink. I know that. You know that. Now, thanks to the lovely editors at Imbibe! who gave me a chance to write about it all, everyone else does, too.

Articles like that give me a perfect excuse to be nosy, asking endless questions about cocktails, beer, coffee, soda and other potables. Along the way, several sources passed along delicious-sounding recipes that didn’t make it into the story. So, I’d like to share a few here.

This first round is from Chris Conatser, a bartender at Justus Drugstore known for his encyclopedic botanical knowledge and keen palate. Don’t be put off by the long list of instructions; should you decide to take any of these on, you’ll be well-rewarded.

Chris Conatser of Justus Drugstore with the makings of a So Help Me

But, first, a note from me: I typically edit cocktail recipes into a standard format, but I’ve left these largely alone, including them here as they were emailed to me. Consider all the instructions and observations quotes; if it says “I” or “we” it means Conatser and those who work with him.

And, second, a note from Conatser: “Most of my recipes are measured by inches, thumbs, and ratios; with erratic supplies of most of our featured ingredients it just makes more sense than writing down solid numbers. I understand that it does make sharing more difficult.”

Share them he did, though, and he has my thanks.

Elder Margarita

Combine 1-3/4 ounces elderberry tequila (recipe follows), scant 3/4 ounce lime juice and scant 1 ounce St-Germaine elderflower liqueur in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake; serve up with a lime wheel for garnish.

To make the elderberry tequila: we did it the hard (but frugal and sustainable) way. Fresh wild elderberry clusters, cooked down with just enough water (1/4 inch) to keep them from scorching before they render up their juice. After they cook down, pour off and reserve the juice for another use. Cover the berries in Sauza silver tequila (its floral notes complement this drink well). Allow to sit for two to three weeks. Strain and bottle; stays good on the shelf for several months. Caution: the red elderberries of the Pacific Northwest are not edible! If this is too much trouble (which I can probably safely assume it is), you can make do with 1-1/2 ounce Sauza Silver and 1/4 ounce elderberry juice concentrate, available online from Wyldewood Cellars.

Parsley Lemonade (created by Derek Coffelt)

Fill a collins glass partway with ice, and then add 2 ounces parsley liqueur (recipe follows) and 1 ounce lemon juice. Top with seltzer or soda and garnish with parsley and a lemon wedge.

Parsley liqueur: first, make a parsley tincture. Take  fresh parsley and barely cover with grain alcohol. I think Everclear really is head and shoulders above any other brand on the market; we have tried using lower-proof liquors but they just don’t extract the flavor or color of the parsley well. Parsley tincture stores well for several months. For liqueur, to 4 parts parsley tincture add 3 parts simple syrup (made 2 parts sugar to 1 part water). Best made fresh weekly; at lower proofs the parsley flavor starts to degrade.

Drugstore Chocolate Malt

Combine 2 ounces malt-and-coffee infused 360 Vodka (recipe follows), 2 ounces chocolate syrup (description follows) and 1 ounce Alvear’s Amontillado sherry. Shake hard with ice and strain into an 8-ounce old soda-fountain style glass garnished with two straws.

Malt-and-coffee vodka: mix 4 ounces (volumetric) 110* crystal malt, 2 ounces (volumetric) 60* crystal malt and 1 ounce course-ground coffee (we use a toasty, chocolatey and mellow house blend from local Broadway Roastery). Add to a 1.75L bottle and fill with 360 Vodka. Let steep overnight, agitating when you feel like it.

Chocolate syrup: we make basically a runny ganache using our local Shatto cream, good quality Dutch-processed chocolate, sugar and water. Any good commercial REAL chocolate syrup should work all right, although I sincerely doubt it will be as good and as rich as anything made with Leroy Shatto’s product. We’re lucky indeed.

The Pursuit of Hoppiness

Combine 1-3/4 ounces cascade hop-infused Laird’s applejack (recipe follows), 1 ounce Gaston Riviere Pineau des Charentes, 1/2 ounce Aggazzotti Nocino Riserva green walnut liqueur and 4 drops rosewater over ice, stir. Strain and serve up in a coupe glass garnished with a long lemon twist and a slice of fresh roasted beet. I preferred a lighter colored beet; the stronger aromatics of the American classic Detroit Dark Red can overwhelm and the color could bleed on an under-cautious guest. Yellow, white, and the striped Italian heirloom Chioggia were all nice.

Hop-infused applejack: Add 4g dry Cascade hops (we grow our own; you probably can too—they’re super-easy once they get started) to one 750mL bottle of Laird’s Applejack—just stuff it in the neck of the bottle. Allow to steep for about 4 hours, agitating occasionally. It’s ready when the hop flavor is barely stronger than the apple flavor. Strain and bottle.

So Help Me

One of my great-aunt’s favorite phrases was “So help me over the fence!” With the Fence Stile in there, I could hardly name the drink anything else.

Rim chilled cocktail glass with fresh lime and Thai basil salt & pepper (recipe follows). Stir 1 ounce Corrido Reposado tequila, 1 ounce Fence Stile Vineyards & Winery’s Sweet Enchantment wine (or any good quality Concord wine) and 1 ounce Thai basil liqueur (recipe follows) together over ice until well chilled and strain into glass. Cheers!

Thai Basil Liqueur: Cover fresh Thai basil (whole plants just before frost, including leaves, young stems, flowers, and seeds*) with enough liquor to barely cover. I used 3.5L 360 Vodka (local) and 1.75L Beefeater gin (to accentuate the floral and herbal notes). Steep for about a week. Strain and add 10 cups simple syrup (made with 2 parts sugar and 1 part water). Stores well in an airtight container in a dark place for several months.

*I find the seeds in particular give a pleasant crisp herbaceousness to the liqueur. I use a combination of several varieties: Siam Queen, Cinnamon, Licorice, and common Thai. Each emphasizes different, but closely related, primary flavors and adds a layer of complexity. Cinnamon basil is important to include in this recipe, as it contains methyl anthranilate, the compound that gives Concord grapes their unique flavor…that flavor note in the liqueur was actually the inspiration for the cocktail.

Thai basil salt & pepper: Pulse fresh Thai basil with an equal weight of salt and half as much fresh-ground black pepper in a food processor until it forms fine crumbles; add more salt if necessary to make just drier than the consistency of sandcastle sand. Set aside on a sheet tray to dry, then package in an airtight container; can store well for several months.