One of KC’s best craft cocktail bars adapts with bottled drinks and kits during coronavirus quarantine
With Kansas City restaurants and bars shuttered until further notice, two of the area’s premiere cocktail lounges have pivoted their business models.
J. Rieger and Co. Distillery in the East Bottoms of Kansas City are offering bottled craft cocktails for curbside pickup.
The J. Rieger and Co. Distillery has launched a similar to-go cocktail program with craft cocktail kits. Ten cocktails are on tap in the distillery’s second-floor Monogram Lounge, and each of them are being dispensed in 750 mililiter bottles (approximately six cocktails per bottle) and being sold for thirty dollars each, garnishes and clear bar ice included. Options include the Pendergast 2.0 (Rieger’s Kansas City Whiskey, red vermouth, Benedictine), Bottoms Cup (Rieger’s Dry Midwestern Gin, Caffé Amaro, earl grey, lavender, bitter lemon soda), and the KC Ice Water (Rieger’s Midwestern Vodka, Riesling, chamomile, lime, soda).
Consumers can also order a la carte sandwiches (veggie pesto, muffaleta, club, prime rib panini, eleven dollars each), Savory Addiction nuts, Andre’s chocolates, KC Canning Co. bar products and bottles of Rieger spirits. All orders can be placed online and picked up at the distillery’s front desk or delivered to a waiting vehicle.
Soon, all cocktail kit and spirit purchases will be accompanied by Rieger’s Remedy, a hand sanitizer the distillery will begin manufacturing onsite.
“We just ordered the ingredients that we need to make it all here so that it’s not straight alcohol, which, of course, we already have,” says Andrew Olsen, J. Rieger and Co.’s beverage director. Other products are in the works, including the bar syrups that are used in the craft cocktails in the distillery’s Hey! Hey! Club.
“The aim is less to maintain some thriving business and more about protecting our staff,” says Hey! Hey! Club bar manager Derek Branham. “It’s about reaching out and offering our goods to other people, particularly those that may be quarantined or furloughed in their own way and offering them some respite to get through the next few weeks.”
Olsen and Branham are also spearheading online programming for the distillery. This week, the pair will broadcast a head-to-head bartender challenge via IGTV video on Instagram, and educational cocktail classes, as well as a virtual tour of the distillery, will follow.
“The biggest focus is trying to bring normalcy to our staff members’ lives and giving them opportunities to be at work,” Olsen says. “We’re just trying to figure out how to stay afloat with almost one hundred employees. Our co-founder, Andy Rieger, has gone to the end of the earth to make sure employees’ benefits and their dependents are covered. There’s been talks about providing childcare in one of the more secluded rooms of the building. All of us are looking at this thing knowing that the company will come out stronger than ever.”
A social distancing repeal day is on the distant horizon, Branham adds. But until public celebrations are back on, at least we have some creative options for imbibing. This is Kansas City, after all.
Monarch bar director Brock Schulte is partnering with Liquid Minded Concepts, a craft beverage consulting group that manufactures custom-cut clear ice cubes in its Commissary for local bars and restaurants on a subscription basis. With businesses shut down, Liquid Minded Commissary is offering delivery of premium bar-quality clear ice to consumers (fifteen dollars per bag, at least one dozen cubes per bag).
Schulte has plans to develop virtual cocktail classes and put those online over the next two weeks. “We’ve thought about having people register for the classes and capping it at six or eight people, so that attendees can ask questions and we can make it really interactive,” Schulte says. “These will probably be easy how-to things for people do at home while they’re quarantined, as well as showing people how to make a couple cocktails off the menu.” Classes can also be commissioned and customized.
Pricing has not been set for these classes, but Schulte says they will most likely be donation-based. Monarch will also be running a promotion on gift card sales purchased during the social distancing shut down, with one hundred percent of the money from gift card purchases going to staff wages.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story discussed Monarch Bar doing bottled cocktails. They are not doing so on the advice of their attorney.
To purchase craft bar ice from Liquid Minded Concepts, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To purchase cocktail kits and other goods from J. Rieger and Co. Distillery, order online at j-rieger-co.myshopify.com. For non-alcoholic bottled mocktails, call 816-702-7800.