The holiday season is a big one for the business of entertaining, and Manifesto in the Crossroads Arts District is no exception. In the spirit of the season, the 48-seat cocktail bar has made some changes to its menu, including the addition of a winter warmers section.
“It’s basically all hot drinks,” says Jonathon Bush, who has been a Manifesto bartender for almost three years now. “We’ve got one called the Saints and Sinners, which is like a hot mulled cider kind of thing.”
He says they’re shooting for holiday-type flavors — and yes, they’re even putting the Manifesto spin on eggnog.
Bush, 31, has been a bartender for 10 years. He started in the Power & Light District at Gordon Biersch and then at the Bristol Seafood Grill for about six years. But he always had his sights on Manifesto.
“I’ve always heard that Manifesto is the best bar in Kansas City,” he says.
When he was at the Bristol, he began to care about the ingredients going into drinks.
“And then I got into a Don Julio competition (in the summer of 2013), a drink competition, and I was up against the head bartender at Manifesto at the time. And I don’t know what place I came in, because he was the one that won, but after that he emailed me and was like, ‘Hey, you still want that job at Manifesto?’ And I was like, ‘Heck yes.’ ”
Now Bush is sitting down with Ink to talk about what working at Manifesto during the holiday season is all about.
So Manifesto is really playing to seasonal drink trends right now?
Yeah. I know a lot of places don’t do hot drinks, other than like coffee drinks, so we decided to add a few on this one. Normally we have one hot drink, but this time we decided to go crazy with it.
Do you have any New Year’s Eve plans for the bar?
Normally we get really, really busy. We’ll just crank it up. I think last year we gave out those little kazoo-type things, all the noisemakers and stuff. It’s one of the busiest days of the year, honestly.
Do you have a favorite use for champagne?
Yeah, we’ve actually got a drink on the menu called In the Pines. So what it is, it’s chamomile-infused Templeton Rye whiskey, Dolin Genepy Des Alpes, which is kind of an Alpine liqueur. We throw some vanilla and lemon in, and really top it off with champagne. It’s been one of my favorite drinks for a while. It does pretty well.
Do you have a least-favorite ingredient, drink-wise?
I would say vodka is probably my least favorite, just because the point of vodka is to not have any flavor or taste, so you have to get all the flavors from everything else. Which is fine, it’s just a little harder.
So on nights when you don’t work, do you go to Manifesto or do you go somewhere else?
Well, right now I’ve got a 1-year-old, so we pretty much just chill at the house. But when I do go out, I like to go to Voltaire. I mean, I love the drinks at Manifesto. I’m proud of every single one of them. If I weren’t there five days a week, I would probably go there a little bit more.
What is your favorite classic cocktail?
There’s kind of two all-time favorites. A Vieux Carre is one of my favorite stirred drinks, so it’s going to be all booze. It’s cognac, rye whiskey, Benedictine, and there’s Peychaud’s bitters and Angostura bitters and then a sweet vermouth. It’s kind of a French-style Manhattan. I really like that when it’s cold outside.
During the summer, my favorite drink is the Last Word, which is gin, lime juice, green Chartreuse and Luxardo maraschino liqueur.
If you had to describe your bartending style in five words or less, what would you say?
If you could make a drink for one celebrity, who would it be?
Justin Timberlake. I’d probably have to use his tequila. Maybe I’d make him the Devil’s Advocate. It’s on our menu, but I’d use his tequila just to make him happy.
What attracted you to bartending in the first place?
Honestly, it was just kind of a challenge. I’ve been a server since I was 17, and I always saw the bartenders having more fun than I did. At the beginning it was kind of for the money. And now it’s not about the money. It’s all about making people happy, and I love getting people to like stuff that they’ve never had before or that they say that they don’t like.
Do you have a mentor or someone who has really inspired you as a bartender?
Ryan Maybee. That’s the owner (of Manifesto).
Do you have a pet peeve in the bar?
When I ask people what they like, and they tell me what they don’t like. It happens all the time. “So what kind of stuff do you like?” “Well, I don’t like sweet drinks, I don’t like gin.” Stuff like that.
Do you have a go-to utensil in the bar? What’s the one thing you couldn’t go a night without other than alcohol?
There’s a few things. I think my shakers and my spoons are probably my top two.
What’s your favorite drink to make?
The one that makes the guest happiest. I know that’s super cliché.
What’s your least favorite drink to make? What’s one that’s really a pain?
I would say a shaken vodka martini, because martinis are supposed to be stirred. Anything that James Bond orders, I would probably not want to make, because he’s not very smart.
So basically James Bond doesn’t know how to order a drink?
Do you have a guilty pleasure when it comes to work or drinking?
I would say RumChata is the thing that I have in my house that I wouldn’t want anybody else to see, for the type of bartender that I am.
Is there anything you think Kansas City’s nightlife scene needs?
One of my friends and I have kind of been talking about a cocktail lab, having something where bartenders can come in and pay a small fee and have anything they could ever want to work with and be able to sell those drinks to guests. From what I know, we just kind of cooked this up on our own.
Why do you think Kansas City is a good booze city?
Because we care about what we’re doing.
Do you think there’s another city that does that well, too?
Chicago and New York, obviously. But honestly, everybody’s stepping up their game in the bar area.
Are there any drink trends that you’ve noticed?
One that I’ve been using recently is fat-washing. So basically what that is, is taking some kind of fat, like olive oil or truffle oil. I used duck fat in a drink, and that was probably my favorite drink that I’ve come up with.
We picked up some duck fat and basically put it in a jar, added rum to it, shook it up, and then threw it in the freezer. The oil solidified, and we got all of the flavor from the duck fat but no actual fat. That’s one of my favorite things to work with. It’s pretty cool, because you get this rich flavor. It’s not like you’re drinking olive oil.