Chow Town

Creating the perfect cocktail requires creativity and hard work

Smoking Dun cocktail
Smoking Dun cocktail

I envisioned it as a giant cocktail party — the best and brightest mixologist talent in the Bread and Butter Concepts group gathering at Gram and Dun on the Country Club Plaza to collaborate on the next wave of craft cocktails to take Kansas City by storm.

Turns out, the get-together was more about conception than consumption. Darn. But then, I was uninvited anyway. Bread and Butter’s Director of Beverage Scott Tipton did, however, share some insights on how a brainstorming session like the recent one and the actual cocktail construction moving forward play key roles in what Tipton hopes will be the best, most creative and delicious cocktail menu in company history.

“I’m constantly inspired by my friends and peers who are doing amazing things around the city and country. I think there’s room for everybody, but there’s a personal pressure to stay educated and relevant,” Tipton said. “A drink I put on the menu four and a half years ago, the Smoking Dun, averages sales of $1,500 a month at G&D. That’s fantastic and I’m proud of it, but I feel personal pressure to find the next original idea people will latch onto and not let go of.”

I was scheduled to attend the G&D affair, but at the last minute, my security clearance was revoked. Just kidding. The company decided it was best to keep their cocktail creation plans secret. I understand. You wouldn’t want the next $1,500-a-month drink getting into the hands of the competition.

“The ultimate goal is to produce new, interesting, exciting cocktails that have seasonal relevance, are progressive and give the guests and staff something new to look forward to on a regular basis,” Tipton said. “I’ll work on the framework and foundation of what our goals are with the lead bartender, Jacob, and bar manager, Nate. We’ll peg drinks for deletion based on product mix reports, seasonal desires, new trends and just a desire for change. Then Jacob will work with the team on assigning specific styles, or spirits, or categories to specific bartenders to then come up with some ideas. Those ideas will receive feedback from everyone else and begin to take on their own life in the development phase.”

If this all sounds technical and analytical, it is. Sure, creativity is important, even essential, but cocktails are big business, so crafting drinks that click with the public brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “raising the bar.”

“A lot of what we do is inspiration based-inspired by classic cocktails, by food, by modern trends. So, how do you come up with your next completely original idea? That’s the internal struggle,” Tipton said.

With a brand-new restaurant, The Oliver, fresh on the market, a big one, Stock Hill, opening soon, and another addition to the BRGR concept coming on line, I wondered if there wasn’t even more pressure on Tipton and his team to create the perfect cocktail list and a generous revenue stream for the company.

“There’s more pressure in general just as a result of the evolution of the industry. Of course, as our market grows there’s more competition for where people are going to go drink,” Tipton said. “I wouldn’t ask for it any other way. I’m constantly inspired by my friends and peers who are doing amazing things around the city and country. I think there’s room for everybody, but there’s a personal pressure to stay educated and relevant.”

So, what new and exciting cocktails will emerge from Tipton’s group of mixologist masterminds? I don’t know, and even if I did, I couldn’t tell you. We’ll all just have to make our way into a B & B restaurant this fall and see, and taste, for ourselves.

Dave Eckert is a partner with Flavor Trade, a Kansas City-based gourmet food incubator and co-packer. Before that, Eckert was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons.