You can read The Kansas City Star, to be sure, but if you’re in New York, you can also taste one at PDT. Jeff Bell, the influential bar’s general manager, created the drink to showcase J. Rieger & Co.’s Kansas City Whiskey, which recently became available in New York.
The Manhattan-style drink combines J. Rieger’s whiskey with Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, a layered and complex sweet Italian vermouth; Jean-marc Roulot L’Abricot Liqueur, a French apricot liqueur; and the Italian-made Foro Amaro.
“Those are the flavors I thought would bring out the best in this whiskey, which is just delicious with that little bit of sherry,” says Bell, whose father is from Kansas City but who hasn’t visited the city himself.
So why name it for the newspaper? There are several reasons, Bell says. For one thing, doing so pays homage to the history of the long-running Star, which was founded in 1880, and the original Jacob Rieger & Co., which began selling distilled spirits in 1887. But it’s also a nod to Ryan Maybee, who helped create the modern J. Rieger & Co. and who was in New York recently to promote the brand.
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“Ryan is the star of Kansas City in our minds,” Bell says of his friend. “It’s a fun play on words.”
PDT is one of a handful of bars credited with igniting the country’s craft cocktail movement, and it was in 2008 named World’s Best Bar at Tales of the Cocktail. It’s not the easiest establishment to find — you first have to locate the wooden phone booth inside Crif Dogs, in New York’s East Village, and then put your name on the wait list. When I visited way back in 2010 on Maybee’s recommendation, my husband and I passed the time sampling the dive joint’s hot dogs.
I don’t remember what we drank once inside the small, speakeasy-style bar. I just remember it was tasty, and that I was grateful to Maybee for directing us there. Maybee’s ongoing support of PDT has paid off in the attention the bar’s giving J. Rieger & Co., which recently expanded distribution to New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Illinois and Nebraska.
“The taste of the spirit is extremely important,” Bell says. “But at the end of the day, we’re in the hospitality industry, and it’s a relationship business. We deal with the brands we like, and we like them because the people are great.”
The Kansas City Star
Makes 1 drink
2 ounces J. Rieger & Co. Kansas City Whiskey
3/4 ounce Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
1/4 ounce Foro Amaro
1/4 ounce Jean-marc Roulot L’Abricot Liqueur (or try Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur)
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. No garnish required.