Sunday, October 25, 2015
This Saturday, Jenn and I had a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of how a college town in eastern Kansas is bringing mixology to the center states.
Located in downtown Manhattan, Kansas (affectionately known locally as The Little Apple) Bourbon and Baker is a surprising island of mixology in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas. Jenn and I happened to be in Manhattan for my stepson’s high school marching band competition. We had a bit of free time after the band’s performance that evening, and had received a tip that Bourbon and Baker was right up our alley.
The restaurant/bakery says that its inspiration comes from Midwestern and Southern soul food. The menu reflects this, with a reliance on comfort foods served in a tapas style (i.e. small portions for lots of variety). True to its name, Bourbon and Baker also boasts an impressive calvalcade of whiskies for any discerning whiskey aficionado, as well as a bakery on the back end of the restaurant.
One of the most immediately striking features of Bourbon and Baker is the looming back bar, resplendent with enough of the brown gold to make Mark Twain moisten his moustache.
While Jenn gushed over the menu, my eyes quickly turned to the cocktail and bourbon menu. With over 70 different whiskies (not all of them bourbon), I was eager to see how their house cocktails fared. I decided to start with the promising Brown Derby, featuring Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, fresh grapefruit juice, and honey syrup.
Since Bulleit tends towards the spicier end with bits of citrus, the grapefruit nicely underlined the whiskey, and the honey syrup didn’t make the drink overpowering sweet. I paired the Brown Derby with the Kobe Beef Slider (medium rare) and chicken and waffles.
Suspicious quotation marks aside, the “Kobe” Beef slider was cooked to perfection, with just enough coolness in the center. Bourbon and Baker makes their slider with ground beef, pecan bacon, smoked white cheddar cheese, caramelized onion aïoli, egg-washed bun. The addition of bacon was an always welcome touch, and the bun itself was light and fluffy and sweet.
Their chicken and waffles may be the best I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. The recipe consists of cinnamon-nutmeg waffle, fried chicken, maple-pecan butter, maple syrup, and hot sauce. The waffles were light, and the chicken was perfectly crispy. Both dishes paired incredibly well with the sweet citrus of the Brown Derby.
For the second round of food, I wanted to switch to something perhaps a bit heartier. I decided on Sweet Mash cocktail, with Dark Horse Reunion Rye whiskey, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, honey syrup, and Angostura orange bitters.
The Sweet Mash, contrary to its name, isn’t particularly sweet. That was my hope going into the drink. The whiskey is much more forward front on this cocktail than it was on the Brown Derby. The spiciness of the Dark Horse rye dominates, followed by the orange bitters. The honey syrup doesn’t play too big of a role in the drink, serving to give some layers and take the edge off the rye and bitters. Unfortunately, the earthiness of the Luxardo is lost in the other flavors, but it is still there on the end.
I paired the cocktail with Bourbon and Baker’s Southern Sushi Roll. The Southern Sushi Roll is made with collard greens, chorizo risotto, pickled shrimp, pickled onion, cucumber, avocado, cashew vinaigrette, and a hoisin-lime soy sauce.
The most striking thing about the Southern Sushi Roll was most certainly the texture of it. The entire dish looked like your standard sushi roll, with the collard greens substituting for the nori and the risotto standing in for the rice. The heady, earthy flavor paired very well with the Sweet Mash.
Jenn and I ended up spending almost two hours at Bourbon and Baker Saturday night, enjoying each other’s company, and the restaurant’s outstanding food. The service was impeccable, and with the likes of Aloe Blacc and Fitz and the Tantrums pumped through the place, we could have easily settled in for a longer evening.
If you have the chance and you’re in Manhattan, KS, swing by. Just be sure to bring your pocket-book, as the bill can rack up pretty quick with great company and cocktails.
About Bourbon and Baker
Address: 312 Poyntz Ave. Manhattan, KS 66502
Executive Chef: Cadell Bynum
Sous Chef: Zach Filbert
Mark Vierthaler is the founder and Editor of Cocktails, 365. His work appeared in The Tasting Panel Magazine, Savvy Host, Liquor.com, and countless other websites and blogs. He is Bar Smarts certified, and works with bars and restaurants in cocktail creation and pairing. To contact him, e-mail email@example.com