Kansas City Cocktails: The Rieger Hotel and the Resurrection of Manifesto

As a cocktail enthusiast, I feel very lucky to live in a city like New York. New York and San Francisco (along with a few other cities like Portland and Seattle) have certainly led the modern cocktail revolution, and having regular access to bars like Milk & Honey, Death & Co., Clover Club and so on can easily lead one to take high-quality cocktails for granted, and perhaps even (unfairly) doubt the ability of other cities to hit the mark in terms of quality and creativity.

But I do love being proven wrong.

On a recent trip to Kansas City, I had the privilege of meeting Ryan Maybee. When I reached out to Brandon Cummins of the Lush Life team, a native of the Kansas City area, for suggestions on where I should visit while in town, Brandon assured me that Ryan was the guy to see. I found Ryan behind the bar at The American restaurant – a fixture of Kansas City dining, but not really where Ryan belongs. Over a Ward & Precinct cocktail he prepared (bourbon, housemade grenadine, lemon and orange juice, and Angostura bitters), Ryan told me the story of Manifesto.

Manifesto – with Ryan Maybee at the helm – was a true modern cocktail bar, reflecting the speakeasy style, classic cocktail influence, contemporary creativity, quality ingredients, and high-end service that we find in the New York & San Francisco scenes. Manifesto was located in the basement of a restaurant called 1924 Main (at 1924 Main Street in Kansas City, naturally), with a tucked-away backdoor entrance leading down to a beautifully appointed lounge. Manifesto was achieving breakthrough success and critical acclaim, but alas, its fortunes were anchored to its host, and 1924 Main became yet another victim of a waning economy. With 1924 Main closed, Manifesto had no choice but to suspend its operations (much to the chagrin of the budding Kansas City cocktail community).

Ryan knew he was onto something though, and refused to let the downfall of 1924 Main mean the end of Manifesto. Instead, he partnered with Chef Howard Hanna of the Kansas City River Club, took over the entire space (including the restaurant 1924 Main had left behind), and today finds himself on the verge of re-opening the venue as the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, and with it, Manifesto.

The name of the new restaurant is an homage to a previous tenant, the Rieger Hotel. In addition to operating a hotel, the Rieger family, prior to prohibition at least, also ran a small whisky operation. You can still see the remnants of their advertisement on the exterior wall of the building; and advertisement that Ryan and Howard plan to restore to its former glory.

Ryan was kind enough to give me a tour of both the restaurant and Manifesto space, still under construction. The restaurant itself will reflect a contemporary American style with Italian and French influence, using locally sourced ingredients. In hearing about the plans for the opening menu, it sounds delicious! Of course, of greater interest to me is Manifesto, which will pick up right where it left off, but now in full control of its own fortunes. Past favorites will surely make an appearance, including the Jackson Co. Democratic Club Cocktail (rye, Luxardo, yellow chartreuse, lemon juice and orange bitters), as well as the Smokin Choke, which features applewood and peach wood-smoked Four Roses bourbon, Cynar (an artichoke-based liqueur), maple syrup and Peychaud bitters. (Check out this video of Ryan preparing the Smokin Choke.) I’m sure we’ll see a few new surprises as well.

Ryan and Howard are deeply committed to having the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, along with Manifesto, re-opened by the end of the year. I wish them the very best of luck (as I know that this is no small understaking), and I look forward to traveling back to Kansas City to take a seat at their bar.

One other quick note: I asked Ryan for suggestions of other places to sample the Kansas City cocktail scene. He sent me to the Westport Cafe & Bar, where I found Arturo Vera-Felicie. Westport presents a solid French bistro-style menu, and a cocktail list that balances the classics (Tom Collins, Old Fashioned, etc.) with some modern creativity (try the Pink Peppercorn – gin, grapefruit, simple syrup, black peppercorns, and mint). I left my choice up to Arturo, who prepared a Perfect cocktail (that is the name, though it was nearly perfect), made with Ransom gin (which is barrel aged), sweet and dry vermouth, and bitters. Westport is another terrific addition to emerging Kansas City cocktail landscape, and I highly recommend it.

Cheers,

Josh

Tags: Kansas City, Manifesto, Rieger Hotel, Ryan Maybee, Westport

One Response to “Kansas City Cocktails: The Rieger Hotel and the Resurrection of Manifesto”

  1. Nicki Says:

    SO excited that Ryan and Manifesto will be back in full swing – and I can’t wait to try Chef Hanna’s offerings! Sounds like a perfect pairing!

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