Keely Edgington remembers her first date with Beau Williams. She was then an art curator, a regular at JP Wine Bar (now Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen), where Williams was working as a bartender.
“He made me watch this video of a guy making a mint julep,” Edgington says. “And it was like a sports reel. He was pausing it and saying, ‘do you see him crush that ice?’”
“It was Chris McMillan at the Library Lounge in New Orleans,” Williams says. “He was making a classic julep on his last shift on his last day. He’s reciting this poem while he makes it and it encompassed everything that I think makes cocktails great. There’s a lore behind it and a certain romanticism. It’s easy to get caught up in it.”
Six years later, Edgington and Williams are now married and mixing up a Julep of their own.
“Kansas City really needed that big, grand bar,” Williams says of the bar that is under construction at 4141 Pennsylvania (in Suite 104 with an entrance on Archibald Street). “We don’t want to reinvent Westport. We just want to add another layer to the textured fabric that is the neighborhood.”
Since November 2012, the former head bartender at Manifesto and his wife have been running the Hawthorne & Julep Cocktail Club – a cocktail catering service that has become known for inventive takes on classic drinks. At last year’s gala for the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, they made a deconstructed julep with mint simple syrup, bourbon, ice and a mint cotton candy garnish that melted over the drink.
“I was stuck on a cotton candy machine for six hours,” Edgington says.
Julep, which is expected to open later this spring, will have 70 to 80 seats with a side room for events or tastings and a nook – a half-circle banquet just off the bar. The maple bar will sit on a Herringbone floor.
“It’s a bar where there is something for everybody,” Edgington says. “Whether you want a shot and a beer or to sip some nice whiskey, your experience will start as soon as you step inside the door.”
While there will be a wall of whiskey and whiskey lockers, the couple will also stock wine and beer (no taps, only bottles and cans). They’ll be a dedicated section of the cocktail menu to the classics, although Williams notes that something like a White Russian might be made with Shatto cream and a house-made coffee cordial. The bar will have three kinds of ice: crushed ice for the mint juleps, cubed ice and clear cocktail ice that can be carved into chunks.
“Ice for a cocktail is like the fire in a kitchen,” Williams says. “If you have a wood-fired grill or an oven, you get vastly different results.”
The food menu is what Williams terms ‘low country, cold kitchen.’ John Brogan, the chef du cuisine at Rye (10551 Mission Road, Leawood) is in the process of developing it; but Williams foresees dishes like pickled shrimp, pimento cheese, po’ boys and charcuterie.
“You might get some suggestions from servers, but we’re going to take the Doug Frost-like approach and just say, ‘hey, you like this drink and you like this food. Maybe you should try it together?’” Williams says.
Over the next several months, the duo has plans for a series of pop-ups. The first is slated for Wednesday, January 29, at Extra Virgin (1900 Main Street). Williams will be behind the bar with EV’s Berto Santoro from 5 to 10 p.m. with Edgington sitting on the other side, ready to answer questions and chat about their new venture. He has plans for three cocktails, including an old-fashioned and a KC Sour – a whiskey sour with a red wine float made with wine from Amigoni.
“It’s a chance for us to talk about what we’re doing and let people have great drinks while we’re talking,” Edgington says.[Logo image from Julep]