Dan Dethrow, co-owner and beverage director of Flyover in Columbia, Missouri, was raised in Columbia's bar scene. His dad owned downtown staple Booches until 2004, and Dethrow says he started working there when he was 12 to earn his allowance.
He even got an early start at bartending at the age of 20 – not at Booches, as of course you have to be 21 – but when he was studying abroad in England his sophomore year of college. The job, which he thinks he got with no experience in part because of his American accent, threw him into the thick of what he says is the most stressful bartending gig he ever had. He immediately had to memorize dozens of cocktails and be ready to make them at a moment's notice.
"But it was a lot of fun," he says.
After living in Bloomington, Indiana, while working on a Ph.D. in education, Dethrow moved back to Columbia. He was supposed to be working on his dissertation, but instead, he started bartending again.
"I always did it as a side thing for money and I enjoyed it, but then as I got further into my studies and looking at what I was going to do for a career, I just realized I really missed bartending," he says.
He began working at Tellers and found himself getting really into bartending again and geeking out over cocktails. Soon enough, chef Adam Wells-Morgan approached him about opening a restaurant – what is now Flyover.
We caught up with Dethrow about rum, Harvey Wallbangers and his hopes to one day teach the next generation of bartenders.
What is your favorite ingredient to make cocktails with and why? Currently, rum. There are just so many variations of rum (region, aged, molasses-based, agricole, etc). I find that it is just as serious as whiskey but more versatile. And we are in a great buying window right now: you can get all kinds of rums from all over the world for fairly cheap as compared to whiskey or scotch or even artisan gins.
Do you have a secret weapon spice/ingredient/technique? At our bar we constantly change our featured cocktails (at least once or twice a week). So we always have new syrups around (blackberry, or "shrubs," or ginger, or cinnamon honey, etc.). If someone asks me to "just make them something" when we are super busy these are a nice secret weapon because I can make a classic drink, and just substitute some various syrup for "simple syrup" that many recipes call for.
What's your perfect day of eating and drinking in Columbia? Meriwether [Café & Bike Shop] in Rocheport for breakfast. Booches for lunch. Barred Owl [Butcher & Table] for a mid-afternoon cocktail and butcher board. (Nap.) Murry's for dinner with my wife and folks. McGinty's for some beer and shuffle board. [Taqueria] Don Pancho for a late evening "snack" of at least six tacos. Tellers for the late night rally.
How has the local drink scene evolved over the past year? A lot of places are upping their cocktail game. It's much more likely you will see a specialized cocktail menu at many restaurants – especially newer ones.
Who are some Columbia bartenders, brewers or distillers you admire at the moment? Andrew Ruth at Barred Owl has been a big part of pushing the cocktail scene in Columbia. Geoff Pratt and Deb Rust at Tellers inspired a lot of us and I miss working with them. Rich Trippler [of Addison's] is one of the best at spinning a yarn and really inspiring fun conversation at a bar. For brewers, the Logboat team is inspiring both for their product but also for their community-building.
What do you like to drink at home or on your day off? I think bartenders, like chefs, are very simple and to the point on their days off. We spend all week making intricate things that look pretty. When the shift is over, give me a beer and a shot.
What’s your favorite comfort food or drink? This hearkens back to my Booches days: Burger, Stag, Irish whiskey.
If you could tell home bartenders one thing, what would it be? Don't get too crazy and intricate for hosting parties. Make it easy on yourself so you can be a host who can drink and relax with everyone. I'm a fan of barrel-aging a cocktail: put out some glasses and ice and tell 'em to serve themselves!
What is your first cocktail memory? Learning to make a Harvey Wallbanger for an old-school bar manager in England. Galliano is a weird looking bottle for an even weirder "cocktail." Terrible tasting drink, if you ask me, but she loved them. I was only 20 years old, but you could drink and bartend over there at that age.
What’s the most intriguing drink you’ve made recently, and why? Back to rum. I made a simple Manhattan with Kirk & Sweeney 12yr, Zucca Rubarbaro and Cocchi di Torino vermouth. The aged rum made the cocktail. I tried it with four other rums – all completely different result. I like cocktails that are good but only made with three or four ingredients. Most of the classics are like that.
What inspires your cocktail making? How do you approach R&D at your bar, and what inspires that process? My bartenders have taken the reins this past year and I've enjoyed seeing what they come up with. We take an annual trip down to New Orleans to attend Tales of the Cocktail – the world's biggest cocktail convention. There we learn about new, up-and-coming bars, bartenders, methods, etc. So our bar meetings are what keeps me creative.
What are your future plans? In the future, I think I would like to get more into the education/training of bartenders. It is such a fun job that is more than just making drinks. Anybody can make a drink. Good bartenders make people feel welcome, get conversation going, set the mood, help create a respite.
Flyover, 212 E. Green Meadows Road #9, Columbia, Missouri, 573.825.6036, flyovercomo.com