Bryan Arri has cut his teeth at some of the best bars in Kansas City, including Manifesto, Rye and The Monarch Bar. Ready to strike out on his own, this year he’s launching a new concept, Fern Bar, with a heightened focus on agave and sugarcane spirits – in other words, mezcal, tequila and rum.
The incredible cocktails – think a Daiquiri variation made with high-proof rum, Riesling, Ming River baijiu, a passionfruit-rum shrub and fresh lime juice – will certainly attract attention, but Arri hopes that guests come to Fern Bar for more than a drink. His goal is to foster a sense of community and acceptance, limiting the exclusive feel that high-end cocktail bars tend to have.
Why have you chosen to focus on agave and sugarcane spirits? Two main reasons: First, those are the two spirits that, to me, make life feel like a party worth being at. They can be used in so many unique ways, and they form the base of some of the best classic cocktails out there. Second, Fern Bar wants to focus on using only brands of spirits that utilize best practices. Communities that harvest agave and sugarcane are often taken advantage of, and we want to showcase brands that are doing things in ethical and sustainable ways.
How will Fern Bar stand out in the crowded Kansas City cocktail scene? Our focus is going to be on community and culture, not cocktails. We know that Kansas City residents have tons of options for a good drink – and that’s definitely a component here – but we want to make sure the focus of Fern Bar is always on people first. We want our guests to walk away at the end of the night with some great stories and an urge to come back beyond “because they mixed up a good cocktail.”
How do you approach R&D at Fern Bar? I’ve had some amazing mentors in my time, including guys like Jonathan “Tex” Bush [of Manifesto, who has since moved to Novel], Andrew Ruth [of Barred Owl Butcher & Table in Columbia, Missouri] and Brock Schulte [of The Monarch Bar], who have taught me how to layer drinks, compose profiles and tear drinks apart to find the elements I’m looking for. The two main keys for me are knowing the general direction I want to take things and knowing all the “rules” of cocktails – that way I can break them in trying to achieve something unique and delicious.
What can you tell us about when and where Fern Bar will open? We don’t have a concrete date – finding the perfect space is already quite the task, and the pandemic has made it even more difficult. However, our goal is to have a permanent space soon so we can officially open in summer 2021. In the meantime, we plan on having pop ups as often and as safely as we can in a variety of spots around Kansas City, so follow us on Instagram to keep [updated] about where we’ll be mixing drinks.
Fern Bar, instagram.com/fernbarkc