Kate Frick made a name for herself in the beverage industry as bar manager at John Brown Underground in Lawrence, Kansas, where she helped develop and launch the concept. In December 2015, she moved on to her own spot, the Myers Hotel Bar, inside a historic former hotel in Tonganoxie, Kansas, 30 minutes west of Kansas City. The charming spot was forced to close in October 2017 when her landlord sold the building.
Luckily for fans of Frick's thoughtful cocktails, she was able to reopen earlier this year, after the new owner saw all the hard work she had put into the bar and offered to sell her the 139-year-old building and its two-acre lot.
The Myers Hotel Bar reopened in March 2018, and draws fans from not only Tonganoxie but Lawrence and Kansas City, as well. We caught up with Frick to chat about her plans for the bar, experimenting with non-alcoholic cocktails and her favorite spot for shrimp and grits.
What’s your favorite ingredient to work with and why? Right now on the menu I have some amazing wild foraged paw paws, and I've been making paw paw Daiquiris. [Paw paws] have a lot of different names – hillbilly mango is one – but it's a wonderfully tropical fruit, somewhere between a papaya and and a mango. It's really pulpy and custardy. It's decadent – I love it.
What's your perfect day of eating and drinking in Kansas City? I love Ça Va in Kansas City. That’s one of my most favorite little treats to myself, so I'd probably start at Ça Va. Maybe it’s a tie, a brunch situation, because I love EJ's Urban Eatery. They have amazing shrimp and grits, too. I'm a sucker for ice cream; it's definitely one of my guilty pleasures. So I try to hit Betty Rae’s at least three times a month!
How has the local beverage scene evolved over the past year? I think luckily, drinkers are becoming more and more conscientious, so people are willing to explore their palate. [There's a lot of] new places, and you're seeing a lot of variety and experimentation on cocktail menus, and I think drinkers are more educated [about cocktails], so it's making conversations more fun.
What concepts or beverage programs do you hope to see added or expanded around Kansas City? I think the West Coast is great at cocktail pop ups that are really experimental and feel, in terms of creativity, a lot more aggressive with ingredient choices. [However,] I think right now you have a culture that’s really dramatically different than it was 10 years ago.
What do you like to drink at home or on your day off? Usually just brown liquor – I'm a bourbon and scotch lady. There's a Japanese whisky that I just started drinking, and its just divine – Nobushi.
What’s your favorite comfort food? I'm a sucker for ramen. Sometime I'll just throw the flavor packet away but keep the noodles and add a bunch of fresh veg and eggs and my own seasonings.
If you could give home bartenders one piece of advice, what would it be? I think starting with classics is an important baseline so that you have in your repertoire one of the five base spirits – one great cocktail [each] – that you can rely on for parties or even entertaining one other person. So get a gin cocktail, a whiskey cocktail, a vodka cocktail, tequila and rum under your belt and then you're pretty set.
What's the most intriguing cocktail you've made recently? Recently I've been asked a couple of times by customers to do mocktails, so I've really been experimenting with smoking herbs and sage and thyme, trying to replicate that intense, deep smoky flavor of mezcal, in lieu of mezcal. Smoking herbs has been a fun experiment for me.
What inspires your drinks? How do you approach R&D at your restaurant, and what inspires that process? It usually starts with tasting when I'm in the bar's garden or on the farm, I'm just tasting everything. And then in the same way that you build a menu and think about a meal, I start trying to, in my mind, combine flavors, and that usually leads to a first round of drink testing and modifying the recipes. Usually after three or four trials, I've got it.
What are your future plans? With this historic hotel and all of its square footage available to us, we're trying to dream how the Myers can provide more. I'm not quite ready to talk about it, but we’ve got some exciting ideas that we're working through right now – more entertainment, basically... another form of entertainment.
The Myers Hotel Bar, 220 S. Main St., Tonganoxie, Kansas, themyershotel.com