Bar owner, bartender, event producer, Imbibe’s 2013 Bartender of the Year …. meet Kansas City’s Ryan Maybee. We caught up with Maybee—co-founder of Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival—to find out what he has in store for this year’s POP Fest (August 20-24) and why he thinks Kansas City has the coolest cocktail scene around.
Imbibe: Tell us about POP Fest this year. What are you most excited about?
Ryan Maybee: This is our third year doing the Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival, and it continues to grow. As for the events I’m most excited about—I love the concept behind Dale DeGroff’s “On The Town.” We’re hosting it this year at The American Restaurant, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary and has ties to Joe Baum and James Beard. We’re offering a cocktail menu inspired by Dale’s days at The Rainbow Room. We’re also bringing in teams from additional cities this year for the Midwest Melee. Teams competing against each other are from Denver, Chicago, Indianapolis, Omaha and the defending champs, St. Louis. And the tribute to Kansas City Jazz at The Kill Devil Club, sponsored by Tanqueray, is always a highlight for me.
Imbibe: How has the KC scene changed over the past five years? Where do you see it five years from now?
RM: The scene has grown by leaps and bounds, and I can now proudly say that there are so many great bars and bartenders in KC that I can’t even begin to name all of them. We’re really coming into our own, and I think we’re establishing our own unique style. Five years from now, I think it will be even bigger, and I bet a lot of other bartenders and chefs from around the country will be able to identify a specific Kansas City or Midwest style that will be emulated by others.
Imbibe: You’re a KC native. If you had to describe the cocktail scene in three words, what would they be?
RM: Fun, engaging and hospitable.
Imbibe: What makes KC a hot spot for cocktails right now?
RM: I think the fact that we’re centrally located and a bit off the beaten path plays to our advantage. It’s different and refreshing. And, just like any good bar, you need to have much more than just great cocktails in order for the cocktail to be fully appreciated. That’s where our personality, our creativity (we have an amazing arts and music scene) and the overall culture of Kansas City comes into play. If you visit KC for great cocktails, you’ll find them. But you’ll also get much, much more.
Imbibe: If you had a friend coming to visit KC for one day only, where would you send them?
RM: Thou Mayest or Oddly Correct for Coffee. They’d have to visit The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art and The Liberty Memorial for a beautiful view of our skyline. Lunch at Oklahoma Joe’s for the best BBQ on the planet. A stroll through the Crossroads Arts District for galleries, shops, and Happy Hour at any number of awesome bars. Too many great restaurants to list for dinner. Drinks at Harry’s until closing time at 3 am. And, if they’re doing it right, they’ll end up at The Mutual Musicians Foundation for an after-hours jazz jam session and then Town Topic as the sun rises.
Imbibe: What’s your favorite drink of the moment?
RM: The Horsefeather: Rye (or blended) whiskey, ginger beer, Angostura bitters and a squeeze of lemon. Very refreshing during the summer, yet still a robust whiskey cocktail.