By The Honorary Brent Morgan
When my children were younger and curious about alcohol my wife and I responded to their questions honestly. We always tried to answer their questions in an open, honest, age appropriate way. Reaching their teen years of course their curiosity started to peak, and we talked about it more. I requested that each of them show some self-discipline and wait till they were 21 so that I could enjoy their first drink with them. Now, I harbor no illusion that they have not imbibed prior to 21, but I do not mind kidding myself on some things.
My eldest recently reached the 21-year-old milestone and I invited him to go out the Saturday after his birthday. I would like to say his response was effusive, but he simply said, “sure.” Granted that is effusive for him.
Most first time “Legals” go out with only one thing in mind, “I am going to get hammered as quickly as possible. I want a night I will not remember, so I cannot regret.” But I figured we need to do his birthday right. Make it an evening that is fun and memorable. Thus, here is a cocktail recipe for doing it right.
21st: Doing it Right
Find a Friend: I figured the best thing to do was invite my buddy Jared to the event. It is safe to say that Jared, and his family, are really members of our family. Plus, he happens to be one of the most affable and kind people I know. Jared cared as much as I did about ensuring Hayden’s night would turn out as a delightful experience.
Set a Dress Code: Most folks, at least in my circle of influence, celebrated their 21st while away at college. With the limiting factors of college life, like a lack money, an unwashed wardrobe, Cheetos dust covering your hands and face, and a group of friends deeply desiring to tie one on, would prevent the decision to dress sharply. We went the opposite direction and set a dress code of button-down shirts, jackets, and looking decidedly well groomed. Besides it is impossible to overdress for any occasion.
Pick a Variety of Establishments: I was concerned about our ability to be able to visit at least 3 places before the reduced Covid-19 hours hurt us, but we were able to achieve that goal. My goal was to hit 3 different places with a distinctly different feel in each one. Granted the specter of infection did establish a common thread amongst each site, but I was cool with it. To misquote Seth Meyers, “stay safe, where your mask, social distance, we love you.” In every other aspect, each bar we landed at had a vastly different atmosphere.
Get Home Safe: Not sure this ingredient requires any other details.
Step 1: Leave your son’s girlfriend’s birthday party she planned for him and find Jared already in your home, digging through your refrigerator. Quickly change clothes, check your hair (well I didn’t need to), and take a few pictures as if you were headed to prom.
Step 2: Make your way over to location 1 with haste.
J. Rieger & Co distillery was our first stop. J. Rieger is located in an industrial area on the northern side of Kansas City with Evergy right next door in case you want to pay a utility bill. The J. Rieger building sticks out like a small oasis amidst a desert of industry and serves as a welcome respite.
As a brief aside, our journey north on I-35 provided us many views of Kansas City’s skyline, perhaps the best in the United States.
Having not made a reservation, we were asked to wait for a bit before a table would open. To me this was perfectly fine as they have a museum of sorts describing the history of J. Rieger and the long history of distilling and brewing in the Kansas City community. The museum section has a lot of novelties that are interesting to look at. If my spouse were there, we would have hung around and read every word on every card.
Stepping over to the gift shop we began to eyeball the special Monogram Whiskey 2020 Edition Oloroso Bota. We were immediately pounced on by a staff member who had a well-practiced pitch. The Monogram whiskeys are the special varieties that are output by the distillery. Try as we might we could not find a price tag. As the old saying goes, “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Luckily, we did not have to crush the salesperson’s dreams as another customer strolled up and bought a bottle. Peeking at the sales slip (I know this is rude) showed me that yes, this is a lot more than I want to spend.
While the other customer’s sale was completed, we were called up to our table. We meandered up the stairs to the second floor and lamented that the slide down was currently closed due to the Covids. The host enthusiastically greeted us with, “you guys look great!” A truer statement has never been spoken, granted he did look much better than we did. We were guided to a comfortable area that had a small divan and a couple wing back chairs. After a few pleasantries with the host we awaited our server perusing the online menu on our phones (online menus in restaurants is yet another intriguing twist Coronavirus caused).
A quick check of Hayden’s ID let our server know that it was his birthday. I was not carded of course, because servers and bartenders feel sorry for bald men. Why add another indignity to this poor, follicly challenged soul. While we offered advice to Hayden on his first drink ever, our server went to grab some water. After many offered ideas Hayden settled on a Monogram Mule, which is a Moscow Mule but made with the special whiskey. Jared opted for their Monochromatic and I selected for a Rieger Whiskey on a rock, singular.
Over my right shoulder I spied our server headed back to our table and noticed he had four drinks on his tray. I thought, “huh,he must be delivering an item to another table.” Which of course he wasn’t. I had forgotten the tradition that bars will give the 21-year-old birthday boy a free cocktail. So, Hayden added a No Laws cocktail to his drink list. Which of course Jared and I added another, a Heim Beer and another whiskey, respectively.
With that, we sat back, drank slow, and conversed. We did not talk about great philosophy, science, or religion. No heady topics were dissected. Just a conversation amongst three men happy to be in each other’s company. A small competition did erupt of course, they always do. Hayden showed us a long set of heart emojis exchanged between him and his girlfriend which prompted Jared to suggest who would receive the quickest response from their significant other if we sent them a heart emoji. I think my spouse barely beat Hayden’s, but she certainly beat Jared’s remarkable bride. When Jared sent me a heart emoji, I responded significantly faster than all the women in our lives #SubSecond. That’s just how we roll.
With our drinks finished, our conversations pleasantly continuing, and the bill paid, we headed off to step 3. I was still pissed the slide was closed.
Step 3: As we stepped toward Jared’s minivan, he asked what the next stop should be. Knowing that he had other options in his mind, I suggested we try out the Green Lady. Hayden had mentioned to me that several of his buddies liked going thereand I figured, “why not?”
A quick jaunt to a spot a block or so away from the Power & Light district we parked and strolled over to the Green Lady. A bouncer sat outside checking ids before he would let anyone in. As he checked ours, I could feel his heart saying, “man those guys look amazing.” Ever the professional he held it in.
Walking into the Green Lady was like stepping into a Red Velvet cake. An overwhelmingly sweet patina of your grandmother’s burgundy upholstered furniture exploded on every surface and light fixture. It caused immediate confusion as to why this place was called the Green Lady. Is she color blind? Am I?
We perused the available spaces on the main floor and felt there wasn’t enough space to social distance, so we opted for the basement. Headed down the backstairs we passed the lower bar and scoped out a table that would work.
As every restaurant, bar, pub, seems to have a different procedure for ordering. In this case we headed back to the basement bar and opened a conversation with the mixologist. Once he discovered that Hayden was a neophyte, and yes, I am sticking with that idea, he quickly dispatched Jared and I with our orders. Jared was offered a Sazerac and I, a Pendergast.
Hayden though, received a series of diagnostic questions as if the bartender was planning a surgical procedure. What do you like? What have you had? What have you already had this evening? What don’t you like? Etc. Hayden’s responses can be summed up as follows, “I don’t know” and “Sure”. The apothecary got to sample what it is like to be a parent. Amazingly enough, after this 21st-Teen-Beat Magazine Quiz, the chemist offered the perfect concoction to Hayden: A Paper Plane.
With our drinks stylistically made, we headed back to our table. We sat back, talked, smiled, laughed and genuinely enjoyed sharing our cocktails. Spoiler alert, the Paper Plane was the best cocktail of the evening. I highly recommend looking up the recipe, making it for yourself, or finding your favorite 21 and over establishment and asking the bartender for one.
Ordinarily the Green Lady would have live music, but due to the plague, it was not available on our excursion. Live music must be an integral part of the experience at this club because otherwise it is a bar like any other. Nursing our drinks for a bit we opted to move on to one of Jared’s new discoveries.
Step 4: Walking up the front stairs we exited the Green Lady and found our way back to the chariot. With Jared behind the wheel he drove us to a wonderful find of his – Drastic Measures, found in Shawnee, KS not far from Shawnee’s City Hall.
I highly recommend stopping by Drastic Measures as it is a fun but laid-back environment. But if you wish to visit, you must agree to their house rules: 1. Use your manners 2. Inside voices 3. No hate speech or hate wear 4. You will not be served if you are visibly intoxicated.
The lounge is small and only has a few tables. However, there are several comfy chairs and sofas, which gives the place a friendly and relaxing atmosphere. They also provide games and cards for your enjoyment.
We quickly settled on a high-top table and perused the menu. They offer several cocktails with a surprising variety. I am sure they can make whatever you want, but I like the fact that they offer a smaller drink menu as it gives one confidence that they make those drinks well.
For me, I followed what many would say is the boring route. I requested a simple vodka poured over ice. Drastic Measures serves Rider Vodka from a local favorite, Union Horse Distillery. I am a huge fan of their whiskeys, but this was the first time I tried their vodka. Served in a tumbler with a giant ice cube, the vodka was strikingly smooth and a pleasure to sip.
Jared selected the Deadeye Diaz whose flavor notes are described as smoke, spice, and tropical fruit. It is made with mezcal, passion fruit, ancho reyes, lime, and infused olive oils. The drink is beautiful with the oils pooling in droplets on the surface. Aside from its appearance its flavor is very nice, although I expected a bigger punch based upon its ingredients.
Hayden opted for the Rapper’s Delight. Its flavor notes are described as a bright daiquiri variation with lingering flavors. The Rapper’s Delight ingredients include white rum, citra hop infused falernum, pineapple syrup, and lime. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the taste of this concoction as it contains pineapple, which, if I were to consume some, would make for interesting event. I offered to give it a try and cause the event, but my compatriots were not interested in a trip to the hospital.
Speaking of which, given Hayden’s poor beverage choice, I have decided to sell him. No reasonable offer refused.
The atmosphere of Drastic Measures lulled us back in our seats and into an easy conversation that slowly covered an hour or so. They are doing something right at that location. Do yourselves a favor and give them a visit. I know I will visit again.
Step 5: Bringing our conversation and drinks to a conclusion we meandered back to our vehicle. No one worse for the wear. The pacing of the evening, the easy conversation, and the slow consumption made for a relaxing, pleasant evening.
Very quickly we found ourselves home, safe and secure, fulfilling our primary ingredient, “Get Home Safe.” I can say several things about our evening that are important, but here are just a couple.
First, there was absolutely no pressure on our young initiate to drink until drunk, let alone, till he blacked out. What we were able to demonstrate was a fun night where intoxication was not the primary goal, but rather friendship, bonding, conversation, and enjoyment came first.
Second, it was yet another opportunity for me, the father, to take another transition in my relationship with my son. As my children have grown, I have looked for moments where my relationship with my child can grow and change into something larger, more open, and better. This was one of those moments. When Hayden turned 18, he kind of wanted to know if the rules were the same, or did they change. To me they changed quite a bit. He was an adult now and he should behave as such. What that means is, while he is in my house, he will behave as an adult. Which means, he will communicate when he will be in and out (no permission required, unless it involves my car), and he will take care of the home, like any other reasonable person. Otherwise, I trust him to make the right choices.
Having spoken with another friend about our evening, he wished his father had done something similar for him. I feel that every child looks to their father for guidance, leadership and transition. Preparing an evening like this is such a simple and fun task to make that happen.
As he turned 21, I expected our relationship to grow into more of a friendship. I have spent a significant portion of my life trying to pour mine into his. Now it is up to him to ask for and consume that “wisdom”, what little I may have. He may not realize it, but that was one of my primary goals of the evening. To transition our relationship further into adulthood. He may always look at me as a father, but I will, from now on, look at him as his own man.
That being said, Jared brought out a treat for us to close out the evening, 99 Bananas. Before I describe what 99 Bananas is, let me repeat, we were in the safety of our home.
So, 99 Bananas is a beverage that Jared described to me when I visited him prior to our event with Hayden. It is a 99-proof schnapps style banana flavored liquor. From inside his jacket, Jared pulled out to airplane sized liquor bottles containing the beverage. After some descriptions to the surrounding parties, I found a couple of shot glasses to load up with the liquid. I gave it a quick, small taste, and almost gagged. It was shockingly gross, as if the worst banana flavored candy exploded in your mouth. Jared knew what he was going to experience on his small taste. My spouse concurred after taking a small sip herself. The daughter thought this was quite funny, and I explained to her that it would probably catch fire, which, of course, it did.
Poor Hayden watched all this activity prior to his sampling his own shot glass, which he finished. His face looked like he had never tasted something so revolting in his life. His one comment after drinking all of it, “Oh, I feel it now.” He was certainly right.