Elevating the Hospitality Experience
Cocktails and creative bites take flight at The Monarch Cocktail Bar & Lounge in Kansas City, Mo.
By Stef Schwalb
Pairing food and wine is a subject that gets plenty of culinary coverage, but pairing food and cocktails doesn’t always get the recognition and attention it deserves. With the complex mix of flavors that truly innovative cocktails require, it takes a delicate touch – and some serious talent – to create a perfection combination for the palate.
At The Monarch Cocktail Bar & Lounge in Kansas City, the partnership between Bar Manager Brock Schulte and Chef Theresia Ota features a uniquely crafted cocktail list and a small plates menu that showcase the reign of creativity and hospitality in every detail. Inspired by the migratory patterns and flight paths of indigenous Monarch butterflies from around the globe, cocktails at The Monarch echo the regional flight paths from which the spirits, modifiers and ingredients of each drink derive.
The menu also depicts the type of glassware for service, as well as the coordinates (longitude and latitude) of the migratory location from which it is conceived. Working with such range of flavors and ingredients requires dexterity. Chef Ota and Schulte are partners throughout the creative process to guarantee that the food and drink complement one another.
“Between the vast ranges of the food and cocktail menu (and even the beer and wine menus), it’s completely plausible to encounter some extremely contrasting flavors,” reveals Chef Ota. “Fortunately, all of our bartenders and servers are well-versed in each of our cocktails and food menus. We taste everything to ensure balance in flavor, quality and consistency.”
What’s also consistent is the host of ingredients and spices that inspire both Chef Ota and Schulte – some of which might be surprising to their local clientele. “Brock and I both like to nudge Kansas City to experience more obscure flavor profiles. Inherently, the path of the Monarch butterfly crisscrosses so many countries that we have free reign to combine just about any ingredient we want – including cupcakes on cocktails!” Chef Ota enthuses. “We are also blessed to have an extremely knowledgeable staff that helps us push the envelope and find new connections that cross cultures and other boundaries.”
To keep making those connections and experiment with global influences, Chef Ota explained that menus at The Monarch rotate (in a variety of ways) on a seasonal basis. “Even the cocktails and food that are not ‘changing’ must be at the very least sourced differently from season to season,” she explains. “Most of the favorites are getting seasonal adjustments. The lobster summer roll filling will go from watermelon and cucumber to Asian pear and pickled butternut squash (for fall), and Brock is currently working on a persimmon cocktail.”
Paired to Perfection
As far as some of Chef Ota’s favorite pairings, she turns to The Monarch’s signature drink specialty, the Negroni, which is created (along with other stirred classics) tableside for guests by the bartending team via a custom bar cart. Inspired by the West London-style of bespoke drinks, this service is the first of its kind brought to Kansas City. “For food and cocktail pairings, you can’t ever go wrong with a Negroni – we offer six variations – and the Negroni-cured lox. Our favorite Negroni to pair with the lox is the Vecchio Amico,” notes Chef Ota. “It means ‘old pal’ in Italian, and it is a riff on an Old Pal cocktail, which is itself a play on a Negroni. It’s made with Rittenhouse Rye, Braulio, Montenarro Barolo Chinato and Yzaquirre Blanco.”
These cocktails also come complete with signature ice cubes that feature a stamp of the bar’s logo. One of Chef Ota’s other favorite food and drink combinations, and certainly one of the most unique pairings she has helped create, is luxurious in both ingredients and flavor. “For food and wine pairings, we all love the Vintage Veuve Clicquot 2008 and Osetra Caviar with Smoked Brioche, Truffled Egg Salad and Elderflower Crème Fraîche,” she says.
In addition to the cocktails and the food, the space of The Monarch Bar is beautifully innovative as well. Designed by world-renowned architect David Manica of Manica Architecture (the Lead Design Architect for Chase Center, the new home of the NBA Warriors in San Francisco as well as the new NFL stadium for the Raiders in Las Vegas), the idea for The Monarch Bar was based on Manica’s global travels and his love of cocktails.
Manica decided to bring all the inspiration he found home to Kansas City and open his own cocktail lounge with some unique twists. The venue includes the chic, al fresco Monarch Terrace with outdoor seating for up to 60. The Main Bar features a center bar, approachable from all sides and sculpted from fine Italian stone, decorated with 1000 sculpted monarch butterflies taking flight from a one-of-a-kind art installation overhead. It has room for 24 seats with two dedicated bartenders. With no back bar, there is nothing to obstruct the perfect sight lines of the room, which allows for eye contact from all vantage points for all guests.
The bartenders work from an ingenious under-bar, engineered for high performance and service with every ingredient within reach. There are an additional 50 seats on intimate banquettes that encircle the room with a fireplace on one wall, flanked by two lounge spaces. The Parlour Room lies behind closed doors – it’s an inner bar open by invitation-only. Reservations are required for this private experience, featuring the rarest spirits and fine wines. Find additional details about The Monarch Bar, as well as current menus for both food and beverages at www.themonarchbar.com.
A born and bred New Yorker, Stef Schwalb’s love of everything culinary knows no bounds. She has written about food and beverages for several years, covering everything from how to make goat cheese to pairing oysters and Chablis. Schwalb is the senior content manager at Gregory White PR where she writes about enticing food and wine experiences at restaurants, bars & lounges, wineries and wine regions across the globe.