October 2013 Bartender Of The Month: Beau Williams

Name: Beau WilliamsBeau Williams of Manifesto

Establishment: GM/ Head Bartender at Manifesto and Co-Owner of Hawthorne & Julep

Recent Gigs: Native of Kansas City, Beau Williams first experience bartending was at the tender age of 19 at a local country club.  Stints at 75th Street Brewery and JP Wine bar helped broaden his appreciation for all things alcohol. 

While at JP Wine Bar, he began to gain appreciation for classic cocktails and techniques.  His cocktails have won him the recognition of his peers and experts at the annual Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition, Paris of the Plains Cocktail Competition, as well as other national events.  Williams has also served on the board of POPFest in Kansas City. 

“While he’s an accomplished master of cocktails and recipes, his real strengths lie in making guests comfortable, making them laugh, and getting them to come back. Beau continues to be one of the most unsung heroes in our industry,” says Ryan Maybee of Manifesto.

Beau has consulted for a number of bars and restaurants in the Kansas City area, and also co-founded Hawthorne & Julep, an event and cocktail catering company. Currently, he is the GM/ head bartender of a small cocktail lounge named Manifesto whose bar program is considered one of the best in the country.  He has called Manifesto home since it's opening in April of 2009 and has been operating Hawthorne & Julep with his wife Keely Edgington since the fall of 2012.

Due to the success of both ventures, Beau and Keely plan on opening a bar named Julep in the spring of 2014. Located in the heart of Westport, a historic neighborhood in Kansas City, Julep will emphasize all things whiskey accompanied by low country cuisine.

In his spare time he waxes philosophic on all things alcohol in his semi-weekly column called The Inebriationist on a local food and beverage blog FeedMeKC. His goal: to make Kansas City a better place to make bad decisions.

Why did you become a bartender:
I was serving tables at a country club here in the Kansas City area between college classes when the temp service that was supposed to bartend a 300 person wedding bailed on us last minute. They were in a real jam and had very few options. I happened to be serving the slowest section of the restaurant, so I was a perfect candidate. Next thing you know I was getting a crash course in bartending from our manager's husband who knew the basics. After the brief training I was thrown to the wolves. And I loved it. Every minute of it. There was something different about the experience that serving never provided me: being able to look your guest in the eye, the opportunity to crack a joke, a mutual respect between me and the guest, and a faster pace that pushed me to be more efficient. I was hooked. I knew that I was going to be a bartender. 

What is Manifesto doing differently:
I have a chance to make my way into quite a few cocktail bars across the country. And while there's always some inspiration gleaned from these experiences, and some great cocktails as well, I always leave feeling that what we at Manifesto do best is really taking care of people. We pride ourselves on our cocktails, no doubt. And we aren't afraid to push the envelope when it comes to techniques and processes. But at the end of the day, we make people feel like family. Now, I don't mean to insinuate that we're exclusive to taking pride in our hospitality, but I haven't found a gin joint yet that outshines us in that category.

What are some fall flavors and trends:
Here in the Midwest, the fall and winter months can be fairly limited when it comes to produce to play with, but we take advantage of everything our farmers have to offer. That means anything from apples to pears, from butternut squash to beets. If it's making our own cordials or utilizing process like pickling, we're always finding fun ways to incorporate our local cold weather produce.

Any new projects on the horizon:
Funny you ask! My wife Keely and I are opening a bar this spring in Westport, a great historic Kansas City neighborhood. We're calling it Julep and focusing on whiskey. Of course cocktails will be a major point of emphasis as well, but if you're looking for a shot and a beer, you'll still feel right at home. We have a talented guy heading up the kitchen named John Brogan who's a Charleston, SC native. His food will definitely reflect his low country roots, but we're really more of a bar than a restaurant.

What's in the mixing glass or shaker:
At work, it's whatever fits the guests' fancy. At home, it's usually a Manhattan for my wife. Me? I like anything and everything. And typically straight out of the bottle with a beer on the side.

What are you sipping on and why:
Lately it's been a lot of whiskey. When you're about to open a whiskey bar, you better get intimate with your product. It's been really tough (kidding), but someone has to do it.

What are you dancing to while mixing:
To be honest, you probably never want to see me dance, but great music is a huge part of what takes a typical bar experience and makes it a memorable one. Manifesto is a really small, dark, candlelit place. Lately I've been leaning towards some darker, grittier, hard rock selections from bands like Black Mountain and Band of Skulls. But we keep it varied. A lot of jazz early in the evenings, classic and contemporary rock later in the night, and the occasional Kendrick Lamar album at last call.

What are some quirks/ quotes you are known for:
People seem to find my shake a bit aggressive. What can I say? Life's too short to shake a drink like a sissy. One of my favorite quotes in bartending is from Harry Craddock, author of the quintessential Savoy Cocktail Book. He liked to say, "You shake a drink to wake it up, not to put it to sleep." So I guess I took it heart.


Final thoughts:
Yeah. In case you didn't know already, Kansas City is an awesome place. We have an amazing food, beverage and arts community. The music scene is incredible. The historic architecture can blow you away. If you haven't been before, come visit us. We'd love to take care of you. And hopefully we'll fit you with something tasty to sip on. Cheers!

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