Andrew Olsen, formerly at Cleaver & Cork and The Rieger Hotel, has joined the team at bluestem as bar manager. Olsen shares insight about the recent move and what he’ll bring to the bar including his take on Pimm’s Cup for Sunday brunch.
What brings you to bluestem? Your tenure at Cleaver & Cork wasn’t very long.
Cleaver & Cork was an incredible opportunity for my career. I was able to build something from the ground up that has been very successful. I can’t thank them enough for a chance to prove to myself and others what I could do.
As far as my move to bluestem, Van Zarr is crushing it out at Rye and has taken on huge amounts of responsibility. I’m coming to bluestem with the love of the elevated culinary culture. I hope to bring some new techniques and a continuance of the already high standards of hospitality.
What new cocktails may guests at bluestem anticipate from you this summer?
The goal is to make big beautiful drinks with small town goods. Linda Hezel from Prairie Birthday Farm [Read more about Linda Hezel.] is one of my favorite people around and she loves contributing to what I like to do with my drinks. Seasonality is everything.
Tell use more about your take on the Pimm’s Cup bar for Sunday brunch.
I wanted to bring something to the Sunday brunch crowd that I hadn’t seen before in KC. Pimm’s Cup is a great and refreshing brunch drink. I’ll be making my own sodas, and sourcing more sodas from local vendors. I also want to make the garnish portion out of this world. Pickled fruit, edible flowers, aromatic herbs, etc. Like the Bloody Mary/Maria bars we all see…let’s get crazy with it!
What do you have in mind as far as dessert/cocktail pairings?
It will totally depend on what the dessert is. So much to keep in mind: aroma, texture, acidity, flavor, color, vessel. The list is endless. I want to give all of those points equal opportunity to play into what I will make.
Where does KC stand in terms of its contemporary cocktail culture? Mature? Catching up to other scenes in other cities?
I think KC is up there with just about anybody. Although, it’s not just about the drinks themselves. It is about how we as bartenders place ourselves in the community, how well do we get along with each other, sharing ideas/techniques, continuing education, and just generally supporting each other. Promoting our craft in every way possible. This makes KC stand out among many other markets. I can tell you that people from other cities have taken notice, and want to know what we are doing that makes the culture here so different.
We’ve seen mezcal and smoke-influenced cocktails.
What’s next for KC, trend-wise?
I am beginning to see a lot of bartenders use different things in place of the citrus – verjus, kimchi juice, etc.