In Your Cocktail: City Barrel Brewery + Kitchen

Chai Old Fashioned. Photo by Corie English.

Beer aficionados may know City Barrel Brewery + Kitchen for its innovative sours and IPAs. But there’s a whole lot more to this Crossroad’s brewery than its brews, although that’s not a bad start.

Among City Barrel’s classics are Rad AF, a New England-style IPA that boasts tropical mango and papaya flavors, and the more recently developed Stratasphere IPA, made with a new hop, Strata, that gives the beer its name. Featuring layers of berry and grapefruit, it’s almost too drinkable for an 8 percent beer. Sours and other limited releases rotate on the tap list but exemplify the same spirit of experimentation.

The kitchen serves up plenty of shareable plates perfect for enjoying after that one beer with friends turns into two (or three, or four). Rad AF shows off its versatility, making its way into the spicy beer cheese dip and a tangy buttermilk dressing perfect for dipping wings.

But like we said, City Barrel isn’t all about beer. The brewery is home to an impressive food program that goes way past bar snacks (although it does those with aplomb) headed up by executive chef Benjamin Wood. The seasonally changing menu makes use of items from local farmers and producers, highlighting Salt Creek Farm’s grass-fed beef in the smash burger, served with special sauce on a salt and pepper bun, and Broadway Butcher Shop’s Parmesan Italian sausage in the Broadway pasta alongside rigatoni, tomatoes, peppers, and onions.

Touches throughout the welcoming, industrial-chic space also nod to City Barrel’s local love. The wood behind the bar is reclaimed from Nelson Atkins Museum of Art’s gallery walls first installed in the 1930s, and custom-built tables and chairs are made from Missouri white oak, the same wood used for the brewery’s sour beer tanks.

And yes, beer does make its way onto the cocktail list. City Barrel’s beer slushie of the week combines a different beer with Restless Spirits liquor for a frosty treat available in several different sizes. The Oh Honey, Honey! takes a different approach and uses Stratasphere as an ingredient alongside vodka, fresh lemon juice, and clover-honey simple syrup for a next-level beer cocktail.

Just like the dining menu, the current cocktail offerings created by bartending veteran Mari Matsumoto go well beyond the brewery’s beers, standing on their own with formidable self-assurance. The summer-ready Cumberbatch, made with cucumber-infused gin, Thai chili, makrut lime leaf, and topped with ginger beer is easy to drink but complex in its flavors, while the vodka-based cherry limeade is a less artificial take on the soda fountain favorite.

One of the bar’s most popular cocktails is the chai old fashioned, which offers something for both fans of the traditional old fashioned and those who might typically shy away from the spirit-forward drink. “It’s an all-season cocktail, vibrant and full of flavor,” Matsumoto says.

Consider this recipe your invitation to enjoy it year-round.

Chai Old Fashioned

  • 2 ounces chai blend-infused bourbon*
  • ¼ ounce mulling spice syrup**
  • 4 dashes of orange bitters
  • 2 dashes of angostura bitters

Combine ingredients. Stir, and strain into rocks glass with a big ice cube. Garnish with an orange peel.

*For the chai blend-infused bourbon:

Combine 1/4 cup of chai blend with Four Roses Bourbon for 3 days, then strain the chai tea out.

**For the mulling spice syrup:

Combine 1 cup of mulling spice, 1 cup of turbinado sugar, and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Boil and reduce into syrup. Let cool completely before using.