No matter when you walk into Extra Virgin, it feels like you’re arriving at just the right moment of a party: People are laughing and toasting, the drinks and snacks are abundant, and nobody is sulking in a corner. You’re surrounded by color and energy, both from other guests and the cast of characters behind the bar, headed up by bar manager Jeff Lichtenberger.
Extra Virgin cements itself as a great drinking spot with the help of specials: Half-priced bottles of wine on Mondays, half-off tabs for service industry professionals on Wednesdays and 50 percent off rosé Thursdays, all offered in addition to regular happy-hour specials weekdays from 4 to 6:00 p.m. Then there’s the bustling patio that puts guests right in the heart of the Crossroads, a particularly popular drinking destination on First Fridays (and pretty much any other time you can sit outside in Kansas City without fear of melting, freezing, or being struck by lightning.)
It’s a testament to how much the Crossroads favorite has going on that it’s taken this long to mention the food by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Smith, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Nancy, and turns out everything from crackling chicharrones and poblano pepper mac and cheese to whole-roasted branzino and churros with chocolate sauce.
With such pedigree in the kitchen, the drinks have a lot to live up to. Extra Virgin currently offers wine bottles and bottled cocktails to go in light of COVID-19 precautions, including the summer-ready Bootsy Collins, made with vodka, strawberries, citrus, basil, and soda, by the quart and half quart. Nancy oversees the wine program, while Lichtenberger creates magic at the large central bar.
Inside, the menu ranges from classic cocktails, including one of the city’s best sangrias, to more inventive drinks. Pay special attention to the positively punny names—Lichtenberger admits his thought process often begins with a play on words, and the drink takes off from that launchpad. Take the Half Blood Prince & The Revolution, a name that manages to reference both Harry Potter and pop icon Prince’s one-time band. The potion is a blended rum cocktail balanced with herbs, citrus and fruit.
“Blood orange is one of my all-time favorite citruses to work with: It carries a great tart note while giving an almost raspberry-like quality, which creates the perfect balance of sweet and sour,” Lichtenberger says. “When combined with fresh ginger, it creates the illusion of a tropical vacation in a glass.”
He builds on the flavors by garnishing the cocktail with two different types of basil: Italian and Thai, for both flavor and aromatic purposes. “I source both types of basil locally from City Bitty Farms, a wonderful two-acre urban farm producing some really incredible ingredients here in KC,” he adds.
Half Blood Prince & The Revolution
Blood Orange Ginger Purèe
- 8 ounces fresh blood-orange juice
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ inch piece of ginger (or to taste)
Incorporate sugar into blood-orange juice in a saucepan on low heat until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Put syrup and ginger into a Vitamix or blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds. Strain to remove ginger fibers and place in a covered container.
- .75 ounces Plantation 3 Star rum
- .75 ounces Plantation Original dark rum
- .5 ounces Dry Curaçao
- .5 ounces Giffard Apricot
- 1 ounce blood-orange ginger purée
- .5 ounce lime juice
- Dash of absinthe
- Sprigs of Italian and Thai basil
Combine all ingredients. Gently shake and strain over a large clear cube and garnish with basil.