If Benson is Omaha’s craft beer district, then the Old Market is becoming its craft cocktail district.
There’s I.O. Speak, a cozy basement bar below the Indian Oven, where Binoy Fernandez whips up pre-Prohibition and Prohibition-era cocktails from scratch. There’s the Boiler Room and House of Loom.
And soon there will be one more.
Ethan Bondelid — one of the owners of the House of Loom — has bought Myth, a martini bar at 11th and Howard Streets, from Brian Murzyn.
Until March, Bondelid will run the cocktail lounge just as it’s been operated since Murzyn opened five years ago. Then, Bondelid said, he’ll close for a week, replace the seating and lighting and reconfigure the bar a bit, and reopen as the Berry and Rye, a craft cocktail bar.
Berry and Rye will be the type of place where the bartenders make their own simple syrups, their own grenadine, their own flavored and smoked ice, even their own cola, should someone order a whiskey and Coke. Every drink, Bondelid said, will be made with care, and just watching the bartenders at work should provide a an education in the art of the craft cocktail.
“If you get a bar seat, you really get kind of a show,” he said.
Bondelid and his staff are still finalizing the menu. But he expects that at any given time, the bar will offer around 20 drinks. Some of them will be strong, others will be delicate and sweet (hence the bar’s name). Most will require both time and skill to prepare. He recruited Luke Edson and Brock Miller, who both tended bar at the Bourbon Theater in Lincoln, to work at Berry and Rye. Ben Rowe, who works at House of Loom, will help out.
He’s also employing a tactic new to Omaha. Berry and Rye won’t offer any standing room. If all the bar’s 65 or so seats are taken, would-be patrons can leave their cell numbers with the front-door host, who will text them when a spot opens up.
Craft cocktail bars in New York, San Francisco and Kansas City (among other places) have instituted similar practices, Bondelid said, and he hopes the no-standing-room policy means that the bartenders are never too rushed and each drink is as good as it can be.
“It ensures every time you come here, you have a very consistent experience,” he said.
Bondelid said the concept behind the Berry and Rye grew out of House of Loom, which has a craft cocktail bar menu but often lacks a craft cocktail bar feel. Loom is an events bar, he said, and on any given night, there might be a poetry reading or a band or some kind of dance party. Sometimes the atmosphere is conducive to savoring a well-made drink with friends, he said. Sometimes it’s not.
The two bars, he hopes, will complement each other — patrons could have a drink at Berry and Rye before going dancing at Loom. Or Loom customers enjoying an evening drink could move to Berry and Rye once the music starts and the bar begins to fill up.
“I think there will definitely be a symbiotic relationship between the two,” Bondelid said.
Official dates for the closing of Myth and the grand opening of the Berry and Rye are yet to be announced. Stay tuned.
If enjoying a craft cocktail in a quiet bar isn’t your bag ...
Perhaps a silly string and feather pillow fight is.
Sokol Auditorium will host just such an event Saturday night beginning at 9. A $10 cover buys admission, and if you’re one of the first 200 people through the doors, you get a free can of silly string. Three DJs will play from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. The event is for those 18 and over.
Two Omaha bars made Draft’s Magazine’s list of the top 100 beer bars in the United States.
The list, which came out earlier this month, included both Crescent Moon at 36th and Farnam Streets and Krug Park in Benson.
Crescent Moon has been on the list for the past five years, and the magazine has praised it for its wide selection of brews and the German-style beer hall in the bar’s basement.
The magazine praised Krug Park, new to the list this year, for its old-timey decor and Beer Society Club — a review that drew hundreds of likes on the bar’s Facebook page.