Freelance Food & Drinks Writer

Tag Archives: Justus Drugstore

Botanical bartending

There’s nothing new about bartenders using herbs. But no one does it quite like Chris Conatser of Justus Drugstore.

That’s why a handful of Kansas City’s bartenders—many of them members of the KC Bartenders’ Guild, a newly formed chapter of the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild—trekked up to Paradise, Mo., earlier this week for Conatser’s take on the herbal anatomy of a drink.

Chris Conatser of Justus Drugstore with a selection of the house-made bitters, tinctures, infusions and other concoctions that have made the bar’s cocktail list one of the most intriguing in the country.

We met in the garden, which surrounds the home of Jonathan Justus and Camille Eklof, just down the road from their restaurant in Smithville, Mo. It’s an informal thing, with sinuous beds curving through what was once an empty, grassy lot and a scattering of raised stone-and-brick planters built by Justus.

Pretty enough, to be sure, but what grows here is clearly essential to the restaurant. Raspberries, lettuce, arugula (both wild and domestic), figs, cardoons (a wild artichoke variety), parsley, a native spice bush, lambs quarters, the rare-ish maple-leaf goosefoot, peaches… it all makes its way onto the plate and into the glass. Continue Reading

Kansas City: a great place to drink

Kansas City’s a great place to get a drink. I know that. You know that. Now, thanks to the lovely editors at Imbibe! who gave me a chance to write about it all, everyone else does, too. Articles like that give me a perfect excuse to be nosy, asking endless questions about cocktails, beer, coffee,… Continue Reading

At the bar: Justus Drugstore

Chris Conatser of Justus Drugstore is many things: botanist, wildcrafter, bartender. He’s even been called a mad scientist, thanks to regular usage of words like terpene and diacetyl. I say he’s just good at what he does. I’ve been up to Smithville, Mo., a couple times recently to see Conatser—the first was in September to… Continue Reading

Judith Rocks the Midwest

Back in the early 1990s, Saveur ran an article about Kansas wheat that was so compelling I tore it out and filed it away for reference. Whoever that Judith Fertig was, I thought, truly understood and loved “flyover country” and its food. When I finally met her a few years later, I realized not only… Continue Reading

The Church of Mark

Congrats to Mark Church of Grünauer for topping this year’s Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition. He stirred up The Refined Austrian Cocktail, using Austrian gin and brandy,Kirsch liqueur and homemade aromatic bitters, garnished with a grilled orange slice. I know it was delicious, thanks to the competition’s new tasting room. He must have also done… Continue Reading

When life gives you peaches

What does one do with a 26-pound lug of peaches? Eat them. Bake muffins. And, when you’re tired of that, make a batch of peach liqueur. I’ve written about infusions for years, most recently for an upcoming piece on cocktail trends in the Kansas City Star, but never done one myself. It turns out Scott… Continue Reading

Quote: the start of a good cocktail

“Anything that smells good and doesn’t poison us can be the start of a cocktail.” This from Chris Conatser, the botanist bartender at Justus Drugstore in Smithville. During a recent interview about cocktail trends, Conatser told me that he draws inspiration from everywhere—daisies along the road, corn tassling out, aromas from the kitchen. If it… Continue Reading

How far would you go for a drink?

My guess is not as far as Jonathan Justus, executive chef and owner of Justus Drugstore in Smithville, Mo., and bartender botanist Chris Conatser. Justus buys as much locally produced meat, veg, fruit and so on as he can for the restaurant, but he and Conatser also regularly help farmers harvest more esoteric crops like… Continue Reading