One of the things we like most about living in Omaha is the way that this big city can still feel like a small town, where people are genuinely interested in their neighbors and a friendly face or place is never far away. One of those friendly places is The Tavern, a bar in the heart of of the Old Market housed in the historic Windsor Square Building that long has served as gathering place for travelers and locals alike. The Tavern is a rather unique establishment, part entertainment district bar and part neighborhood bar, part cocktail bar and part beer bar, embracing its legacy as a social gathering place and good neighbor. When we were invited to visit The Tavern to check out their new spring cocktail menu and their partnership with Together a Greater Good, a local startup focused on community, we were excited to get a chance to check out what the folks at The Tavern are all about. Disclosure: We were provided free samples from The Tavern’s menu, but all opinions presented here are 100% our own. This menu review was facilitated by Together a Greater Good.
Walking into The Tavern, it feels like you have stepped into a hip, comfortable neighborhood bar, the space wide open and welcoming. Its not until you take a close look at the space that you notice some of the really cool details that give the space some real charm. The centerpiece is a 105 year old Brunswick bar that originally was from the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City where lots of guests including Elvis Presley and many Presidents of the United States likely grabbed a drink from its mahogany top. Raw brick walls, reclaimed wooden church pews and the original tin roof bring an authentic historic air that gives the bar a comfortably familiar feeling. Large windows bring in light during the day, and when the bar is hopping in the evening, lets passersby catch a glimpse of the festivities inside, which on weekends often include live music. The space has a cool vibe, but we are a food and cocktail blog after all, so more importantly how are the drinks?
The Tavern might like to say they are just a friendly neighborhood bar, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to make some tasty cocktails. Owner David Kerr hails from Scotland, the famed land of Scotch whisky (or as he states in his charming Scottish accent, “It might be a bit egotistical, but back home (Scotland) we just call it whisky!”) believes everyone should have the chance to drink great spirits.
David, along with his bar manager Brian, have come up with a menu that offers patrons a mix of classic cocktails and Tavern originals that is sure to interest any fan of good cocktails. As self proclaimed cocktail nerds, Mrs. Nom and I both thought it was very fun to have a chance to chat with the staff of The Tavern and their ideas of what a cocktail should be.
The first cocktail we tried was a Tavern specialty called the Beansmith, named after an Omaha coffee roaster who roasts some incredibly delicious coffee beans and who provided the cold brew coffee used in this drink. The Beansmith was the brain child of bar manager Brian, who had traveled to Italy and noticed that all of the espressos he ordered came with a lemon twist, a combination he loved. The Beansmith is based on that Italian combination and uses Beansmith cold brew coffee and lemoncello and an espresso infused vodka to make a delicious coffee cocktail. A splash of heavy cream gives the drink a rich body reminiscent of a iced latte. If you are a coffee fan , the Beansmith is a must have when you visit the Tavern. Brian also mentioned that they will soon have cold brew coffee on tap, and are planning on a cold brew coffee cocktail menu!
We next got to sample two versions of the venerable classic cocktail, the Old Fashioned. David wanted to make an Old Fashioned with Scotch, so came up with his take he calls David’s Auld Fashioned. Made with one of our personal favorite scotch whisky, Monkey Shoulder, David uses two types of bitters to give the drink a deeper and more complex flavor that compliments the warm malt notes of the Monkey Shoulder scotch. This version was super smooth and delicious, and fans of scotch whisky will really enjoy this take on a classic.
Brian brought out his take on an Old Fashioned, going with the Chocolate Rye. The Chocolate Rye is a darker, more nuanced version of the Old Fashioned, using Bulleit Rye and an Italian amaro called Fernet Branca. The Fernet Branca adds in deep herbal note and just a hint of bitterness. A couple of dashes of Fee Brother’s Aztec Chocolate bitters adds a dark later of chocolate and a bit of heat. Combined with the earthiness of the Fernet the spicy chocolate adds a bold layer of flavor that worked well with the orange peel and the Bulleit Rye. The Chocolate Rye was surprisingly mellow and delicious, the layers of flavor well blended and very balanced.
The Tavern also has a very interesting beer menu, with the usual big brewery domestics, a bunch of local craft beers and a nice selection of imports. Many of the imports are favorites of David from his time in Scotland and England, and like his love of good spirits, he is passionate about good beer and the selection of beers reflects that. While lots of craft beer lovers will find something to love, fans of the domestic brands will still find plenty of those in house as well.
David mentioned that his desire for The Tavern is that everyone is welcome and should feel comfortable, whether it be drinking cocktails or beer. He wants The Tavern to be a place that is the gathering place for the folks in the neighborhood, but at the same time a great place for folks on a date in the Old Market to come for a great night out. He mentioned a number of times that he wants to be involved in his community and be known as a good neighbor, which is why he partners up with Together a Greater Good (TAGG). Together a Greater Good is a local start up that brings together businesses, customers and causes, and helps charitable minded businesses and customers donate to their favorite causes by donating a percentage of the customer purchase. Customers can donate by scanning a QR code or their receipt with their phone using TAGG’s app, and all the hard work is done by TAGG. Causes can include schools or youth groups, charities and non-profits, even youth sports teams. Together a Greater Good currently partners with over 100 businesses like The Tavern in Omaha and Lincoln.
Next time you are out in the Old Market, stop in and see David, Brian and the rest of the staff at The Tavern, belly up to the historic bar and grab yourself a drink for a good cause!
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