Barkeep Supply in Midtown: tools of the trade, and a drink or two
You got your spoon and jigger. And the shaker and the strainer. Now all you need is a flame-thrower.
You head over to Barkeep Supply, a bartender provisions store, and small bar, in Midtown, and if that’s not enough mentions of the word “bar” in a sentence, you buy a bartender’s smoking gun so you can make that flaming cocktail at your home — bar.
You meet Julia McLish. The 34-year-old owner of Barkeep shows you a large collection of bitters, so you pick up a few bottles and also buy an apron and a flask, but before heading out with your supplies, you order a “Violette Femme” and enjoy the vodka-based cocktail as a B-52s song whirls through the speakers.
“There’s a cocktail craze in Oklahoma City, and I wanted to be a one-stop shop,” McLish says. “I chose to also have a bar so we could demonstrate how to make cocktails so people can do it at home. If you want to learn how to make an Old-Fashioned yourself, take a seat at the bar, order one and learn how to make it.”
McLish may have tapped into something, especially among the younger set. Fifty-five percent of Americans prefer to drink at home instead of at bars or restaurants, with nearly a third of younger millennials drinking at home because “it takes too much effort to go out,” according to a 2018 survey by Mintel, a market intelligence agency. Naturally, the report drew America’s millennials to the Internet, where they proclaimed that “effort” really means “money,” and with their low-paying jobs, college debt and cheap alcohol alternatives, they’d rather booze it up at home with friends than tab out of the bar with a 2 a.m. regret and a foot-long receipt. Barkeep has been open for about a year.
Professional bartenders pick up supplies at the store, but for those who want to learn the craft of cocktail-making and stock a bar at home, the shop has everything they need, from starter kits that run about $100 to books on drink-making, and all manner of wares.
A veteran bartender at Oklahoma City pubs, McLish even offers fancy absinthe fountains.
The store and bar, or bar and store, depending on your hankering, hosts classes and events where local drink-slingers take over the place for a few hours, serve up some of their favorite pours and show newbies how to concoct a cocktail.
McLish says learning to mix your own cocktails can be intimidating, but she compares it to learning how to cook. There will be mistakes and mishaps, but that’s part of the experience.
“It’s about having fun with the process,” she says.
Spencer Wilson is a Tom Collins man. A 27-year-old regular at Barkeep, Wilson figured with his engineering and architecture background, he could quickly learn how to build his own cocktails.
Without a shaker to make the gin classic, Wilson made do with a piece of Tupperware to craft his first Tom Collins.
“It turned out pretty good,” he says.
So have his trips to Barkeep. Wilson bought a starter bar kit online, but the Midtown store has provided more tools for his drink-making hobby.
“I was waiting for this place to open,” he says. “Every time I came here, I added to my arsenal.”
The cocktail menu at Barkeep includes ingredients for each drink, and instructions for making them. Some are more complicated than others, but in the beginning, bartender Brenna Murphy recommends sticking to your preferred spirit of choice and making simple cocktails from there.
Of course, Barkeep can help. But they give a warning to beginners: lay off the flair. That means no fancy shaking and twirling and tossing your tools like a corny bartender in a movie.
However, Murphy says there’s one thing you should learn quickly if you want to look cool behind the bar.
“If you can stir a cocktail well, there’s something to be said for that,” she says.