Ryan Maybee is a restaurateur with expertise in the fields of wine, spirits and mixology. To him, the craft of bartending is more than just making a drink. Rather, he believes bartending is a true skill akin to the professionalism of chefs and their culinary educations. This belief in bartending as an art form has been the basis for his career and educational pursuits in the beverage industry.
He began his career in the industry as a bartender at a Kansas City icon, Pierpont’s at Union Station in 1999. By the time of his departure in 2004, he held the position of sommelier and created the bar’s 48 page cocktail menu. His thirst for knowledge of wine and classic mixology led him to become a fine wine specialist for Major Brands. This career change suited him well as he gained a greater understanding of the import business, retail sales, and learned about the different styles of restaurant wine lists. However, it wasn’t long before Maybee’s entrepreneurial nature needed to come out. In 2006, he opened JP Wine Bar and Coffee House in Kansas City as co-owner and general manager. JP’s phenomenal success allowed Maybee to invest further in his beverage education and pursue other ventures.
Maybee’s educational efforts paid off as he passed the introductory level sommelier certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers, became a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Wine Educators, and in 2012 became the first person to complete the Bar Master Certification from Beverage Alcohol Resource in New York City. Beverage Alcohol Resource is an internationally accredited mixology and spirits organization equivalent to the Court of Master Sommeliers. Further, Maybee won the Martini Gras Bartending Competition in 2002, Bartender of the Year through the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association (2003), was a finalist in the international Vinos de Jerez Cocktail Competition (2007), and is a current world-finalist in the Angostura Bitters Global Cocktail Challenge (2012). He also co-founded the Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition, now in its 6th year, The Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival, and the Kansas City Bartenders Alliance, a local guild of creative and passionate bartenders.
His creative libations have received national acclaim being featured in such top-tier publications as Wine Enthusiast, Food and Wine, Market Watch, The New Yorker, Vogue, GQ, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Mr. Boston’s Official Bartender’s Guide, Imbibe, The Bartenders Gin Compendium, and Bartender Magazine. Gaz Regan’s Annual Manual for Bartenders named him one of 8 “Fabulous Innovators” in 2011 for his technique for smoking whiskey, and his original cocktail, the “Smokin’ Choke” was awarded Innovative Cocktail of the Year in 2010 by the Institute for Cocktail Excellence. The recognition doesn’t stop there. His wine lists have earned him Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence and the Bronze Award for Best Wine List issued by Ingram’s Magazine Kansas City.
In 2009, he opened Manifesto, a small, speakeasy-like bar focusing on classically inspired cocktails using all fresh and homemade ingredients. The bar has received overwhelming local and national attention by being noticed in The New York Times, Esquire, Food & Wine, Imbibe, and winning Small Wonder Bar of the Year 2010 by Nightclub & Bar Magazine. In 2011 he partnered with Chef Howard Hanna to open a restaurant, The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, in the same building as Manifesto. In just one year, The Rieger has been named Best New Restaurant by The Pitch, awarded 3.5 stars by the Kansas City Star, and has received numerous accolades including Best Service (Pitch), Best Bar Program (Pitch), and was named one of Zagat’s Top Restaurants of 2012.
What is it about KC that inspires creativity in you?
There’s a lot of diversity in KC, a combination of all the personalities that call our city home, along with an endless optimism about the opportunities present.
What is your favorite spot in KC?
Union Station and the Liberty Memorial.
Where’s your favorite place outside of Kansas City?
Anywhere in the small mountain towns of Colorado.
What’s your most treasured possession?
My 1967 Chevelle Malibu. It once caught fire while I was driving down the road, burning up the entire engine and compartment. I rebuilt everything myself, bringing it back from the dead.
Who’s your favorite fictional hero?
Agent 007 James Bond.
Who do you most admire in real-life?
My Grandfather. And Mark Twain.
When and where are you the happiest?
Behind the bar at Manifesto or The Rieger, working, making great drinks and serving our guests!