By Matt Riedl - Photography by Aaron Patton
Ask around in search of Wichita’s best cocktails and, without fail, one name always seems to come up.
This bartender has worked at many different Wichita bars – most notably Wheat State Distilling – so people recommend him by name. He’s the #BowTieBartender.
His name is Danny Ivy, the bartender de choix for Wichitans looking for unique handcrafted cocktails. Currently he’s head bartender and mixologist at Fredo’s, 301 N. Washington.
His drinks are innovative – which means sometimes they’re a little out-there. On the menu at Fredo’s, he currently has a martini-style drink prominently featuring quail egg, the Quail Sunrise, for those who are curious.
He’s designed an 11-drink menu at Fredo’s – most of which hover around the $10-$12 range – which will change seasonally. Despite that, he’s one known for going off-menu.
He said he loves “freestyling,” where a patron lists two flavors they like, and he creates a custom cocktail there on the spot.
“They love it. You do the shake, boom and the bang and there’s a drink,” Ivy said. “You just better hope it tastes good.
“It’s not real popular with management and ownership a lot of the time because they’re like, ‘Great, now you just freestyled some drink and a week later, they’re going to come in and want it again and you’re not going to have any idea what it was.’
“That’s the point of freestyle,” Ivy says with a laugh.
How did Ivy come to be one of Wichita’s most popular bartenders?
He doesn’t have any formal training in bartending or mixology. Everything he knows is either from trial-and-error or from reading books on mixology.
For six years, Ivy worked as a hair stylist at Extraordinaire Salon & Boutique in Lincoln Heights Village. His parents own the place.
For years, he would cut and color hair at the salon by day and bartend by night. His first experience creating cocktails came at Granite City Food & Brewery, where he was head bartender for four years.
“That was the first time I ever fooled with muddling things together, coming up with a cocktail and naming it,” he said.
After Granite City, he moved to Louie’s Grill & Bar – where Deano’s Tapworks is currently operating.
His reputation as a hair stylist preceded him, as his first-ever custom drink to make a menu was called the “Vidal,” named after the hairstylist (and beauty brand) Vidal Sassoon.
He worked there for a couple years, then had a couple stints at both the Kansas Star Casino and the short-lived Walkers Bar & Venue adjacent to Intrust Bank Arena.
It was around that time that Ivy seriously considered his career. He was still working days in the hair salon at the time.
“What did I want to do forever?” he thought.
“Do I want to take over my parents’ salon and run a hair salon? Will that be my retirement plan? Or do I want to open a bar and have my name on the front of it, to create one with all these wonderful cocktails? It started out as nothing more than an idea, a dream, a goal, and now I’m literally doing what I set out to do.”
Soon after, Ivy landed at the place where he became well-known in the local drinking scene: Wheat State Distilling. He joined the bar a couple months before its grand opening in January 2017 to create both its cocktail menu and a rotating list of “chalkboard drinks” at the bar.
Because Wheat State distills its own alcohol, Ivy said he was given more freedom to experiment and create new cocktails.
“Not every day does a bartender have that much freedom,” he said. “That’s where I really honed my craft of bartending.”
He became known there for his colorful drinks, custom Bloody Mary and mimosa bars, as well as his energetic personality behind the bar.
And that’s where he developed a following as the #BowTieBartender.
Earlier this summer, he was recruited to the Fredo’s tapas bar concept “because of the reputation I built with Wheat State,” he said.
Ivy said he creates cocktails by tasting the main ingredients together first – “if it doesn’t taste good together, it’s probably not going to taste very good in a drink.”
His secret to success?
First, understanding that every cocktail you could possibly imagine has likely been done somewhere else at one time, he said.
Then, “understanding what flavors go well together and not being afraid to try something new.”
Want to try one of Ivy’s signature drinks?
He’s always working at Fredo’s from 4 p.m. to close on Fridays and Saturdays.
He’ll be the one in a bow tie.
“I absolutely love bartending,” Ivy said. “I kind of turned it into my craft.”