Top Bartender Andrew Olsen’s Current Obsession: Uniforms From Jones of Boerum Hill
The beverage director of Kansas City’s newly renovated J. Rieger & Co. Distillery is obsessed with the aprons and work shirts from a hip New York designer.
When Andrew Olsen accepted the role of beverage director at Kansas City, Missouri’s recently renovated J. Rieger & Co. Distillery, he was not only tasked with creating cocktails for the three bars housed within the 60,000-square-foot facility, but also figuring out the staff’s uniforms.
“For me, it’s really been about the aesthetic beyond just the stuff that’s going into the glass,” says Olsen. “The guest experience starts with who you’re seeing right as you walk through the door and what they look like.”
Soon after taking the position, he flew to New York to meet with Brooklyn-based workwear designer Jones of Boerum Hill to talk about how to outfit the bartenders and front-of-house staff.
Launched in 2012 by husband and wife duo Iestyn and Deirdra Jones, Jones of Boerum Hill has worked with restaurants and companies of all sizes, including Eataly, Jean-Georges and Woodford Reserve.
“Iestyn’s big motto is that he only makes stuff that he himself would wear out in public,” says Olsen. “It looks really sharp—it’s just such a high-quality job with everything they do.”
Olsen first received one of the designer’s aprons in 2015 as a gift for competing in a cocktail competition and was immediately impressed. Over the next few years, Jones of Boerum Hill made the uniforms for front-of-house staff at three of the restaurants Olsen helped run: James Beard Award-winning Bluestem, and both locations of Kansas City cocktail bar Rye. Since then, he’s collected seven aprons from the brand made from various materials—including leather, waxed canvas and selvage denim—in addition to the work shirts that are now part of his daily uniform at J. Rieger.
“When I was talking with Iestyn, I explained where the distillery came from, when it started, where we’re at now, how we pay homage to that and the names of the places inside this building, and he was like, ‘You need to go old school,’” says Olsen.
So, when J. Rieger opened to the public on July 12, staff for the two upstairs bars—the tasting room and the Monogram Lounge—were outfitted in the designer’s blue canvas work shirts, emblazoned with the distillery’s logo across the front pocket. Bartenders in the basement bar, the Hey Hey Club, wore slightly fancier navy-blue chore jackets with white shirts and tiny black ties. Olsen and the distillery’s head bartenders also wear tan, long-sleeve work shirts.
“The thing that I’m really excited about is that we’re not skimping on any of the details of the distillery,” says Olsen. “I don’t want the presentation of our cocktails to be an afterthought. I don’t want our uniforms to be an afterthought. Perceived value needs to be high.”
Olsen adds that the care and attention Iestyn and Dierdra pay to each and every detail of the uniforms are one factor in helping both him and his staff feel like they’re part of building something special.
“They gave me an extra kick in the ass of motivation and inspiration to do more, do better, push harder, and I think that’s what this distillery is going to do for Kansas City,” says Olsen. “The food and drink culture here is awesome, but you can only get to a certain point. This is going to propel us through the next layer.”