The Berry & Rye
By Kyle Eustice
House of Loom owners Brent Crampton and Ethan Bondelid finally took the plunge and dove headfirst into a new entrepreneurial endeavor, The Berry & Rye. Tucked away in the old Myth Cocktail Lounge on 1109 Howard Street, The Berry and Rye is a craft cocktail lounge with a unique objective in mind.
“I love the culture of the drink experience behind the craft. It’s a very soulful approach to imbibing,” Crampton explains. “Something I get to experience and see often is getting friends together who order these labor intensive drinks that have lots of creativity and skill put into them, and enjoy good conversation in this sit-back-and-take-your-time kind of atmosphere. Then when the drinks arrive at your table, people are so intrigued by their drink, they become a conversation piece.”
The craft cocktail is rooted in the classic recipes of pre-prohibition. The practices were lost once prohibition hit in 1920 and people stopped caring about sculpting a superior drink. Craft cocktails use fresh juice, fresh ingredients and high-quality spirits. The Berry & Rye strives to provide not only a relaxed environment, but also a carefully concocted and tantalizing drink.
“In a sense, it’s like visiting a restaurant,” Bondelid says. “You wouldn’t expect to be able to grab a menu and eat standing up. We ask that people take and enjoy a seat while being served at their table. It’s not the type of place to yell or act overly loud. It’s a comfortable, conversation bar and this heightens everyone’s experience.”
Considering debauchery and drinking usually go hand-in-hand, this may seem like a lofty goal, but for Bondelid and Crampton, it’s something they’ve experienced throughout their many travels. They are bold enough to envision the potential in Omaha.
“There is a wealth of great culinary and cocktail experiences out there,” Bondelid assures. “Omaha’s culinary culture has seen some great strides recently and its cocktail culture is starting to grow, as well. In traveling, I’ve been able to visit some of the country’s greatest cocktail venues. I’ve wanted to bring that flavor to Omaha, from the non-overcrowded or loud rooms to the incredible range that can come from balanced and creative cocktails.”
Both Bonelid and Crampton are confident in The Berry & Rye’s intriguing concept. To date, they have invested nearly 15k into their ice program. They have a massive reverse osmosis system, which provides the purest water possible for all syrups and ice machines. From commercial freezers to Japanese ice presses that create perfect spheres to order, they have taken ice very seriously.
“The thing that separates The Berry & Rye from the rest is that when you collectively consider all the aspects of our concept such as the ice program, specialized tools, methodology, expertise, and dedicated atmosphere; we’re taking craft cocktails further than many people in Omaha up to this point,
Bondelid explains. “Namely, we’re taking our ice program further than any other venue, and we’re one of the only non-restaurant craft bar that offers hosted seating, ensuring that the consistency in experience remains the same.”
Crampton is careful to point out that the seating room-only policy isn’t a “VIP or exclusive” thing. It’s in place “solely for consistency.” It takes time to craft each drink. The duo has also developed an in-house soda program. Additionally, they make their own cola, tonic and citrus syrups, but, of course, their focus is on original cocktails. Classics like Gin and Tonics are always an option, but they urge you to try one of 20 original recipes on their menu to truly grasp what The Berry & Rye is all about.
“When tending a bar and making drinks becomes an art form and an experience visually and flavorfully for the guests, then you know what makes it special,” Bondelid says. “When you have people that follow their passion to the farthest extent of their skills, it’s a beautiful thing.”