Bar manager Jeramy White mixes drinks at Olive and Oak.

From the Food to the Drinks, Olive + Oak Offers the Full Spectrum of Flavor

Monday February 12, 2024

By Rachel Huffman

Olive + Oak serves hospitality in heaping portions. Whether you want to belly up to the bar for oysters and ice-cold vodka or you want to savor a multicourse meal with wine pairings, you’ll receive the same exceptional service every day of the week.

The bustling eatery in Webster Groves changes its menu daily, but you can expect brilliant dishes from executive chef Jesse Mendica such as blue crab gratin with Calabrian chile, celery and pretzel bread; local beet carpaccio with pickled blueberries, mustard seed and horseradish aïoli; and Rohan duck breast with port wine onion jam and roasted rainbow carrot and blue cheese cream risotto.

Wash it all down with innovative cocktails ordered by number. Number 34, for instance, blends brown butter-sage gin, akvavit, Spanish vermouth, fino sherry and orange bitters, while number 61 mixes pineapple rum, pot still rum, maraschino liqueur, grapefruit, lime, rosemary and Jamaican bitters.

Don’t see a concoction that strikes your fancy? Grab a bartender’s attention!

“When I say that I can make anything, I mean it,” Jeramy White, bar manager at Olive + Oak, says. “I have all the crayons in the box, and I can tailor a cocktail to your taste buds.”

White jokes that his bartending career doesn’t have a glamorous beginning. “I put in many years at The Cheesecake Factory, of all places,” he says with a laugh. “I established a corporate foundation, but I always new that I wanted to do more with my creativity.”

White moved to Olive + Oak after the restaurant reopened during the COVID-19 pandemic, and when exalted husband-and-wife duo Charlie Martin and Morgaine Segura left to pursue other opportunities, White took up the reins of the bar program.

Here, White talks trends, mezcal and more.

The cocktail menu at Olive + Oak is constantly evolving. Where do you find inspiration for so many new drinks?

It begins with flavor. Maybe we’re introduced to a new product. Maybe the kitchen uses a new ingredient. We let those flavors simmer on the back burner until an idea of how to utilize them is fully formed.

What spirits do you prefer for cocktails?

I love all of them! I’m a big fan of mezcal, gin and amaro of all varieties. In terms of locally made spirits, our house vodka and house gin – Encrypted Vodka and Origin Gin, respectively – are both produced by 1220 Spirits in St. Louis.

Mezcal is also one of my go-to spirits. Do you have a mezcal cocktail on the menu right now?

We do – number 29 drinks like a Mezcal Martinez. It has mezcal, Cynar, sweet vermouth and maraschino liqueur, and then we add chipotle-cacao bitters. It’s spirit-forward, specifically designed for the mezcal drinker. We have secret, off-menu mezcal options, as well. No matter who’s behind the bar, we always have tricks up our sleeves to make sure that every guest gets a cocktail that they love. If you see me at the bar, you can ask for Pirated Material. To keep an air of mystery about it, I won’t say any more.

“I don’t think that [the Espresso Martini] will ever go away at this point, and I’m OK with that because we make a pretty damn good one.”

– Jeramy White

Do you have a secret-weapon ingredient or technique that you use to create cocktails at Olive + Oak?

I don’t know if it’s a secret, but we mist our cocktails with finishing ingredients such as Laphroaig for a peaty, smoky aroma or vanilla to heighten the sweetness of a cocktail.

What current cocktail trends are worth noting?

The Espresso Martini isn’t a new trend, but it’s still going strong – I don’t think that it’ll ever go away at this point, and I’m OK with that because we make a pretty damn good one. Martinis, in general, are on-trend. People are becoming more versed in what they like in a Martini, whether they’re partial to a classic gin Martini or they want an extra dirty Martini with blue cheese olives.

Demand for zero-proof cocktails has also increased in recent years. What’s your approach to creating a nonalcoholic cocktail?

I see a lot of nonalcoholic cocktails that try to mimic the real thing, and unfortunately, they fall short more often than not. Our nonalcoholic cocktails involve more culinary techniques. We use spices, shrubs and syrups, bringing those together to create a drink that’s flavorful, complex and unique but not necessarily a copy of a classic.

How does the bar program complement the cuisine at Olive + Oak?

On our food menu, there’s something for everyone. Inspiration ranges from Southern cooking to Asian cuisine, which hits so many different points of flavor. Our bar program follows suit – it really scratches all itches. As far as cocktails go, the list starts with light and refreshing cocktails and ends with more spirit-forward cocktails.

How would you describe the local bar scene to a visitor?

In terms of food and drinks, St. Louis is a hidden gem. We welcome a lot of guests from out of town, and they’re always impressed with the offerings here. Right now, new bars are exploding onto the local bar scene, and they’re serving crazy, complex, unusual cocktails that rival the classics. I think that St. Louis is the perfect place to experience the full spectrum of flavor.