What do you get when you smash cupcakes into cocktails? Apparently, nothing.
Although the Tin Pan and Carytown Cupcakes owner Kevin Liu declined to comment when Richmond BizSense asked him about a permit to expand the Carytown business into the Carey Burke Carpets space next door, the logical leap was that Liu was going to, well, make a bigger cupcake shop.
Instead, Liu was planning a top-secret project with star bartenders Mattias Hagglünd of Shagbark and the Roosevelt’s Thomas Leggett. The three still don’t want to talk much about the cocktail bar they’ve dubbed the Jasper.
“We’re playing it close to our chest,” says Hagglünd. “We’ll have more details later.” Given that the place hasn’t been built yet, there are probably a few details that need to be worked out. Small, cocktail-friendly plates will be on offer, he says, and the vibe, as seen in the rendering, will be both comfortable and sophisticated.
The spot is named after Jasper Crouch, a legendary Richmond barman. He was the freed black cook and bartender for Chief Justice John Marshall in the early 1800s. Marshall founded the Quoit Club, whose members met to play an 18th-century game that’s similar to horseshoes each week, and Crouch whipped up a batch of powerful punch for them. Leggett debuted his version of the Quoit Club punch at the Roosevelt in its early days.
“If you were coming through town and wanted to be sure of getting a good drink and great hospitality, you were sent to Jasper Crouch,” according to Hagglünd. “[As] a bar set up by bartenders, we wanted to embrace that history and hope to continue on in its tradition.”
Hagglünd and Leggett had been talking about opening a place together since they met. They casually began visiting properties together a couple of years ago and talking to investors, but it wasn’t until Liu told them that the owner of Carey Burke was retiring that things turned serious: “Kevin reached out to me and said ‘Should we do something here?’”
“He’s a fast thinker,” Hagglünd says, “and gets things done.”
Hagglünd says that Liu is “one of the sleeper cocktail nerds in this city.” He’s an MIT graduate, former Marine and wrote “Craft Cocktails at Home: Offbeat Techniques, Contemporary Crowd-Pleasers, and Classics Hacked with Science" in 2013. They met while Liu was doing research for his book.
The deal that’s taken a better part of the year will come to fruition at the end of 2017. “Cocktail bars are such a successful thing the world over. … I think you can appeal to anyone if you just do it the right way,” Hagglünd says.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been out of the ownership game,” he says at the end of the interview. “It’ll be fun to have that side back again.”