Craft cocktails have been enjoying the lime light for quite some time. Much of that is thanks to the immersive experience people get as they watch bartenders work their magic right before their eyes. But the pleasure of craft cocktails doesn’t come from being fancy. Rather, it’s more about being able to enjoy an approachable cocktail in an upscale atmosphere. Proof Whiskey Bar & Craft Cocktails in Midtown Crossing not only has a full menu of craft cocktails, but it has an abundance of whiskey offerings as well as other drinks that truly appeal to everyone.
Two years ago, Proof owners Joel Lavelle and Kyron O’Brien purchased the location that was previously Grain in Midtown Crossing. Lavelle has worked in every position imaginable in the service industry before co-owning Proof with O’Brien. “Our focus has always remained the same: Quality over quantity,” Lavelle said.
Proof isn’t your average bar. You won’t find big screen TVs and a loud atmosphere. What you will find is class, expertise, and education around all things whiskey and bourbon related. “The concept was to create a space easy to meet for conversations, first dates, and overall, a relaxing atmosphere,” Lavelle said. “Something more approachable and at ease. From dress attire to jeans and T-shirts, we want it to be inviting and welcoming to everyone. Also being part of Midtown, we get a lot of people stopping in that are attending the local events such as Jazz on the Green, farmers markets, and various concerts.”
While whiskies are certainly a focus point for Proof, they have an ever-changing menu of cocktails and always have local beer on tap. “The local breweries are doing some really nice stuff,” Lavelle said. You can expect to find some unique cocktails and a menu that changes every three to four months. Trends and weather play a big role in the cocktail menu. House-made syrups, fresh-squeezed juice, and an herb garden are all components used in the craft cocktails. “We are pushing the envelope with our cocktails by using the fresh ingredients and keeping it simple but delicious,” Lavelle said.
The selection at Proof can be overwhelming. There are many whiskies from around the world to choose from. Traditionally, whiskies are enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or with just a splash of water. The staff doesn’t want you to feel intimidated though. They are there to help you enjoy what you already know and expand your interest. To round out the experience at Proof, fresh ingredient small plates are available Thursday through Saturday evening. The space is available for private events, and guests are welcome to have catered food brought in.
If you are looking to expand your knowledge around whiskies, there are three to five formal tastings each year. Seating is limited to keep the experience very personal. The events are hosted mostly by the well-educated staff, and some events have brand ambassadors present to educate and provide samples. Proof hopes to soon work with Dan Crowell, the US Brand Ambassador for Glemorangie, who is also an Omaha native. Lavelle said they want the formal tastings to be educational and fun. “From beginner to connoisseur, everyone is sure to have a great time and learn about brands. From their history, where and who they are, and why they do what they do.”
Outside of the formal tasting events, there are also various charity events hosted at Proof. “Having two giant German Shepherds at home, I love getting involved and giving back to many of the charities for animals,” Lavelle said. “We’ve also hosted events for the Ronald McDonald House, animal shelters, First Responders, veterans, and recently with the Red Cross during the spring to help with flood relief efforts. We are proud to help give back to our community.”
Private barrel picks are often very sought after by avid whiskey fans. Choosing a barrel can happen a couple of ways. Samples can be sent to you or you can travel to the distillery and choose the barrel that best represents the flavors you are looking for. Last year, Proof had a private barrel pick of Blantons. This year they are looking for something a little different. “We have a new barrel coming this fall. We are looking for something that stands out with a profile that represents the brand.” Private barrel picks rarely last long since their quantities are limited. Proof Whiskey Club is a membership that provides better discounts, rare retail items, opportunities for private barrel picks, and discounted private events.
Proof will soon be opening a second location near 192nd and Maple to better serve the West Omaha community. “The five-year goal is to have five unique concepts throughout Omaha,” Lavelle explained. “We have an amazing staff that’s more like a giant family.” Each location will offer cocktail enthusiasts a quality drink in an inviting atmosphere that will enhance your overall experience.