Tales & Cocktails: Kaitei’s Underground Success

There’s a cocktail revival sweeping the continent and we’re here to cover it. Welcome to Yelp’s Tales & Cocktails, where we spotlight 5-star bartenders and the establishments they work at.

Drop Kaitei in any U.S. city and it’s a fun, unique bar. Lucky for Omaha, it’s been dropped in the city’s Benson neighborhood underneath popular hangout, Ika Ramen and Izakaya. This dimly lit basement bar is ever-changing. After multiple visits, you might grow familiar with the friendly bartenders and faux flowers strung from pipes on the ceiling, but if you look closer you might notice subtle changes like fresh graffiti tags on the walls, new decorations tucked above and behind tables, even different snacks in the vending machine near the back alley entrance. Same goes for the menu, which changes regularly and features unique house cocktails plus a lengthy sake and Japanese whisky list. Their most popular drink, ichi-go ichi-e, is much the same, a made-to-order custom drink unique to your tastes. Kaitei is a bar where you trust your bartenders to take care of you. And they do.

We talked to Kaitei’s Ashleigh Stohlman about her recent move from being a server to tending bar and the many aspects that make Kaitei so damn great.

How long have you been bartending?

I have been bartending since last February. Seems quite short but I promise you I’ve done my due diligence.

What did you do before bartending?

I have been working as a server for about 10 years, have managed a few different places; I also spent some time at Whole Foods. I’ve always been immersed in food and beverage albeit a restaurant or a grocery store. I worked the past four years seasonally as a server in Florida.

Who or what inspired you to go into bartending?

I can’t say any one specific person inspired me, although I could name several individuals. I’ve always been inspired by the atmosphere, by the feelings being in a cocktail bar evoke. It’s a common ground that I feel truly natural in.

Tell us about Kaitei.

Kai-tei is a unique bar, again, an atmosphere I was drawn to. I notice that anyone can immediately feel comfortable. We focus on giving our guests an experience and I love that all of our personalities shine through. It feels like home to me and I want my guests to feel empowered to educate me as well as me educate them.

What are some elements that make Kaitei unique?

Our best selling cocktail is known as the ichi-go ichi-e (literally translated to a moment in time from Japanese). I love that our staff is able to ask a few questions and create a unique drink to order. Our back bar is quite small yet ever changing and this awards us the opportunity to always create something new and exciting for our guests. Also, our sake selection is one of the most unique in Omaha. The menu is unlike any other all around.

  • Photos by Andy Lachance

What’s your favorite cocktail to make?

I love making any cocktail to be completely honest, however my favorite right now on our menu is the Princess and Wasabi Pea. The ingredients are fairly unknown to the general public so I love being able to talk about it while making the drink and the garnish reactions later.

What do you enjoy the most about bartending?

I think I enjoy the interaction between my guests and myself, also the interaction of everyone in the bar. I love the entire process, from meeting someone new to crafting a drink for them.

What’s your favorite spot to grab a cocktail?

I have several favorite home spots to enjoy a cocktail but if I had to choose an actual bar… I love the Broken Shaker on South Beach in Miami. It’s located inside of a hostel, with no bar seating and only a massive outdoor lounge area to enjoy the drinks. Their menu is seasonally changing sourcing as many ingredients as they can from their own garden. The staff is nothing but accommodating and the entire vibe takes you away from the chaos of south beach and makes it seem much more sleepy and enjoyable.

Fatima Alliyani contributed to this post

Come meet Ashleigh and check out Kaitei November 5 as part of Yelp Omaha’s Tales & Cocktails event series. Details, RSVP and complete event lineup here.