Dining With Denise Neil

He’s known for his bartending and beard, but he’s trying to be Wichita’s cold brew king

habitude (noun) ˈhabə-ˌt(y)ood/ a habitual tendancy or way of behaving

Ian Luzer is a longtime Wichita bartender who’s now brewing a beverage so good, he says, it’s quickly becoming a local habitude.

Luzer’s new business is called Lu’s Habitude, and it sells one thing — an addictive Cuban-style cold brew that’s a little sweet but a lot strong and is meant to be sipped slowly, one tiny pour at a time.

Many Wichitans might recognize Luzer as a bartender about town. He’s worked for a bunch of bars and restaurants over the years, including Carrabba’s, Sienna Tuscan Steakhouse, Dockum, Augustino Brewing and most recently Emerson Biggins Old Town and Vora Restaurant Eurpoean.

They might also recognize his big, full beard — an image of which has become the clever logo of his new business.

Ian Luzer uses his signature beard as a logo for his Lu’s Habitude cold brew company. Courtesy

Anyone who attended last weekend’s Zoobilee fundrasier at the Sedgwick County Zoo also might have seen Luzer set up at a table right by the entrance of the event. He took samples of his coffee to distribute at Zoobilee, and by the end of the night, he’d gone through 23 gallons.

The roots of Luzer’s new business, which is his full-time focus now that he’s quit his bartending jobs, can be traced back to a time when he was living in Miami and fell in love with a type of Cuban coffee known as cafecito, which is twice as strong as American coffee and served in a tiny coffee cup.

Luzer, a longtime fan of cold brew coffees like those made by local company Nitro Joes, created his own recipe for a cold brew cafecito, made by steeping coffee grounds for 16 hours and mixing it with sugar. The result is a semi-sweet concentrated coffee that has a flavor reminiscent of dark chocolate.

As a bartender Luzer would make individual shots of his coffee and use them to make unique cocktails. One of his favorites mixed his cold brew with peppermint Schnapps, and the results tasted just like an Andes Mint.

He wanted to keep using the coffee in his cocktail recipes but was tiring of making it one shot at a time, so he started thinking about brewing on a larger scale. He eventually began brewing big batches in the same building on North Emporia where local kombucha brewer Inspirit Kombucha is set up.

He started selling his coffee in 32-ounce growlers to people who found out about his product through word of mouth. Lately, he said, he can’t keep up with the demand.

Luzer said his next step is finding a distributor who will help get his cold brew in bars and restaurants around town, and he’s close to making a deal, he said. After that, he plans to start canning the drink for sale.

Luzer’s version of Cuban cold brew is quickly earning addicts, he said, and not all of them sip it straight. Some pour it over ice, some add milk or cream, and some drink it hot. Some use it to mix their own cocktails, and one local chef even buys it to use as a steak marinade.

He’s finding it appeals to many palates, from coffee snobs to beginners.

“I hear all the time, ‘I don’t like coffee,’” he said. “But those are the people who are now drinking it all the time.”

Want to try it? A 32-ounce growler costs $18, and refills are $8. To get one, send Luzer a message through the Lu’s Habitute Facebook page.

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.