SPONSORED BY TOM'S TOWN DISTILLERY
During its storied Pendergast Era, Kansas City gained the nickname “Paris of the Plains.” Hundreds of speakeasies spawned a thriving jazz scene, and local political boss Tom Pendergast was renowned for ignoring Prohibition because, in his words, “The People Are Thirsty.”
When Tom’s Town opened in January 2016, owners David Epstein and Steve Revare emblazoned this sentiment in six-foot gold letters on an exterior wall in the Crossroads Arts District. Downtown Kansas City’s first legal distillery since Prohibition, Tom’s Town crafts premium vodka, gin and bourbon inside a 1908 building.
“If Pendergast was drinking it, it had to be the best,” Epstein said. “We see ourselves as upscale and premium, without being snooty.”
Epstein and Revare also have personal connections to the Pendergast era. Pendergast and his partners ruined Epstein’s grandfather’s bootlegger business, while Revare’s great-great uncle, Maurice Milligan, prosecuted Pendergast for tax evasion in 1939.
Half-hour tours begin with a short film that offers historical background about the Pendergast era. Visitors see the distillery’s gleaming copper and stainless steel equipment, small in-house bottling operation and shelves packed with large jars of botanicals. A visit to dozens of bourbon barrels stored in the basement, and brief vodka, gin and bourbon tastings, complete the experience.
The Art Deco feel of Tom’s Town begins at the entrance, where elegant gold logos decorate the windows. A massive tufted banquette flanks two walls; the handcrafted walnut bar created by local artist Randy Taylor has a backdrop of 1908 brick, and Deco-inspired milk glass light fixtures hang from a tin ceiling.
Another intimate room, with a fireplace and studded leather club chairs surrounding small tables, facilitates customer overflow or small private gatherings. Art Deco-inspired wallpaper and deep red walls create a welcoming ambience. With gorgeous night views of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, an upstairs event space accommodates 200 people. A second basement room will soon house T.J.’s Liquors — a mercantile area where spirits tastings will occur during tours.
Tom’s Town has christened their smooth yet complex bourbon “Pendergast’s Royal Gold.” With a strong, pleasant aroma, McElroy’s Corruption Gin was crafted over a six-month period, infused with 14 botanicals, and named for Pendergast’s City Manager. Distilled 16 times, the smooth Eli’s StrongArm Vodka “honors” Pendergast’s secretary and bodyguard, Eli Matheus.
Tom’s Town offers a full bar and craft cocktails including Pinky Blitz—StrongArm vodka, blood orange ginger liqueur and blood orange ginger shrub—plus Manhattans and other classics. Tom’s Town is also a great place to enjoy small plates and decadent desserts amid décor that reflects Kansas City’s vibrant and notorious Pendergast era.
Tom’s Town is open Wed.-Sat. with 4 p.m. tours on Thurs.-Sat. Tours cost $10 and include spirit tastings; reservations must be made via the website: toms-town.com. 1701 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., 816-541-2400.