Kansas City’s legacy of distilleries is nearly as old as the city itself. It’s a story filled with political machines, late-night jazz performances, bootleggers and nicknames like “The Wettest Block in the World.” Times have changed, but modernity has brought Kansas City to the forefront of the craft spirits scene once again thanks to high-quality, award-winning liquor production operations and thirsty drinkers. So grab a seat and place an order. KC is just getting started.
Here are eight distilleries that you need to try in Kansas City:
J. Rieger & Co. Distillery
Originally founded in 1887 in the West Bottoms, J. Rieger & Co. reemerged from the ashes of Prohibition in 2014 with Rieger’s Kansas City Whiskey, a sherry-blended liquor. Since then, the nationally lauded company—now based in the East Bottoms—has launched several other products, including gin and vodka, as well as more experimental spirits, such as coffee liquor and Left for Dead, all available at restaurants and bars throughout the metro.
Tom’s Town Distilling Company
With roots dating back to Kansas City’s “Paris of the Plains” heyday, Tom’s Town is both distillery and tasting room, a perfect combination that can be found right in the heart of the Crossroads Arts District. The award-winning vodka and gin the team produces are exceptional by themselves or in one of the many specialty cocktails available for order, while the bourbon—which is finished in 14-year-old port casks for a smooth flavor—is just as good.
Holladay Distillery is known for a great many things. It’s the oldest distillery west of the Mississippi that remains on its original site. It’s one of the major tourist attractions in charming Weston, Mo. It’s also the producer of both McCormick Vodka and the gold medal-winning 360 Vodka, the planet’s first eco-friendly vodka. Take a day trip to tour the distillery and sample some of the distillery’s finest offerings.
Union Horse Distilling Company
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Family-owned and craft-distilled, Union Horse Distilling Company offers a strong stable of products, including its signature rye whiskey, which is made from 100-percent rye mash. Each batch is created in a copper pot still and finished in oak barrels before being bottled and signed by hand. Experience the distilling process on one of the Lenexa-based company’s two-hour tours—and hit the Rider Room afterwards to sample their four prize-winning products.
S.D. Strong Distilling
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Known for its outstanding vodka and gin spirits, S.D. Strong Distilling is a cave-bound distillery in Parkville, Mo.—the only legal one of its kind in the United States. That’s right—each spirit is crafted 65 feet below ground, adding unique distinction to a distiller that’s racked up six awards since 2013, including back-to-back golds at the Washington Cup Spirits Competition (Pillar 136 Gin, 2015-2016).
Restless Spirits Distilling Company
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Located in booming North Kansas City, Restless Spirits Distilling Company utilizes Irish-American heritage to create liquors with unique flavors. Try the Irish whiskey straight or go for a blended whiskey to savor something out of the ordinary. That’s not to mention its botanical gin, which won gold at the New York International Spirits Competition in 2016—a must-try.
Lifted Spirits Distillery
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Distilled, bottled and aged all right here in the Midwest, Lifted Spirits marries tasting room and distillery in a beautiful way. The facility is a former stable and the atmosphere pays homage to those rustic roots. Grab a seat anywhere and order from the extensive menu, which features the distillery’s gin and vodka—the team’s first product offerings—as well as several other spirits crafted by local distillers.
Mean Mule Distilling Co.
Still relatively new to the craft distillery scene, Mean Mule is a proud Midwestern label that handcrafts its sole product, Silver Mean Mule American Agave Spirit. While Silver Mean Mule isn’t technically tequila (a regionally specific liquor native to Mexico), it’s made using 100-percent blue agave, so it tastes pretty darn close, with its own Heartland twist. Find it at local liquor stores or at Lifted Spirits, both in bottles and cocktails.