A Guide to Kansas City's Cultured Cocktail Scene
An influx of cocktail lounges and mixologists has Kansas City buzzing. Less a service and more an artform, watching the people behind the bar is like witnessing Picasso paint or Rodin sculpt. Forget the hyperbole—KC’s cocktail scene is supremely cool and infinitely creative, which, not coincidentally, are two ingredients essential to any of the drinks these places serve.
Here are some of the best cocktail bars in KC:
Kansas City was once home to “the wettest block in the world.” Sure, Prohibition may have ended, but the 1920s live on in spirit—and spirits—thanks to a collection of new-age speakeasies that can be as secretive as they are sensational.
Travel to the Crossroads Arts District to find Tom’s Town, a distillery that touts a tasting room rivaled by few in the city. Grab reservations in advance if you’re looking to hit up The Hey! Hey! Club, a suave destination for cocktails and live music tucked beneath the ground floor of J. Rieger & Co.
Hotel Phillips demonstrates classic art deco style done right all throughout its lobby, as well as in its underground speakeasy, P.S. Concealed among a variety of other shops and stores, The W is a Lee’s Summit hotspot with an inspired menu and warm environment.
Mean Mule Distilling Co. is a proud Midwestern label that handcrafts its sole product, Silver Mean Mule American Agave Spirit. Though Silver Mean Mule isn’t technically tequila—which, much like champagne in France, can only be produced in certain regions in Mexico—it is distilled from blue agave, so it tastes pretty darn close, with its own Heartland twist.
Love bourbon? Head to Julep and The Belfry, two bourbon haunts that boast drinks made from the iconic American whiskey. Slip over to Ça Va for champagne and champagne cocktails unlike any else you’ll find in Kansas City.
Sometimes you don’t mess with a good thing. Take Harry’s Country Club, for example. You could spend hours scrolling through its extensive drink list, but that’s not the point. The River Market watering hole is a perennial favorite for happy hours—and was recognized by Esquire as one of the best bars in America.
Step into the neon-lit SoT—“South of Truman,” if you’re savvy—for carefully concocted drinks served with eclectic flair. The Kill Devil Club draws Power & Light traffic with live music and special events while an evening at The Mockingbird Lounge means incredible patio views and a charming ambiance.
Swordfish Tom’s, an understated member of the club, uses only premium spirits in cocktails that are both approachable and complex. Its newer companion in Shawnee, Drastic Measures, offers the same laser focus on spirits in a low-key setting.
Meanwhile, Lifted Spirits resides in a converted stable that pays homage to the city’s rustic roots—and churns out vodka, gin, wheat whiskey and the area’s only locally produced absinthe.
Not Quite Cocktail Lounges
With a cocktail culture as wide-spanning as KC’s, there are bound to be overachieving establishments that craft excellent mixed drinks in addition to their main attractions. Burnt ends or smoked fried chicken, know that the drinks at Q39 perfectly complement whatever kind of barbecue you have on your plate.
Sample James Beard Award-winning food at Extra Virgin to toast with exquisite beverages.