If you’ve visited Kansas City before, you know that it’s a food and beverage town. It has great breweries, some high quality distilleries, many incredible restaurants and BBQ. While I have recently written about several other cities, I have neglected to share my favorite spots in my hometown. I should say that my research on the following span multiple visits. These bars have consistently provided quality cocktails, amazing service, constantly changing menus, and great atmosphere. So, these truly are, in my opinion, the best cocktail bars in Kansas City. I should clarify that these are all on the Kansas City, Missouri side of the state line. If you know of great Kansas City, Kansas spots, drop them in the comments.
Don’t let their lack of a website or any posts on their IG feed fool you – Swordfish Tom’s is the most unique and inventive cocktail bar in Kansas City. With a speakeasy vibe and a room full of vintage furniture, you will not be disappointed. (No matter how long you have to wait for the light to turn green.*) Owned and operated by the the amazing, Jill Cockson, the bar is a jewel of the city. Featuring a rotating, seasonal menu and a few rules to adhere to (no photos, no phones, cash only), Swordfish Tom’s invites you to sit back and relax. Hailing from Lincoln, Nebraska, Jill is bringing craft cocktails to more than Kansas City. Shawnee, KS friends will soon have a new speakeasy-style bar opening in their downtown (can’t wait to try it!).
*When the bar is full, guests sit in a holding room waiting for the light to turn from red to green. This indicates more guests can enter.
While the menu does change frequently, one of my favorites has held on for a few rotations. The D.C. Salsa (if AOC was personified by a cocktail) is SO good. It’s made with Una Vida Reposado tequila, peach liqueur, house made garden pepper syrup, and fresh lime. The cocktail is spicy, sweet, and tangy – pretty perfect if you ask me. The Tokyo Tiki (far right) is another great cocktail and is a variation of a Mai Tai. It’s made with Rihei Ginger Shochu, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao, housemade orgeat syrup, and fresh lime. The citrus flavor really shines through.
It’s probably no surprise to anyone who’s been, but The Monarch easily makes the list of Best Cocktail Bars in Kansas City. Many other “best” lists have included them, but I think it’s well deserved. The bar is beautiful and the menu, based on the migratory patterns of the monarch butterfly, is ever-changing and gorgeous. The patio, with its sunken, cozy seating, is my favorite spot to grab a drink. Although, the inside is pretty plush and cozy too.
See what I mean? These are so pretty! Left: Alcapulco Gold made with Sombra mezcal, Mezcal Union Uno, Bitterman’s Xocolatl Mole bitters, blue corn mole, blood orange, and a alaea mole salt rim. Middle: the menu’s table of contents. Right: Sixth Sense, a concoction of Roku gin, Averell Damson gin liqueur, Green Pu’erh tea, champagne acid, saffron lemon agrumato, egg white, and edible butterflies (not real ones).
Also, a quick note that the team behind Monarch is opening a new bar called Verdigris in Overland Park, KS this Spring. You can bet I’ll be doing another edition of What’s New in KC later this Spring.
If you’re walking or driving down Grand, you might miss SoT (“South of Truman”) on your first pass. Tucked into a rather plain strip of businesses, you’ll find this secret garden party bar. The bar is warm and inviting and there’s a charming patio outside to be enjoyed with a cocktail. On a recent visit, all of the cocktails were named after songs with a twist.
I swear I wasn’t here all day but I did see the sunset on the bar, see above. The cocktail on the left is the “Sloe Ride” a delicious combination of Plymouth sloe gin, Strega, Zirbenz, lemon, angostura, and egg white. The one on the right is “Hey, Mr Tamarind Man.” Made with Masuave Reposado tequila, Sombra mezcal, elderflower, Genepy des Alpes, and tamarind soda, it lived up to the description of “tangy, balanced, enlightening.”
The only restaurant to make the list, Corvino’s bar program is definitely notable. Plus, with live music and a fantastic happy hour, daily from 4-6pm, it’s a great spot to grab a drink. If you’re hungry, Corvino’s menu of shareable plates is a must for anyone who loves food. From homemade fries with aioli to seaweed donuts to incredible desserts, you’ll leave happy if you like tasting a lot of amazing little dishes. I have never left hungry, despite some of the dishes being smaller.
The cocktail menu, which changes regularly, contains some real gems. One of my favorites is the “Weak in the Knees” which is made with London dry gin, paw-paw, yuzu-honey, lemon, agrumato, aquafaba, and black lime. Although this is a seasonal beverage, it does come back around, and there are many other great drinks to enjoy while you wait for the seasons to change, I promise.
If you are a whiskey lover, you have to get yourself to Julep for a flight or a cocktail. The bar is cozy and the staff are friendly. They also have a great snack menu and a great drink list. You’ll find both traditional drinks and seasonal selections. My only complaint about this bar is the parking in Westport. However, burning off some calories while you walk from the parking garage earns you an extra drink!
On a recent visit, I enjoyed a seasonal drink (left) and a classic Julep (right). The “Black Flower” features JTB bourbon, fig, vanilla, lemon, and aromatic bitters. I was worried about it being too sweet but it was perfectly balanced with a hint of tartness. I also had the “Quintessential” Julep which is made with Julep’s own Ezra Brooks Distillers Collection bourbon, sugar, and mint. It was served properly in a Julep tin, so the Kentucky Derby would serve them exactly like this in the box seats.
Nestled underneath the J. Rieger & Co. distillery, The Hey! Hey! Club is a must-visit bar in Kansas City. Although it’s only been open since the fall, it’s popularity is catching on as a private event space and a great place to grab a drink. They serve a collection of cocktails built around the history of the city and feature a wide variety of spirits. The atmosphere is dark and cool and you’ll feel right at home with the staff. If you get hungry, snacks are available from the kitchen upstairs.
Sometimes a menu is too good not to order all the drinks you want to try. Clockwise from top left is the “Mochila” made with blended scotch, medeira, orange, lemon, egg white, and sherry cask cider. It had hints of chocolate and was super smooth. The drink at the top middle is the “Fort Union” which is a clarified milk cocktail made from genever, aperitif wine, bergamot, vanilla, turmeric, ginger, and grapefruit. It was light and tea-flavored. The drink to the far right is the “Mopac,” which is a light rum blend, mezcal, smoked pear shrub, and Brachetto D’Acqui. It was super flavorful and smoky. And, the drink at the bottom is the “Flintlock,” a rich blend of bourbon, Jamaican rum, vermouth, aperitif, and an amaro blend. Plus, you’ve got to love branded ice.
So, there you have it. My picks for the best cocktail bars in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. I would definitely suggest you try them out soon. And, let me know which ones you love, these or others, I am always looking for new places to try!