Food Critics: The Best Cocktails In Kansas City

Feb 10, 2017

Credit Michael Korcuska / Flickr -- CC

From the old classics to “interactive” cocktails — and don't forget mocktails — there’s a drink for everyone in KC.

Whether you like your drinks fancy (made with local spirits, fresh herbs and juices and more) or something more simple (usually involving just one type of liquor), KCUR's Food Critics searched out the best cocktails in and around Kansas City in our annual look at libations.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

  • Jax’s Fish House & Oyster Bar — Lucy & Linus. A boozy winter drink that’s one of my favorites. Made with two kinds of apple brandy, Benedictine, an allspice-flavored liqueur, roasted pear shrub, and served with a pickled Red Anjou pear slice on the side of the glass.
  • SoT — clarified milk punch. With rum, Allspice Dram, pineapple, toasted coconut, lime and milk. This charming bar has a playful mix of interactive cocktails (one has an "olive" you pop to make a dirty martini); the menu is constantly changing.
  • Stock Hill — Kansas City Steakhouse Punch. Made with J. Rieger whiskey, apple whiskey, tea, falernum (a sweet syrup with an almond flavor) and more.
  • Julep Cocktail Club — any mint julep. Comes in vintage, traditional and quintessential, each with a different spirit but always mint and sugar. If you like whiskey drinks, this is the perfect spot for you.
  • Julep Cocktail Club — Old Fashioned. Named after the country where the bourbon is from (Japan, Ireland, Canada).
  • Manifesto — Brothers Perryman. With gin, elderflower and Campari. Very balanced, easy to sip. Call or text to make a reservation.
  • W Bar — Farmer’s Market special. On the lighter side; made with ingredients that they’ve found at the farmer’s market. The drink menu changes almost weekly. Soon, Hand in Glove (its little sister bar) will open downstairs.
  • Harry’s Bar & Tables — Sapphire and tonic. My favorite casual watering hole in Westport.
  • Myers Hotel Bar in Tonganoxie, Kansas. It’s in an old hotel from the 1800s. You never know what’s on the drink menu until you get there; it’s very ingredient-driven, with whatever is in season. But if you have a favorite craft cocktail, they’re happy to make it. Only open Thursday to Saturday nights. Giant fire pit outside, and sometimes there’s live music; sometimes there’s a food truck.

Pete Dulin, local food and beverage writer:

  • The Rieger — O-Ren Ishii. Named after character in Kill Bill. Japanese whisky, J. Rieger whiskey, Aperol (bitter orange), cava, passionfruit and lemon. Floral and fruity, but not overly sweet.
  • Ça Va — mocktails. KC bartenders are increasing sophisticated with made-to-order non-alcoholic drinks.
  • The Rieger — mocktails.
  • Bluestem — mocktails.
  • Café Trio — wine cocktails. Try the apple cider sangria (with spiced rum, brandy, apple cider, Pinot Grigio and ginger ale) or the White Icicle (pine-infused gin, white cranberry, Prosecco).
  • Manifesto — Heatmiser/Snowmiser. A two-part cocktail. Part one features a malted milkshake with J. Rieger’s Caffe Amaro. Part two is hot cocoa infused with Green Chartreuse that’s topped with a homemade marshmallow made with Caffe Amaro.
  • Julep Cocktail Club — Manchurian Candidate. Vodka, Shatto cream, coffee cordial, nutmeg.
  • Julep Cocktail Club — Garden and Gun. It’s a take on the classic Bee’s Knees, with gin, honey-lavender syrup and a few dashes of orange bitters.
  • The Jacobson — High on the Hog. With bacon-infused bourbon and Vermont maple syrup. It’s served over a hickory-smoked ice sphere with brown sugar and rosemary bacon.
  • The Jacobson — The Brooklyn. Bourbon, Amaro Averna, Cardamaro and black walnut bitters.
  • The Jacobson — Suave & Spice. Tequila, blood orange liqueur, lime juice with muddled jalapeño and Himalayan sea salt.
  • Westport Café & Bar — Prairiewood. Brown butter-washed bourbon, Benedictine, maple syrup and black walnut bitters.
  • Westport Café & Bar — Copper Rabbit. Made with Restless Spirits’ Builder’s Gin (a local spirit), apricot brany, Szechuan peppercorn, cinnamon, lemon and egg white.
  • The Rockhill Grille — The Chaimander. Rum, Tazo chai, cream, cinnamon, cayenne and more.
  • The Rockhill Grille — The Local Water. With local spirits, tea and citrus, plus J. Rieger gin and elderflower tonic.
  • Lifted Spirits Distilling. The newest distillery in the Crossroads with a bar and tasting room.
  • Hotel Phillips. Just finished a renovation that includes the addition of P.S., a Prohibition-style speakeasy.

Listener recommendations:

  • Westport Café & Bar — Old Fashioned. The best way to find out what a bar is all about is to order an Old Fashioned. Westport Café has the simplest one, but it’s got a twist of orange to make it fancy.
  • Voltaire — Old Fashioned. The “Old Fashioned litmus test” is also my rule when visiting bars. At Voltaire, it’s included at happy hour!
  • Tom’s Town — Corruption Gimlet. I’m not a huge drinker, but their gin is super-botanical tasting. It’s mixed with fresh lime juice and it’s refreshing.
  • The Raphael Hotel — Bombay gin gimlet. Nice, crisp tart balance with lime, good for summer or winter. It’s an old-style good drink.
  • Majestic Steakhouse — Bombay gin gimlet.
  • The Chesterfield Bar — French 76 (with St. Germain liqueur to turn it from a French 75 to a French 76).
  • Taco Republic — delicious cocktails.
  • Green Lady Lounge — Horsefeather.
  • Green Lady Lounge — Moscow mule. And the good music makes them taste even better!
  • Café Europa (Union Hill) — mocktails.
  • Westport Café — mocktails.

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org.