Ever wondered why Kansas City is known as “Paris of the Plains?” Well, in the early 1920s, KC was known for its “sinful” nightlife. Despite Prohibition, alcohol flowed freely in Kansas City’s saloons and speakeasies due to Tom Pendergast’s control over the city. He would order officials to ignore those laws in parts of KC, allowing clubs and bars to become spots for drinking and partying.
A journalist from the Omaha World Herald even wrote, “If you want to see some sin, forget about Paris and go to Kansas City.” Thus, the nickname “Paris of the Plains” was born, alluding to KC’s vibrant music and bold cocktail scene.
A century later, Kansas City is still a buzzing cocktail city. We’ve rounded up some of the best spots to get a cocktail.
Tom’s Town Distilling Co., 1701 Main St.
Named after Tom Pendergast, this distillery offers seasonal cocktails, food + dessert. The slogan, “the people are thirsty,” was Pendergast’s reason for ignoring Prohibition laws. Happy hour is from 4-6:30 p.m., Mon.-Thurs. and all day Sun.
Prime Social, 4622 Pennsylvania Ave. #1600
A rooftop bar lounge? We’ll be hanging out here all summer. Cocktails are grouped according to taste — light & fruity, bold & spritious + bright & balanced. We recommend getting The Gatsby — Old Forester Bourbon, nocino, peppercorn, hibiscus, lavender + oak bitters will channel your inner “old sport.”
Mean Mule Distilling Co., 1733 Locust St.
From classics such as margaritas to seasonal drinks such as the wild rose, there’s something for everyone. To-go and cocktail kit options are available if you want to take the party home. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the vapor-distilled agave gin
SoT, 1521 Grand Blvd.
Meaning “South of Truman” (and British slang for drunkard), seasonal cocktails at this spot definitely have a creative twist with ingredients like sweet potato and matcha. Drink names also follow the creative streak, with names such as “Dillie Eilish” and “The Spice is Right.”
The Campground, 1531 Genessee St.
This aperitivo cocktail bar and restaurant is open on Thurs.-Sun., 5-10 p.m. Both rotating + permanent cocktail menus are available.
Julep, 4141 Pennsylvania Ave.
Lush green couches + chandelier lights help set the mood in this sleek atmosphere. Reader Brandy F. loves the extensive Whisky menu it offers, and we have to agree. Cocktail classes are available if you’re looking to be the next mixologist in your friend group.
The Monarch Bar, 4808 Roanoke Pkwy.
With seasonal cocktail menus modeled after flight paths of indigenous Monarch butterflies, the attention to detail is evident from the moment you step in. Each cocktail is handcrafted meticulously, down to the type of glassware it is served in. Happy hour is from 3-7 p.m., Mon.-Fri.
The Mercury Room, 1800 Walnut St.
Sister bar to Monarch Bar + Verdigris, this swanky spot with a gorgeous view of the KC downtown skyline is the perfect spot for a date night. Reservations are definitely recommended. A three-course cocktail tasting, paired with small bites, is also available if you want to sample more drinks.
The Hey! Hey! Club, 2700 Guinotte Ave.
This speakeasy-style bar, inspired by the original Hey Hay Club, considers itself a “vital element of iconic KC history into the J. Rieger & Co. story.” If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the rotating cocktail.
The Ship, 1221 Union Ave.
Goat & Rabbit, 1804 W. 39th St.
Named after Rabbit boss Joe Shannon and Goat boss Tom Pendergast, this bar offers wonderfully balanced cocktails, according to reader Janalee D. We recommend the Black Manhattan — rye whiskey, averna, walnut liqueur, angostura + brandied cherry.
Swordfish Tom’s, 210 W. 19 Terr.
This pre-Prohibition bar has an intimate, classy setting with an expansive cocktail list. Seating is first come, first serve.
Outta the Blue Cafe, 5291 W. 116th Pl., Leawood, KS
Sip away to a tropical oasis at this beach cafe. We recommend the Blue Hawaiian — light rum, Blue Curacao, pineapple & lime juice + coconut cream. Mocktail options are available for select drinks.
Percheron Rooftop Bar, 2101 Central St.
Voted by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the 15 best rooftop bars in the U.S., Percheron does not disappoint when it comes to views of the city + cocktails. The seasonal bar will be opening for the season this Fri, April 15.
King G, 500 E. 18th St.
This classic neighborhood bar and deli offers ‘unpretentious’ cocktails. Bestsellers include Trotter’s Smash + Jonny Whizbang.