As Drink Up Week continues, we’re mixing things up with someone who knows how to really get in the spirit. Steve Revare is the co-founder of Tom’s Town Distilling Co.
Steve founded the business with David Epstein, who he’s known since they were both in kindergarten. Their first beverage business was a lemonade stand. As they grew up, so did their beverage choice.
To celebrate #DrinkUpKC, he joined us to answer nine questions about Tom’s Town and… well, liquor.
What inspired you + David to open Tom’s Town?
We were inspired to start Tom’s Town with the fact that Kansas City had this great history of Prohibition and being the Paris of the Plains. We felt like the history was not being told widely enough and thought the best way to tell the story would be through liquor.
If Kansas City was a drink, what would it be?
I’d probably say an old fashioned because it was a drink that was before Prohibition, but it lasted through Prohibition and is still popular + a cocktail that everybody enjoys.
Patrick Mahomes comes in and asks for a recommendation. What do you say?
Well, if he comes in, we’ll definitely do a flight and make him try all the spirits that we make. If he wants a cocktail instead, I’d suggest either the Drowned Rabbit or the Tom Pendergast.
Could you share a bit about your distilling process?
So we basically make two gins, one vodka, and two bourbons. We actually have a third gin that’s out right now called Garden Party Gin. It’s a small release that we’re just going to do seasonally and is made with botanicals from Powell Gardens.
For our gin, we take a wheat neutral spirit and put it in the still. We have 14 botanicals in our gin, so it’s an American gin rather than a London dry, and we crank up the still. The alcohol turns to vapor and basically runs through the gin basket where we have other botanicals, and it picks up those flavors as it goes through that basket. So, we have sort of both maturation, which is what soaks in the spirit, and then we have vapor distilled botanicals as well. Those combine to create the distinctive flavor of our gin.
Our vodka is made a little differently. We still use a wheat neutral spirit, but we add rye from my wife’s family farm outside of Lee’s Summit. We make like a rye low wine and distill that at the same time as wheat. It goes through our vodka column, which is the really tall equipment that goes through the ceiling in our room, and is distilled 17 times.
In your own words, what is unique about Tom’s Town?
Definitely our spirits. David + I come from outside the industry, and it’s given us a different perspective, allowing us to put our own spin on every spirit that we make. They all came from our own recipes. We were lucky our distiller has a great palette, so he was able to come in and listen to us describe what we wanted and created it.
For example, our Vodka has a little rye in it, which is not common. Our Garden Party Gin has 14 botanicals. Our Double Oak Bourbon uses French and American oak staves as an after process that we put it through after it’s aged as a bourbon + our double oaks are there on-site. Our Pendergast Royal Gold Bourbon is finished in a ruby port cask, so it gets some of the flavors of port without having to add any, making a subtle change to the flavor.
We’re moving to Mars. You can only choose one other local business to bring with you — which one is it and why?
Oh gosh, it would have to be a barbecue place. I’m gonna get in trouble if I mention a specific one. But I’d want to take a barbecue restaurant because you gotta have barbecue. Even on Mars.
What do you think Kansas City will be known for in 10 years?
I’d like to think we’re a great sports town. That’s a huge part of Kansas City. But I also think we have so many great distilleries in Kansas City. I think we should be known for our spirits. There’s such a variety of things that are made here. And we’ve got very talented people doing this, and I’m not just talking about Tom’s Town. I want people to visit Kansas City and try every spirit that’s made here. I just hope they like ours the best.
What are some of Tom’s Town’s recent accomplishments?
Our partnership with the Chiefs — we’re the official gin of the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s been fun because I believe nationwide we were the first gin to be affiliated with a football team. You can’t really hitch your wagon to anything cooler than the Chiefs.
We also recently opened KC Concrete Co. in the basement of the building. It’s definitely an elevated cocktail scene with a speakeasy feel since you have to go down the steps to get in.
How can Kansas Citians learn more about the spot’s history + support your business?
Well, you can go to your local liquor store and buy our products. Also, we offer tours everyday — at 1701 Main St, KCMO — where you can taste our premium spirits and also get an idea of the history behind the name and the slogan, “the people are thirsty.” The tour is about a third distilling and two thirds history, so it’s a great thing to bring people from out of town to. We’re a small distillery and don’t have a huge footprint, but, we want people who come in for a cocktail or a tour to get a feel for what Tom’s Town is about — it looks art deco, has some memorabilia from the era, and friendly staff to pour you a drink.