Tom’s Town Distilling Co. pays tribute to cocktails of the prohibition era in its Crossroads tasting room. But venture down a level into the building’s basement, and you’ll be transported to a different, more lavish take on the period at KC Concrete Co.
The speakeasy opened this spring, offering a swanky atmosphere and experimental drinks you won’t find upstairs. Tom’s Town co-founder David Epstein says the concept was born out of a long-held curiosity about what life (and liquor) would have been like for the company’s namesake, Tom Pendergast. A political boss who led Kansas City to ignore prohibition and instead become the “Paris of the Plains,” a hotspot for booze, jazz and culture, Pendergast also owned the Kansas City Concrete Company.
“If you were at the top of your game, if you were the boss in the city and the county, how would you have been drinking?” Epstein asks. “And the truth is you would have been probably living it up in a pretty elegant way, having a blast and totally flaunting the law.”
That sense of grandeur, excess, and irreverence is infused into the KC Concrete Co. experience, from the Art Deco décor and vintage glassware down to how you procure a table.
“You walk in, and it’s as if you’re making an appointment—not a reservation—to meet with Mr. Pendergast, and then you’re seated and waiting for your appointment. Mr. Pendergast will not show up, because he has long been dead,” Epstein laughs. “If he does show, you’ve probably had too many cocktails.”
To be fair, the cocktails are pretty strong. The brainchild of mixologist Jonathan Koenig-Riley, KC Concrete Co.’s menu features drinks you won’t find anywhere else named with tongue-in-cheek references to the era. Offerings include the Rum Runner’s Rescue, made with Tom’s Town Pendergast Royal Gold Bourbon, a 12-year-old rum and a Jamaican pot-stilled rum, plus homemade cola syrup, amaro, and bitters; and Epstein’s personal favorite, the Ceasefire.
“That is basically a botanical gin cocktail with raspberry syrup, vermouth, lemon juice, lime leaf—it’s just got a lot going on,” he explains. “I like to say that these are complicated cocktails that taste simple.”
Beyond offering guests another way to enjoy Tom’s Town spirits, KC Concrete Co. shows how the company and other local concepts are celebrating Kansas City’s lawless history, one that Epstein says wasn’t talked about when he was growing up in the area.
“We came along and we said it’s not only something to be embarrassed by, it’s something to be quite proud of, that Kansas City was in the forefront of this party culture that was existing in every city—but we just flaunted the rules,” he says. “It’s something that now, I think, Kansas City is fully embracing, and that excites me. We can be at the forefront of the cocktail revolution across the country. We should be ground zero for that—after all, we were in the Roaring Twenties.”
- 2 ounces Tom’s Town Botanical gin
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- ¾ ounce Dolin Blanc
- ¾ ounce raspberry syrup
- 4 dash lime leaf tincture
- 3 dash cardamom tincture
- 1½ ounce brut rosé
Shake the first six ingredients together and double strain into a glass. Top with brut rosé and garnish with lime leaf.