Gin has a rich cultural pedigree, associated with veranda happy hours in tropical British colonies and Prohibition-era debauchery as depicted in the “Great Gatsby.” In the 1980s and ’90s, though, gin was nearly forgotten as vodka became the ubiquitous cocktail ingredient.
The craft cocktail movement and boutique distilleries have restored gin to its previous elite status. Local mixologists bypass commercial tonic sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup in favor of craft bitters, liqueurs and fresh herbs.
Here are five terrific gin cocktails currently on offer around town:
Blase Dame ($10) at Wunderbar inside Grünauer, 101 W. 22nd St. Broker’s gin is laced with house-made parfait d’amour (a bitter orange liqueur similar to Curaçao), lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white and garnished with toasted coconut. Served with a single large ice cube, this is a refined medley of flavors for slow sipping and people watching in one of Kansas City’s most bustling after-work watering holes.
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Wunderbar opens at 11:30 a.m. daily.
Corruption Gimlet ($10) at Tom’s Town Distilling Co., 1701 Main. Simply perfect: McElroy’s Corruption (by Tom’s Town) shines with St. Germain (elderflower liqueur) and lime, shaken and served icy cold in a shallow coupe. This new star in the KC bar universe channels the city’s speakeasy past with genuine deco light fixtures and retro upholstered seating in the lounge.
Tom’s Town opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.
Daughter of Old Westport ($11) at Manifesto, 1924 Main St. J. Rieger and Co. Gin, created by a master distiller from Tanqueray and made in Kansas City, provides the baseline for this complex, high-octane cocktail made with amontillado sherry vermouth, aperol, and Bitter Truth hopped grapefruit bitters and served in near darkness in Kansas City’s coolest cocktail cave.
Manifesto opens at 5 p.m. daily except Sunday.
Garden & Gun ($13) at Julep, 4141 Pennnsylvania. Ice cold and dry, this sophisticated libation underscores the pronounced herbs in Hendrick’s gin with honey and lavender, then balances the sweetness with Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 and a kiss of lemon. This newer Westport hideaway next to Port Fonda feels like it’s been around forever with polished dark wood and ceiling-high mirrored bar shelves.
Julep opens at 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Crossroads Fizz ($10) at the Jacobson, 2050 Central. It’s fitting that one of the city’s best decks offers the most refreshing gin cocktail around, mixing classic London dry gin with seltzer, fresh cucumber, mint & lime.
The Jacobson opens at 11 a.m. daily except Sunday.