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A cocktail at Monarch Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Monarch

The best bars in Kansas City right now

You'll need something strong to wash down all that BBQ. Find your poison of choice at the best bars in Kansas City.

Written by
Brock Wilbur

If there’s one thing you should know about Kansas City, it’s that you’re never far away from a good drink. This city is a cultural oasis on the plains and a beacon to all those within 100 miles, with some of the finest bartenders, cocktail crafters, breweries and distillers that the Midwest has to offer.

The result? A place where you’ll find something for every taste; sports bars, martini bars, beer bars and speakeasies, and a hell of a lot more on offer too. If you want to experience Missouri in all its glory, we’re here to help. Here are the best bars in Kansas City. 

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Brock Wilbur is a writer based in Kansas City. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

Best bars in Kansas City

First opened directly after the repeal of Prohibition in 1935, The Ship was a place where politicians, gamblers, and all classes in-between could mingle freely. In the 1990s, the bar was dismantled, removing the decorations made from an actual wooden ship, but in the 2000s, a local team scoured the city to recover the lost elements, and re-opened the bar with much of its original glory. The drinks are cheap, the food portions are threatening, and it plays double duty as an intimate concert venue. 

A gold ceiling, a dark wooden bar, and a candlelit space are what you'll find in this iconic KC jazz club. There's no cover and no reason not to pop in for an hour ... or five. There's also a comfortable, quiet tone, which offers a nice respite from the rowdier entries on this list. The owner's motto is "Stiff drinks, good jazz, no homicides.” What could be more inviting?


Directly next door to The Worm, Hi-Dive offers excellent locals, stiff drinks and a brand of Midwestern grunge you might be looking for. Hi-Dive is as laid back as bars come. There's also a canned beer machine that includes a mystery slot which dispenses some of the oddest beverages. Feel free to roll the dice on that. 

Nationally-recognized Monarch walks the fine line between being fancy and still accessible. It's the kind of place where a semi-formal dress code is enforced, men are required to remove their hats, and people often arrive in their Sunday best to have a drink or two. But that's all part of the fun. Don't order your usual; Insted ask the bartender to surprise you with a concoction using their selection of locally produced liquors. You might just find your new favorite to remember the city by.


One of the finest distilleries in the city is also a must-stop dining destination. Opt for a few different dining experiences – from a sampling flight at the bar to a high-end dinner in the ballroom – where every cocktail is made with Tom's signature spirits, produced in the machines directly behind you. If you do not sample their gin, you have not successfully completed your Kansas City trip.

KC's premier gay nightclub is open 365 days a year until 3am, and is always ready to serve you a series of powerful drinks at bargain prices. The main floor hosts nightly events ranging from cabaret and karaoke to live game shows. The upstairs bar features the city's best dance floor and a leather shop. If you're looking for a way to end your night with the most positive energy imaginable, swing through.


With a maximum capacity of around 20 guests, you might have to wait to see the inside of this cozy (and quiet) bar. Noise is kept to an absolute minimum here, so instead of ordering at the bar, a traveling bar cart brings finished drinks to your table (because they won't use the shaker in the room – for sound purposes, of course). With 12 seasonal rotating cocktails and a specialized ice machine, Swordfish Tom's is a must-visit when in KC. 

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Billed as a global eatery and purveyor of libations, this downtown KC spot sports a distinctly European slant that sets it apart from everything in the area. There's usually a DJ spinning soul or dance albums, and the visual vibe is decidedly French-adjacent. Martinis pair well with everything here, including grilled Spanish octopus, lamb with ravioli, pan-fried walleye and even duck confit gyoza. 


You'll find this solid sports bar at the base of a gigantic red radio tower that pierces the KC skyline. (So if you wind up lost, you'll be able to find your way back to your party.) The real draw, though, is that you've found yourself in Martini Corner. This small literal corner off the beaten path has a set of four excellent bars for the plundering. 

Downtown KC's only rooftop bar is the space to see the city from — and the best spot for cheering on sports as loud and as raucously as possible. There are three floors of John's Big Deck, but you're gonna want to start at the top. To drink, we recommend the paloma, the Savage Garden (a Truly, Mad Dog, Deep Eddy cocktail), and the Mule in the Skyy.

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