Rabbits and the Goats. A Kansas City Urban Legend with ties to two Distilleries!Dec 20, 2021 03:35PM ● By William Gray
BY WILLIAM GRAY
Rival early 20th century Kansas City political figures have a presence in present-day distilleries. Tom Pendergast is the namesake of Tom’s Town, and Joe Shannon is more subtly connected to Restless Spirits Distillery. During Prohibition, people would travel from across the country to visit the Paris of the Plains’ vibrant party culture, dancing to jazz, and drinking booze. And two guys who helped forge Kansas City’s reputation were Tom Pendergast and Joe Shannon.
Tom was a one-term alderman, leader of the Democrat party, and head of a gang known as “the Goats.” His biggest rival was Joe Shannon. Joe was the kingpin of the Irish neighborhoods and led a crew known as “the Rabbits.” The Rabbits and the Goats feuded for years, neither able to fully rid Kansas City of the other. Eventually, Joe was elected to Congress, and Tom continued his shady dealings until he was jailed for tax evasion in 1939.
“PEOPLE ARE THIRSTY”
Tom ignored Prohibition because, as he said, “the people are thirsty.” This has become the motto of Tom’s Town Distillery. Tom’s Town was founded in 2016 by David Epstein and Steve Revare.
Neither of them had any distilling experience but
shared Kansas City origins, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a love of drinking.
In fact, David and Steve are the last people you’d expect to
name anything after Tom Pendergast; David’s grandfather was a member of the Rabbits, and Steve’s great uncle was the attorney who put Tom in prison.
Nevertheless, they did see the potential in using the name and created a line of spirits that Tom
himself would envy.
The tasting room is an art-deco paradise, reminiscent
of Jay Gatsby’s mansion. The menu is full of seasonal cocktails,
small plates, beer, and wine. The distillery’s lineup
includes the official gin of the Kansas City Chiefs, an award-winning double grain vodka, a
barreled gin, and several bourbons. Tom Pendergast’s Royal Gold Bourbon was a thing back in the day and
is now produced and sold by Tom’s Town.
“IRISH SOUL AMERICAN HEART”
By contrast, visiting Restless Spirits Distillery is a
much more relaxed experience. While Michael is not a descendant of Joe Shannon,
his ancestors were higher-ups in the Rabbits. Owners Michael and Benay Shannon,
with no prior distilling experience, saw a gap in the market for Irish whiskey
and wanted to honor their heritage. They learned how to cook spirits as they
renovated their space.
Restless Spirits’ most popular offerings are their Sons of Erin traditional Irish whiskey and Builders Botanical Gin, one of their flagship spirits. They also make several whiskeys, vodka, and Poitín, a traditionalIrish spirit distilled from malted barley.
The casual, airy space at Restless Spirits is perfect for meeting up with friends and having a cocktail. Though Builders Gin was named the official gin of Kauffman Stadium, where the Royals play and Restless Spirits was recognized as Missouri Distillery of the Year for six years (2016–2021), they continue to focus on product development.
VICTORY FOR PARIS OF THE PLAINS
Whether you are Team Goat or Team Rabbit, you won’t be disappointed by any of the offerings at these two distilleries. First, stop by Tom’s Town for a taste of the decadent nightlife of the 1920s, then visit Restless Spirits for high-quality craft adult beverages. So make sure to come thirsty and reflect on where it all started.
TOM’S TOWN DISTILLING COMPANY
1701 Main Street
Kansas City, MO
RESTLESS SPIRITS DISTILLING
109 E. 18th Ave
North Kansas City, MO