New distillery honors history as it tries to makes some of its - KCTV5 News

New distillery honors history as it tries to makes some of its own

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New distillery plays homage to Kansas City's past New distillery plays homage to Kansas City's past

It's called Tom's Town Distilling Company, named for one of the most polarizing, corrupt and famous political bosses, Tom Pendergast, who ruled Kansas City with an iron fist.

 "January 19, 1920 was the first day of Prohibition. We call that the best day of Tom Pendergast's life. At that point, he began in earnest making all of his own spirits," Tom's Town co-founder David Epstein said.

One of those spirits was called Royal Gold Bourbon. Tom's Town has a series of whiskeys sold under that name.

Two other colorful characters from the prohibition era inspired Tom's Town Spirits.

McElroy's Corruption Gin is named after Pendergast's City Manager Henry McElroy.

"He basically kicked the mayor out of his own office and made him sit with his secretary while he ran the city. He put his feet up on the desk and said 'I'm in charge here,'" Tom's Town co-founder Steve Revare commented.

Then there's Eli's Strong Arm Vodka.

"Eli Matthews was Tom Pendergast's secretary and bodyguard. So, he was kind of the muscle," Revare said.

The history lesson doesn't stop there for Revare and Epstein. The partners have a strong family connection to Pendergast themselves.

"My grandfather was a bootlegger. Kansas City, in those days, was divided into two political rivalries, rabbits and goats. The goats were run by Tom Pendergast. They destroyed the rabbits. My grandfather was a rabbit," Epstein shared.

"My great great uncle was the U.S. Attorney appointed by FDR to take the Pendergast machine down," Revare stated.

Their families hated Pendergast. So, why name their new business after him?

"As my mother said, 'If you can make a dime after Tom Pendergast's name, go for it,'" Epstein said.

Revare and Epstein are using his name and his tag line.

"So, he's in prison in 1938, and a Kansas City reporter goes and interviews him. And, they go 'How did you possibly do this? 250 speakeasies, the birth of jazz, not one alcohol-related conviction in all of KC?'  And, his line to the reporter was, 'The people are thirsty,'" Epstein stated.

If you'd like to see more for yourself, Tom's Town runs daily tours of its Crossroads distillery. Visit for more information.

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