Craft cocktails, full bar, Homegrown Wednesdays, award-winning, live entertainment
The Kill Devil Club: Rum enthusiasts will delight in knowing that downtown Kansas City, Mo.’s, newest jazz lounge, the Kill Devil Club, specializes in its namesake. The phrase “kill devil” dates back to the 17th century: legend has it that pirates leaving the Caribbean would try to make their own batches of rum, the results turning out so bad they could “kill the devil.” No need to worry about that at the Kill Devil Club—their extensive rum selection is stocked full of refined varieties, to be enjoyed standalone or in one of the “homegrown” cocktails.
This homegrown pride has helped establish the club as a destination for fine drinking and fun music in the Power & Light district. Their drink menu is meticulously handcrafted, including a Kansas City flavored cocktail named the Pendergast, an inspired mix of bourbon and bitters that roars like the 1920s. Sampling this and other specialties is ideal on “Homegrown Wednesdays,” when all craft cocktails are only $5—a remarkable steal in the heart of downtown.
The cocktails are not the only thing local at the Kill Devil Club. The stage offers music Wednesday through Sunday nights, ranging from traditional jazz to modern rock bands. The interiors look the part of a jazz club, with a low candle glow and red lighting throughout. The booths are black leather, and their design is reminiscent of an era when Havana was a playground for the rich.
It’s not the first time the Havana influence has flirted with Kansas City jazz. Revered bandleader Major N. Clark Smith had been touring Cuba with military bands during the Spanish-American War before he came to teach up-and-coming musicians like Walter Page at Lincoln High School in the 1910s. His army-bred discipline mixed with an ear for inventive sound proved highly influential on the budding jazz artists of Kansas City.
With all this rum and the atmosphere of the Copacabana, it’s easy to feel transported at the Kill Devil Club. The distinctly Cuban flavor is especially distinguished from the neighboring megabars down the street in Power & Light. On the second floor, overlooking 14th Street and Main, the Kill Devil Club is like an island of its own.
Though neither the Kill Devil Club nor its building has a historical tie to Kansas City’s jazz heritage, the laissez-faire environment of loud music and strong liquor does recall the era. The story of Kansas City jazz is as rooted in the exorbitant freewheeling of Tom Pendergast and his inner circle of club owners and thugs, pushing good times and illicit fun for their personal gain. While Pendergast’s intentions weren’t the purest, the underworld it created still served to inspire some of the most beloved jazz legends. The legacy of hard-drinking and loose music is on display in Kansas City’s jazz clubs today, including the Kill Devil.
It must be this charm that led to Food & Wine Magazine naming the club one of the “Best New Bars in the US” for 2013. With a growing reputation and emphasis on presentation, the Kill Devil Club is sure to keep the rum and music flowing