Swordfish Tom’s Jill Cockson is changing the cocktail game: Best of KC 2018

This month, we published The Pitch‘s annual Best of Kansas City issue. You can browse the results of the readers’ poll here. The issue also included a list, compiled and written by our editorial staff, of some our current favorite things about Kansas City in 2018. We’ll be publishing these items online throughout October. 

Jill Cockson is Kansas City’s answer to Chuck Norris jokes. She’s a tattooed Rosie the Riveter clone with a magnetic personality and a made-for-TV backstory (first-degree black belt in Taekwondo by age 10; car accident at 15 that left her paralyzed from the knees down). And at Crossroads bar Swordfish Tom’s, Cockson is the steward of an endangered brand of hospitality — one that focuses on creating a specific experience for her customers rather than trying to cater to everyone with a bland veneer of Midwest Nice.

Speaking of our geographic heritage: even though this is the land of Boss Tom, we *whispers* might be a little burnt out on speakeasies. Sometimes we just want to sip a cocktail without giving a bored front-desk worker a corny “password” first. But Swordfish Tom’s isn’t really like those places. It’s truly a time-machine tribute to the golden age of the cocktail. Nestled inside a basement boiler room, it’s a small, thoughtful space with a vibe the city desperately needs: special but not formal or fussy. If we had to peg down the ambience, we’d place it somewhere between “Bohemian brothel” and “Victorian drawing room.” It’s cash-only with a shrimpy capacity — expect a slight wait on weekends — but that makes the space feel all the more intimate.

Much of the bar’s rare-bird feel is due to Cockson’s skill behind the stick. Although her cocktail list is extensive (with an entire section for imaginative riffs on the Manhattan), she’s happy to go off menu, too. Name a favorite spirit or toss out a few adjectives, and Cockson will fill in the gaps (and fill up a shaker) like a boozy game of Madlibs. We suspect we could read her a poem and she’d be able to invent a synesthetic pairing, though we haven’t tried it. We like Jill. We are intimidated by Jill. We are not going to push our luck.

Swordfish Tom’s. 210 W. 19th Terrace, KCMO.

Categories: Beer & Spirits