Speakeasy-style craft cocktail bars were once enjoyed only in Kansas City’s urban core. Now, the trend is making its way to other parts of the city, fueled by the desire for a quality craft cocktail a little closer to home.
The newest secret spot stirring and shaking things up is The W, located in the heart of historic downtown Lee’s Summit. The “W” in the name stands for wraith, which means ghost or spirit, meant as a clever play on words.
Merideth Veritasi and her husband, who live in Lee’s Summit, purchased the intimate second-story space with the intent of opening up a speakeasy-style bar. They spent the last two years slowly remodeling the former massage studio into a stunningly sophisticated den of liquid libations.
No expense was spared, and the entire space shines like the hammered copper bar top. Dark green walls with exposed brick give way to dark wood floors. Leather chairs are placed next to custom tables that feature a golden “W” embedded in them. Veritasi says that the limited days and hours of The W – the bar is open only on Friday and Saturday nights from 5pm to 1am – are by design.
“We want to create an air of exclusivity and to build up demand to get in to drink at our bar,” she says.
Although walk-ins can be accommodated when available, reservations are suggested, and can be made by texting the bar. Once you arrive, simply look for the handsome wood door with the white-and-red stained glass address panel that reads 6½ above it. Hit the buzzer, and you will be asked for the name on your reservation. Once you are confirmed, the door clicks open and you can pull the handle and walk up the narrow, steep wood staircase that opens up into the 40-seat bar.
Head barman and general manager Mike Strohm, greets everyone who sits down at his bar warmly, even as his hands are busy making every single drink that is served.
“We have been busy since the day we opened, about six weeks ago, but we are now looking to hire a second bartender,” he says.
Even as the bar starts to fill up, Strohm knows how to keep the drinks coming without ever making it seem like he is in the weeds. His wife has learned to make many of the drinks herself, and their friendly banter behind the bar makes it appear that they are having a lot of fun getting the drinks out in short order.
Strohm, a long time bartender, most recently created the tableside craft cocktail drink program at the upscale ’37 Steak located inside of Harrah’s Casino. He got into craft cocktails by watching a program about the trend many years ago. He started experimenting with some of the techniques at home, and eventually made craft cocktails his specialty. He is a gifted bartender who really cares about the quality and handcrafted details that go into his 18-drink menu at The W Bar.
"I had a drink recently on the menu that had fresh strawberries in it, but my farmer is now out of strawberries, and so I took that very popular drink off the menu," Strohm says. "I am not going to buy store-bought strawberries and serve them in my drinks."
The entire bar watches as Strohm carefully lights a piece of apple wood with a hand-held torch and sticks the rocks glass for a smoked vanilla cocktail in with the burning wood under a dome of glass to infuse it. This smoking technique has become a trademark for Strohm, and the smoked vanilla is one of the best-selling drinks on the menu for good reason. The flavor that this smoking technique imparts on the 4 Roses Yellow Label bourbon, burnt sugar simple syrup with vanilla bean and bitters as it hits your nose gives off the aroma of warm sugar cookies fresh from the oven when you lift the glass up to your lips to take a sip.
The clear ice he uses in his drinks comes from a guy who creates ice sculptures down the road. Strohm gets the ice in large blocks, and you will see him at the bar with a small ice pick and mallet carving out the large squares needed for certain drinks. Other ones get crushed ice, like his current farmers' market-inspired cocktail, the blackberry sage bramble.
All drinks are $12, and no food is served at The W.
Getting out of The W is almost as mysterious as getting in. Once you have paid your tab, simply make your way down the sparkling tiled hallway, past the bathrooms, toward the red exit sign in the back of the space, and hit the lighted button next to the back door. The light will change colors and the back door will click open releasing you out the back of the building, and into the cool night air.
The W, 6 ½ SW Third St., Lee’s Summit, Missouri, 816.287.0000, thew.bar