‘Like a cigar bar without the cigars’: New KC area cocktail bar spotlights the whiskey

Travis Gensler jokes that he and his wife, Bree, opened The Sentinel Room for a very practical reason.

“I needed more room for my whiskeys,” he said.

The cocktail bar, which debuted last month at 208 W. Lexington Ave. on Independence Square, stocks about 100 bottles of the stuff: bourbon, rye, scotch, Irish whiskey. “I just added another 15 this morning,” he said.

The couple have owned the building, which is just west of Cafe Verona, since 2020. It includes two spaces on the second floor — a residential loft and a short-term rental — and three commercial spaces at street level.

They began researching the history of the address after purchasing it. In the 1930s, it had been home to a shop called The Marinello, so that’s what Bree named the gift shop she opened last year in one of the spaces, at 210 W. Lexington Ave.

The building had also once been the office of a newspaper called the Independence Sentinel. So that’s the name the Genslers took inspiration from for their bar next door to The Marinello. The two businesses are linked both physically (through an interior door) and by their hours of operation: noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and noon to midnight Friday and Saturday.

“You can sip and shop,” Bree said. “We’re getting people who might otherwise go downtown or to Lee’s Summit. And we get some nightcaps from (Cafe Verona) too.”

“I think of it like a conversational lounge, or like a cigar bar without the cigars,” Travis said of The Sentinel Room, which seats about 24 guests in large, plush, leather chairs. “It’s a space where you can have a nice drink and some conversation and not get blasted out by live music or karaoke.”

It’s not just whiskey on the newspaper-themed menu. There are cocktails like the Ginger Rose Revival (Lifted Spirits gin, prosecco, rosemary ginger honey, lemon; $14) and the Mocking Goat (reposado tequila, Boozy Botanicals Three-Pepper Syrup, lime, lime bubbles, cilantro; $13), plus eight varieties of old fashioneds. They also serve wine and charcuterie.

But whiskey is the driving force. Flights are available, and Travis plans to start a “whiskey exploration club,” where members can learn more about — and sample — hard-to-find whiskies that might be out of their comfort zone.

“There’s a local whiskey following out there, and we’re seeing a little bit that word has traveled through some of these whiskey-bourbon groups online,” Travis said. “There’s a little bit of a speakeasy thing going on with what we’re doing here. But we don’t do reservations, and there’s no back door to throw people out of like they used to.”