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Bartender Michah Wood infuses Missouri Spirits bourbon with hot chili peppers and sweet dark chocolate cream and then tops it with fresh mint to create the Mexican Villain.

Plenty of terrific watering holes offer a cool atmosphere and creative cocktails with high-quality ingredients. But only a few make the very spirits incorporated in their libations. Missouri Spirits is one such spot. Evidence of their craft—the sweet, earthy smell of bourbon aging in Missouri white oak barrels—welcomes you as soon as you enter the distillery’s large, hospitable tasting room housed in the front portion of its home base, a former auto body shop in downtown Springfield. The liquors made on site are, unsurprisingly, the centerpiece of the array of cocktails, which spans classics (Old Fashioneds, Manhattans and the like) and imaginative signature cocktails dreamed up by founder Scott Shotts and his team. “We’re always playing around and experimenting,” he says. To sample those exploits, saunter up to the steel-topped bar and order the martini-style Mexican Villain. Named as a nod to the beloved Springfield restaurant chain, it features house-made dark chocolate cream, mint, cinnamon and Missouri Spirits bourbon that’s been infused with blistering-hot chili peppers. Be forewarned: You may want to have a glass of water handy if you try this tipple. “It’s got a spicy kick on the back end,” Shotts says. Another must-try is the ultra-popular Bill’s Bullets featuring Missouri Spirits bourbon, lemon juice, smoked ice and a flavor-packed red apple and tobacco shrub, which takes three to four days to make. Although such craftsmanship and skill are central to the Missouri Spirits experience, the atmosphere is decidedly casual and welcoming, a draw for the eclectic mix of people that frequent it. “We want people to feel comfortable,” Shotts says. “Cocktails can feel very intimidating. What we try to do is take that away. We want people to enjoy them. If you want a Missouri Spirits bourbon and Coke, that’s not going to offend us. But if you want the high-end [cocktails] with different levels of flavor profiles, we are going to give that to you. That’s important to us.

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