For over a year, we’ve been dying to get out of the house. To see friends, run into acquaintances and eavesdrop on awkward Bumble dates. Now that the world is opening back up, even a casual Sunday evening at the neighborhood watering hole sounds exhilarating.
But the handful of folks who wandered down to the Pressed Penny on Memorial Day weekend without a reservation may have been surprised to find their low-key tavern packed to the gills and a host gathering names for a walk-in waitlist. The space had been commandeered by one Diana Condori, a talented bartender who had converted the Pressed Penny into Condor’s Cove, her once-a-month, one-night-only tiki pop-up (instagram.com/condorscove.kc). For these events, Condori unpacks an oasis: Tall palm trees, big-leafed monsteras, living green trellises, colorful guayos (woven cloth from her native Bolivia) and twinkling lights canvas all surfaces. The cocktails are exclusively tiki, most of them original save for that flaming favorite, the Zombie.
Condor’s Cove was born of pandemic blues in January, and demand rises with each pop-up. Tickets to the May event sold out in under ten minutes. And it’s not just about the island vibe and the excellent (and very crushable) cocktails: Condori is creating something magical here, something for our weary souls to get excited about again. That’s why we’re naming Condor’s Cove our Bar of the Year.
In true tiki fashion, Condori’s cocktails are a little sweet and a little sour, with plenty of spices. They each contain a complex riddle of ingredients—usually highlighting her heritage via Latin spirits and flavors—and are expertly balanced, like her signature Sun Door, where rum, cachaça, passionfruit, pineapple and allspice dram swim in perfect synchrony. These drinks go down easily. One sip becomes a slurp and then you’re stabbing your straw at ice cubes. It’s a funny thing: Condori spends weeks planning these pop-ups, ordering her Pisco, bottling her passion fruit syrups and homemade Falernum and cutting out pretty pitaya garnishes. Then these drinks of hers disappear in minutes, and you’ll need another because no one goes to a tiki bar and just has one.
I can’t think of anything less like a tropical island than Kansas City. That may contribute to the convivial charm of Condor’s Cove, which offers a convincing alternative. It’s enough to take us not just off our couches but also out of our own heads, where we have been miserably existing since quarantine. Tiki has always offered an escape, and we’ve never needed it more. Diana Condori is our pilot for this next adventure. We trust her entirely.
Keep an eye out for our comprehensive bar guide of the 87 essential bars, dives, cocktail spots and brewpubs in Kansas City, which launches next week.