No rum behind the bar? Ozzie Mendoza Diaz has the recipe for six Made in KC cocktails that feature only spirits from Kansas City-area distillers.
And while the metro freely pours gin, vodka and even tequila for the thirsty masses, rum isn’t on the locally made menu — a problem for daiquiri lovers, said Tyler Enders, co-founder of Made in KC.
But not a problem for Mendoza Diaz, Enders added.
One of his custom creations — tentatively dubbed “Leo vs. the Bear” — features Most Wanted Long Shot, lime, turbinado simple syrup and bitters. It debuts this week at the Made in KC Marketplace on the Country Club Plaza, which features a specialty tasting room for unique Kansas City-infused concoctions (as well as local beer and wine).
“This is essentially a classic daiquiri with a white whiskey [substitution],” said Mendoza Diaz, describing Leo vs. the Bear. “Since there is no locally produced rum, we replaced its funky sweetness with that of Long Shot and added bitters for balance and complexity.”
Made in KC tapped barista-turned-culinary rising star Mendoza Diaz to develop cocktails for the Plaza store’s tasting room after he successfully brewed the coffee operations in late 2017 at the Made in KC Cafe location downtown.
Originally from Puerto Rico and a former mainstay at PT’s at The Crossroads in Kansas City, Enders said, Mendoza Diaz more recently has been perfecting his culinary game in New Orleans.
“He’s been really accelerating his learning curve. He already had an impressive palate — not only on the food side, but the cocktail side,” Enders said. “He was already qualified to develop our cocktails, but now he’s able to create something really special for Kansas City.”
Among those new tastes: the Kansas City Old Fashioned.
“It uses J. Rieger whiskey, so it’s got that sweetness, but we also put in black walnut bitters, which is another really local flavor,” said Enders. “There are unique, almost-vanilla attributes to the taste, which rounds out the drink really nicely.”
“It’s taking a flavor inspiration and a liquor that’s specific to Kansas City and making a great cocktail,” he added.
Local flavors linger
The tasting room concept is a fresh take on the Made in KC retail model with the Plaza location the first to debut its offerings of local beer, wine and spirits. A long-awaited bar slated for the downtown cafe at 1114 Baltimore Ave. is expected to become operational as early as this week, Enders said.
Both sites also feature coffee counters with a similarly conceived selection of Kansas City roasts, as well as a “food hall” element at the Plaza Made in KC Marketplace that showcases select vendors in standalone style.
“As much as we want people to just come in for Ice Cream BAE or to eat at Aixois Crêperie, we want people to come in just to get drinks,” Enders said.
When the Plaza store played host to a grand opening celebration Aug. 11, a strong crowd mingled with makers throughout the 8,000-square-foot space. Enders chatted with customers and curious onlookers alike — wine glass in hand — hoping to build awareness, especially of the bar offerings to come, he said.
“A lot of people lingered,” Enders said. “It just became a social hub, which is what we wanted.”
Made in KC’s ownership team — which includes Enders, Keith Bradley and Thomas McIntire — anticipates the tasting room becoming known for its flights, which won’t just feature traditional beer and wine selections.
Local gin and whiskey also are prominent and plentiful enough to warrant such tasting experiences, Enders said.
“And even within whiskey, there are enough liquors in Kansas City, that we probably won’t have just one whiskey flight. We’ll have multiple,” he added. “I think it will be known as a place where there’s a different breadth of offerings than you’d get at a normal bar.”
Community in a one-stop shop
If the vibe at the Made in KC Marketplace feels like a community, even a bit familial, it’s by design — down to the coasters used for beer and wine flights.
The brothers behind Coaster Oven — Trey and Chad Hickman — collaborated with Made in KC to produce laser-printed wood coasters that can be inserted into the sample paddles. The removable pieces specify the name of the featured breweries and their beers, Enders said. For wine flights, the coasters offer information about the vineyards and varietals, he said.
During the grand opening event, Trey Hickman sat at the bar, drinking wine alongside the store’s patrons. A few feet away, his brother Chad Hickman’s brand, Sandlot, was gaining new fans as shoppers perused the leather goods produced by the Kansas City maker — just one of the high-profile startups with permanent spaces in the Made in KC Marketplace.
Across the store, MADE Urban Apparel co-founder and creative director Vu Radley chatted with Chris Harrington, owner of Westside Storey at 17th and Summit, near a display for Harrington’s own apparel line, Bellboy.
Painted above the bar, a “Made in KC” mural by his brother, Jason Harrington — better known as graffiti artist Rif Raf Giraffe — greets customers as soon as they walk in the front door and look down the retail mall before them. The artist also is responsible for other on-brand designs painted throughout the space.
And that bartender? It’s the same barista floating between the coffee counter and payment kiosks, Enders said.
“First and foremost, we look for the customer service piece when hiring. Of course we want an experienced staff, but it all begins with personality,” he said. “Most come from a barista background, but we also have a handful that we’ve trained — and we’re taking that same approach on the bar side.”
The tasting rooms at both the Plaza and downtown stores will be open no later than 11 p.m. and will stick to the slimmed-down, six-cocktail menu for the foreseeable future, Enders said.
Check out a gallery from the Aug. 11 grand opening below.