Kendra Anderson is serving transporting vacation-inspired cocktails at her open-air pop-up bar in Denver. Here’s how to mix them up at home.

Kendra Anderson at the Bar
Courtesy of Kendra Anderson

It was two months into lockdown and Kendra Anderson wanted a vacation badly. The owner of Denver’s Bar Helix had, as had many bar and restaurant owners in the pandemic, pivoted her business model twice only to have to shut the bar down when it turned out not to be sustainable. Bar Helix was a rarity in Denver, as well as in the American cocktail industry: Opened in 2017, it was the only bar outside of New York city dedicated to the Italian cocktail the Negroni; and it was owned by a Black woman, nearly as rare in the male-dominated field. Bar Helix had won awards—and won over Denverites. When it shut down, Anderson was discouraged but undeterred. A restorative planning trip to Tulum with her staff was the dream. Travel restrictions were the reality.

“I was hoping to take the team for a quick getaway,” says Anderson. But the two-week quarantine in Mexico ruled that out. “I was heartbroken,” she says. When the state of Colorado allowed businesses to expand their footprint to outdoor spaces, Anderson saw an opportunity and took over an unused patio nearby, and Bar Helix was re-born as Cabana X @ Bar Helix, the ultimate cocktailian’s fantasy vacation. If Anderson couldn’t go to Tulum she was going to do her best to recreate it on a sun-dappled patio in Denver—at least until the weather turned. Anderson wrote up a menu of beach bites and invented summery cocktails to channel the Riviera Maya, Martha’s Vineyard, and other beachy playgrounds. Denverites couldn’t be happier. “Everybody who comes here says it’s the vacation they needed but couldn’t go on,” say Anderson, whose spirits are lifted by the sight of people dressing up and wearing tropical print dresses, or putting on a cute hat like they’re anywhere but home. “It’s like people are getting into a character and saying to themselves ‘I’m headed to Negril tonight so I’m going to wear my pineapple flip flops.’” Do yourself a favor, put on your traveling clothes, mix up one of these cocktails, and bring those Cabana X vacation vibes to your backyard. 

Karen Anderson in a Chair with a Cocktail
Kendra Anderson: The Vacationologist
A former caterer and sommelier, Kendra Anderson specializes in cocktails that evoke a place. Bar Helix made a name for itself serving numerous variations on the Florentine cocktail the Negroni, which is in its classic form equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. At the time of this writing Cabana X was serving a cocktail menu themed around Negril, Jamaica, and Ibiza. The food on the menu is equally escapist. “When I’m on vacation I want an amazing burger poolside at the hotel,” says Anderson. “And I want chips and guacamole, no matter where I am.” 

Courtesy of Kendra Anderson

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