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The bar at Undertow, with plants hanging from the ceiling and barrel designs in the background.
Undertow in Phoenix
Undertow [official site]

Phoenix’s Top Drinking Destinations

Where to go to drink

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Undertow in Phoenix
| Undertow [official site]

One thing that might surprise visitors to Phoenix is its ambitious drink scene. Bars have a wealth of local beverages to help punch up their drink lists: one of the best sake breweries outside of Japan, world-class mead, and a trove of avant-garde beers. Cocktail culture reaches high-wire heights in Phoenix proper, with bartenders approaching both theme and drink composition with a fervor and creativity that suits the imaginative backdrop of the desert.

In Phoenix, too, there are also plenty of low-key but stellar neighborhood bars — often places that channel throwback, feel-good vibes.

True, a lot of Phoenix’s best places to drink, especially for cocktails, are in resorts and restaurants. This list considers places that focus on drinks first, and keeps the geography tightly to Phoenix, where most of the magic in the greater metro area is happening.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Thunderbird Lounge

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This retro bar opened in Phoenix’s Melrose District in early 2019, immediately drawing crowds from the neighborhood and beyond. With linoleum floors, decades-old lamps, and wood paneling on the walls, Thunderbird conjures a 1970s vibe, sealed by the jukebox and working cigarette machine. Bartops feature wood salvaged from an abandoned bowling alley. Drinkers can sip RC Cola and throw back lowbrow snacks flown in from the Midwest. Classic well drinks are affordable and solid. The beer list features macros and micros, with a few local all-stars, like Mother Road’s Tower Station IPA. An open, grassy stretch out back where cornhole bags fly makes for a fun patio. 

Gracie's Tax Bar

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In a peach-painted brick building that still bears the timeworn sign of its former tenant, a tax company, Gracie’s pours no-bullshit drinks for an eclectic crowd that draws from many Phoenix subcultures. Drinks are cheap. Food is simple and greasy (check out the onion rings and fried pickle spears). People nurse pitchers of beer and sangria on a patio where blooms of ivy creep up a white wall toward the pale desert sky. Inside, a wide-ranging jukebox oozes tunes into the heavy dimness. Fun fact: Grace Perry, owner, used to sing in a local metal band. Drink specials rotate, featuring the likes of mystery shots and a $5 tequila sunrise. 

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

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Ross Simon’s immense cocktail bar has anchored the downtown drinks scene for more than five years now. He drops an ambitious new menu each year, lavishly illustrated tomes filled with dozens upon dozens of masterfully conceived and executed drinks. He considers the smallest details, right on down to the water filtration system and ice quality. Drinkers can keep it classic, sipping a polar martini or one of many slight, careful negroni riffs. Or they can get “whimsical as fuck” (B&T’s motto), and travel down novel avenues, from a butter-washed bourbon and Cocchi Torino concoction that nods to popcorn to a pina colada upgrade that, yes, is truly worth drinking.

Little Rituals

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Ross Simon teamed up with Aaron DeFeo of Tucson to open a smaller cocktail lounge early in 2019, right down the street from B&T. On the fourth floor of a downtown Marriott, with views out over Chase Field and the Superstition Mountains rolling far to the east, a mixology-savvy crowd congregates in a sleek, swanky room for rigorously made drinks. Little Rituals swings for the fences with its mainstay drinks, including a curry daiquiri with Sichuan pepper oil, amari blends topped with salty foam, and a creamy fig-infused bourbon number heady with Olorosso sherry, Nocino, and a whole egg.

Sauvage Bottle Shop

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This 100-square-foot wine shop is more bottle shop, less bar. But it is home to the most fascinating wine and wine-adjacent selections in town, and customers can drink bottles in Sauvage or in the outdoor food hall it calls home, so it deserves a prime spot on this list. Chris Lingua, proprietor and the man behind the shop’s varied tunes, sources low-intervention wines in the orbit of natural, though he hesitates to use that zeitgeisty word. He sources Swedish ciders made from pear and apple juice, and Italian Grillo partly fermented in clay vessels, like the ancient Romans did. The bottle selection, displayed by price point on one shop wall, changes frequently.

The Wandering Tortoise

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The secret glories of the Arizona beverage scene are on full display at the Tortoise, a warm, beer-geek hub of local libations. They include a bevy of selections from Arizona’s world-class Superstition Meadery, as well as kegs from the rising small-batch, scientist-run cidery, Stoic Cider. Arizona-centric offerings extend to an expansive beer list (which also sources limited-release brews from the greater region and beyond). Owners Shay Gau and Justin Evans pour some of the best finds from the state’s best breweries, including Wren House, Arizona Wilderness, and Pueblo Vida. 

UnderTow

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Driven by the rums, fruit, juices, and tropicality of tiki, Jason Asher and Rich Furnari’s reservations-only UnderTow takes patrons on a boozy 90-minute ride that includes, from the 500-square-foot room designed to resemble a 19th century clipper ship, special effects like simulated fog and sunsets. Trinidadian rum meets sherry, melon, and Scotch bonnet. Touches like cinnamon smoke and orange oil give nuanced cocktails a spirit like that of the scattered wood-carved figures. Wooden planks line the ceiling, and portholes open on the tight walls.  

Century Grand

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The ambition of Jason Asher and Rich Furnari’s Century Grand — part 500-bottle whiskey tasting enclave, part concrete-walled dining/drinking room modeled after train stations, part “train car” built like a 1920s-era presidential pullman — is astounding. The two are masters of the deeply themed cocktail bar. This one is all about bygone railways. Platform 18 has a wide-ranging, aggressively progressive cocktail menu, punctuated by ingredients like smoked tea, kefir, and lacto-fermented blueberries. Its menu, different from the other, larger rooms’ menus, clocks in at a mighty 56 pages.  

Thunderbird Lounge

This retro bar opened in Phoenix’s Melrose District in early 2019, immediately drawing crowds from the neighborhood and beyond. With linoleum floors, decades-old lamps, and wood paneling on the walls, Thunderbird conjures a 1970s vibe, sealed by the jukebox and working cigarette machine. Bartops feature wood salvaged from an abandoned bowling alley. Drinkers can sip RC Cola and throw back lowbrow snacks flown in from the Midwest. Classic well drinks are affordable and solid. The beer list features macros and micros, with a few local all-stars, like Mother Road’s Tower Station IPA. An open, grassy stretch out back where cornhole bags fly makes for a fun patio. 

Gracie's Tax Bar

In a peach-painted brick building that still bears the timeworn sign of its former tenant, a tax company, Gracie’s pours no-bullshit drinks for an eclectic crowd that draws from many Phoenix subcultures. Drinks are cheap. Food is simple and greasy (check out the onion rings and fried pickle spears). People nurse pitchers of beer and sangria on a patio where blooms of ivy creep up a white wall toward the pale desert sky. Inside, a wide-ranging jukebox oozes tunes into the heavy dimness. Fun fact: Grace Perry, owner, used to sing in a local metal band. Drink specials rotate, featuring the likes of mystery shots and a $5 tequila sunrise. 

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

Ross Simon’s immense cocktail bar has anchored the downtown drinks scene for more than five years now. He drops an ambitious new menu each year, lavishly illustrated tomes filled with dozens upon dozens of masterfully conceived and executed drinks. He considers the smallest details, right on down to the water filtration system and ice quality. Drinkers can keep it classic, sipping a polar martini or one of many slight, careful negroni riffs. Or they can get “whimsical as fuck” (B&T’s motto), and travel down novel avenues, from a butter-washed bourbon and Cocchi Torino concoction that nods to popcorn to a pina colada upgrade that, yes, is truly worth drinking.

Little Rituals

Ross Simon teamed up with Aaron DeFeo of Tucson to open a smaller cocktail lounge early in 2019, right down the street from B&T. On the fourth floor of a downtown Marriott, with views out over Chase Field and the Superstition Mountains rolling far to the east, a mixology-savvy crowd congregates in a sleek, swanky room for rigorously made drinks. Little Rituals swings for the fences with its mainstay drinks, including a curry daiquiri with Sichuan pepper oil, amari blends topped with salty foam, and a creamy fig-infused bourbon number heady with Olorosso sherry, Nocino, and a whole egg.

Sauvage Bottle Shop

This 100-square-foot wine shop is more bottle shop, less bar. But it is home to the most fascinating wine and wine-adjacent selections in town, and customers can drink bottles in Sauvage or in the outdoor food hall it calls home, so it deserves a prime spot on this list. Chris Lingua, proprietor and the man behind the shop’s varied tunes, sources low-intervention wines in the orbit of natural, though he hesitates to use that zeitgeisty word. He sources Swedish ciders made from pear and apple juice, and Italian Grillo partly fermented in clay vessels, like the ancient Romans did. The bottle selection, displayed by price point on one shop wall, changes frequently.

The Wandering Tortoise

The secret glories of the Arizona beverage scene are on full display at the Tortoise, a warm, beer-geek hub of local libations. They include a bevy of selections from Arizona’s world-class Superstition Meadery, as well as kegs from the rising small-batch, scientist-run cidery, Stoic Cider. Arizona-centric offerings extend to an expansive beer list (which also sources limited-release brews from the greater region and beyond). Owners Shay Gau and Justin Evans pour some of the best finds from the state’s best breweries, including Wren House, Arizona Wilderness, and Pueblo Vida. 

UnderTow

Driven by the rums, fruit, juices, and tropicality of tiki, Jason Asher and Rich Furnari’s reservations-only UnderTow takes patrons on a boozy 90-minute ride that includes, from the 500-square-foot room designed to resemble a 19th century clipper ship, special effects like simulated fog and sunsets. Trinidadian rum meets sherry, melon, and Scotch bonnet. Touches like cinnamon smoke and orange oil give nuanced cocktails a spirit like that of the scattered wood-carved figures. Wooden planks line the ceiling, and portholes open on the tight walls.  

Century Grand

The ambition of Jason Asher and Rich Furnari’s Century Grand — part 500-bottle whiskey tasting enclave, part concrete-walled dining/drinking room modeled after train stations, part “train car” built like a 1920s-era presidential pullman — is astounding. The two are masters of the deeply themed cocktail bar. This one is all about bygone railways. Platform 18 has a wide-ranging, aggressively progressive cocktail menu, punctuated by ingredients like smoked tea, kefir, and lacto-fermented blueberries. Its menu, different from the other, larger rooms’ menus, clocks in at a mighty 56 pages.  

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