Phoenix’s cocktail scene has grown enormously in the last decade, exponentially in the last five years. The town is full of talented mixologists and great bars, places to grab a crazy-creative cocktail or something elegant and classic. This isn’t hometown hype — Phoenix bars and mixologists have begun to receive national attention in recent years. Here are 15 places to grab a cocktail — some new, some well-established, all excellent.Read More
15 Fabulous Cocktail Bars to Try in Phoenix
Where to grab a classic French 75 or a cold brew shot
Now that Bar Chef author and mixologist Christiaan Rollich has become bar director at Matt Carter’s sleek, high-end Italian enclave, the bar has taken a giant leap forward. Rollich, who thinks like a chef, is inspired by ingredients in Carter’s kitchen, and the delicious result is balanced, creative cocktails with ingredients such as turmeric and harissa.
Tucked behind its sister venue Valentine, this stark-white, Mission Revival-designed enclave also pays homage to the 48th State, building cocktails around indigenous ingredients and Arizona’s economic drivers, the “5 Cs” (cotton, cattle, citrus, climate, and copper). Don’t miss the Cattle, a silky riff on the Manhattan, fat-washed with beef tallow. Blaise Faber gets credit for the suave cocktails; Valentine chef Donald Hawk provides sophisticated bar bites, and the staff spins their favorite vinyl selections.
Mixologist/partners Jason Asher and Rich Furnari of Barter & Shake have put three brilliant bars under one roof at the destination, award-winning bar Century Grand. Platform 18, a reservations-only bar tucked inside a posh replication of a Presidential Pullman train car (complete with train whistles, the clacking sounds of the train on the tracks, and snowy scenery flashing past the windows), offers elegant riffs on classic cocktails from the 30s and 40s. Tiny Grey Hen captures the vibe of an old New Orleans apothecary, offering a New Orleans-influenced cocktail menu that includes classics such as the Sazerac and Vieux Carre. Dark, atmospheric UnderTow (which requires reservations) simulates a turn-of-the-century clipper ship with its low ceilings, wooden rum barrels, and tiki totems. The cocktail menu honors famous tiki drinks from historic bars such as Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s.
Set along the perimeter of Scottsdale’s Civic Center Mall, this light-filled, multi-windowed bar and restaurant has been popular since it opened in 1988. Although it’s beloved for its edgy art installations, AZ/88’s biggest claim to fame may be its martini selection, 16 in all, including classics such as the Cosmopolitan, Espresso and Pornstar as well as martini-esque riffs on other cocktails like the Manhattan, Sidecar, and Jalisco Sunset.
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Owned by cocktail savants Libby Lingua and Mitch Lyons (who create high-volume cocktail programs for other venues under the brand name Two Hands Consulting), Highball, perched on the second floor of an historic building, is a cozy yet sophisticated hangout. The wildly creative cocktail menu comes with helpful descriptors such as “velvety, smooth, tantalizing” and “quirky, ripe, exotic.” Try the geeky, Curacao-blue Typhoon Lagoon or anything else that catches your fancy.
Killer Whale Sex Club
This pitch-black, unpretentious hangout delivers on more than the shock value of its name, but there’s no denying Killer Whale is both irreverent and fun. Just take a gander at the Polaroid pics of guests’ butt cracks throughout the place, then feel free to add your own to the collection. Expect creative cocktails and large format drinks.
As its name suggests, this geode-decorated bar, presided over by creative barkeep Maxwell Berlin, offers 12 gorgeous jewel-toned cocktails inspired by the birthstones of the calendar year and filled with interesting ingredients (aquafaba, lambanog, and ginger jaggery, for example). Under the same roof and directly behind Quartz sits The Cave, where customers can have an immersive 90-minute experience set in a mirrored, shimmering space that feels like a world apart. The cocktail menu, predicated upon the landscapes, people, customs, and animals of the world’s great deserts, is even more geeky and fancy. Brief descriptors such as “bubbly and creamy” or “crisp and clean” help customers decide what they might like — although the answer is probably “everything.”
Discerning drinkers love slinky, dimly lit Pigtails, an intimate hideaway with a hard-to-find, speakeasy-style entrance. Cleverly-named cocktails are arranged in categories such as bold n’ boozy, fun n’ fresh, and cool n’ nerdy. Consider the signature cold brew shot or, for a splurge, the $100 VIPig made with Macallan 18-year-old scotch and Hennessy VSOP. There’s a second location in Desert Ridge.
Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Scottish-born barman Ross Simon created a stir when he opened Bitter & Twisted in 2014, and as the founder of Arizona’s Cocktail Week, he’s now considered the godfather of the city’s burgeoning cocktail scene. This now-legendary downtown spot offers more than 65 cocktails, including classics, twists on classics, and dazzling new creations, many served in whimsical vessels such as Santa mugs, honey bears, and porcelain teacups.
Housed on the fourth floor of the Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott, this classy cocktail bar, owned by award-winning mixologists Ross Simon and Aaron Defeo, offers great views of downtown Phoenix and an edgy mural of Arizona’s pop-culture icons. It’s been named one of the top hotel bars in the U.S. and nominated for a 2020 James Beard award for outstanding bar program. Its owners are both meticulous and cutting-edge, stocking premium liquors, making their own syrups, tinctures, and foams, and creating beautiful, memorable cocktails.
Espiritu Cocktails & Comida
It’s hard to say what’s more important at this modern Mexican restaurant with a beautiful backbar: the cocktails or the seafood-centric food prepared by chef Roberto Centeno. Savvy customers dip into both. That said, the cocktail menu — replete with illustrations, descriptions, and goofy jokes — makes an entertaining read, and the drinks live up to all the hype. Try the after-dinner La Mordida (redolent with mezcal smoke, vanilla, coffee, and chocolate), or get crazy in the section dubbed “Shots & Other Mistakes,” where, for 20 bucks, they’ll light something on fire.