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Best Of :: Bars & Clubs


Casa Blanca's got something for everyone — there's a sports bar, where patrons can knock back a few brews while watching the game on the big screens, and there's the rock club, which usually sees the most action. We've yet to hit a show at Casa Blanca that wasn't packed to the gills, whether a national name like Bad Brains singer HR is onstage, or locals like NunZilla and Dephinger are rocking the house.

On some nights, the club is so jammed that people are resigned to using the club's two pool tables for seats. Notably, the bands who share bills at Casa Blanca help each other out — setting up and breaking down equipment, and staying for each others' sets. When there's nobody onstage, Casa Blanca plays the coolest in-house mix of music, jamming out perennial faves like Fugazi and the Ramones.

Leave your rave glow sticks in the car — this is a rock nightclub, right down to the décor, which features mosaic tabletops and original surrealist paintings. The only thing it needs now is more space.

1801 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix, 85007

We have a good friend whose two favorite things in the world are candy and booze. So when we wanted to try the best candy cocktails in town, naturally, we asked her.

"Twisted!" she shouted. "Well, no," we responded. "We don't think that's such an odd request. We just thought, in honor of our Sweet Life theme this year, that we'd —"

"No, dude!" she interrupted. "Don't you get out? Twisted has the best candy cocktails in town!"

Oh. Turns out, our friend has been hanging out a lot in Scottsdale, at a spot called Twisted. And, of course, she's right. The place has the sweetest cocktails, from our particular favorite, a flight of frozen margaritas in far-out flavors like mango, tamarind, and jalapeño, to our friend's standard order, a blood orange Cosmo. The menu also includes Peaches and Cream, The Caramel Apple and the Florida Martini, which involves vodka, vanilla, lime and cream.

Our friend is such a candy purist, she'll only do the hard stuff: Jolly Ranchers, lollipops, the occasional Sour Patch Kid. She actually claims that she doesn't like chocolate, which is why, she explained, she hasn't tried Twisted's Chocolate Cherry Bomb. It sounds gross to her.

Now that, we say, is twisted.

Tranzylvania at Palazzo

Betty Crocker, get your booze on — the German chocolate cake shot could be the sweetest thing to ever hit your lips and liver. This rich, syrupy drink is still something of a secret; many bartenders are lost if the recipe's not in their books. Luckily, most of those behind the bar at Palazzo on the club's weekly Friday goth night, Tranzylvania, know how to cook up this goodie and pour some sugar on us. For the rest, here's the 411: Frost the rim of a shot glass with sugar and lemon. Pour a half-ounce of Stoli vanilla vodka and a half-ounce of Frangelico hazelnut liqueur into the glass and stir together. Lick the sugar off the rim, shoot the booze, and quickly bite into a piece of lemon. It tastes exactly like German chocolate cake but will probably give you fewer cavities and more gusto in your game. But be warned: They are delicious and potentially addictive.

710 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 85004
Portland's Restaurant & Wine Bar

Before we stumble out for a tour of the galleries on Roosevelt Row, we like to stop in at the bar at Portland's for a fancy cocktail. Our favorite is a sweetie called the Thin Mint Tini — just a simple blend of Ketel One, Rumpleminze Peppermint Schnapps, crème de cacao and a splash of cream. Is this why our friends had so much fun at Girl Scout camp?

105 W. Portland St., Phoenix, 85003
Blue Wasabi Sushi & Martini Bar

Blue Wasabi has one of the most creative drink menus in town, and we're glad that we can now drink the martinis a little closer to home, with the opening of the Hilton Village location. (You folks who live in DC Ranch had all the luck, 'til now.)

We're particularly fond of a drink called the Mello Jello. This is not your frat party Jell-O shot. Oh, no, this drink is pure sophistication, a blend of Skyy Berry vodka, cranberry-flavored sweet and sour, and cranberry juice infused with dark cherry Jell-O. A Jell-O infusion? Leave it to Blue Wasabi. And if that sounds too grownup, leave it entirely and try the Milky Way or the Lemon Head instead.

2080 E. Williams Field Rd., Gilbert, 85296
Christie's Cabaret

Rappers Jay-Z and P. Diddy might have gotten in a little harsh dissing of Cristal on their latest albums, but believe us, there's no finer symbol of style and stardom than downing a bottle or two of the chic champagne, particularly in the utterly opulent environs of either location of the Valley's classiest strip club. You definitely gotta be living large to afford it, however; bottles start at $550. But at least you can kick it in the VIP area, where the sultry strippers dance a little bit closer than they do in the cheap seats. The gold-labeled bubbly's been the sign of status and the subject of hip-hop songs for more than a decade, and your success will shine much more brightly amidst the stylish décor of Christie's when clutching some Cris. It's just like in the Lil Scrappy jam "Money in the Bank" when Young Buck sang, "We keep a bankroll/Wallet full of credit cards/Cup full of Cristal/Box full of cigars."

44 N. 32nd St., Phoenix, 85034

BEST NEW NIGHTCLUB: Casa Blanca Nightclub & Lounge


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