Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
You live in downtown Phoenix, your friend hangs in Scottsdale, and you need a meeting point before you hit a house party in Tempe. It's 9 p.m., and you and your crew want to start boozing ASAP, but God forbid you're the first ones at the party. Meet up at a bar, but beware and choose wisely, because the wrong decision could easily bust up the night's agenda. If you go to a club that's really bumpin', you're not going to want to leave. Hit a dive bar, and you'll be overdressed and uncomfortable no way to gear up for a night of debauchery. Zen 32 has saved our social asses on a number of occasions. With its teeny but super-swanky bar, this sushi and drinking bar is the perfect rendezvous. Reasonable drink prices and a decent, well-dressed crowd offer just enough to hold you over for that crucial hour and a half before you have to move on. See you there.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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."
Perched high above Myst's dance floor in the utter opulence of the lavish nightclub's VIP skyboxes, one feels like Caligula as the hedonistic Roman ruler looked down upon the commoners. Gorgeously decorated, cloaked in darkness, and steeped in swank, these private pads of posh have set the standard for all other Scottsdale VIP rooms to aspire to, and have played host to the shenanigans of beautiful types, as well as the rich and famous including Dennis Rodman, Jesse Metcalfe, and Amaré Stoudemire.
Available in a number of different sizes, the skyboxes are available only if you have some serious scrilla (with per-night charges starting at $500 for the smallest to $1,500 for the largest) and include plenty of perks like bottle service, a stocked private bar, and chocolate-covered strawberries. If you'd rather flaunt your party to the public, separate tables are available in the general VIP lounge for $350, and there's also a cushy catwalk over the dance floor that's available for $1,000. We heard that a few Diamondbacks players had a pretty hopped-up hootenanny in the latter area recently. Let's hope they made it to practice the next day.
Couture-clad female hotties flock to Dirty Pretty every Thursday, but it ain't to sip on overpriced martinis or ogle the hunky bartenders at the vintage-meets-swank rock nightclub. Nope, these slinky sirens wanna rock 'n' roll all night (and party every day) at the ultra-hot Scottsdale nightspot, and they do so with gusto.
Chic to the gills in their finest Mara Hoffman and Sky clubwear, or even sporting teased hair and ripped denim, the coifed and coutured ladies who frequent the weekly Foxy Bitch blowout are, indeed, both dirty and pretty as they scream along to the lyrics of classic anthems of AC/DC, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Roy Orbison, or whatever rock mash-ups are being spun from the decks of D-JR.
We've even seen a few hook 'em horns getting unleashed as these lovelies shake their booties on the dance floor. Watching these wanna-be Pam Andersons slumming it (and likely in search of their own personal Tommy Lee for the evening) reminds us of the similarly ironic Cake song "Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle," where frontman John McCrea sang, "Well, your CD collection looks shiny and costly/How much did you pay for your bad Motto Guzi/And how much did you spend on your black leather jacket?/Is it you or your parents in this income tax bracket?"
The creed of the new Mondrian hotel in Scottsdale could easily be "decadence in excess."
Like the triptych painting The Garden of Earthly Delights by 15th- and 16th- century Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, the aesthetic of the Mondrian is good and evil. The main hall of the hotel plays host to a "heaven" theme, with fluffy, white-cotton clouds suspended from the ceiling, 3-D white orbs running down the walls, and white leather furniture, while a separate bar area entertains the images of "hell," with red furniture, red glass centerpieces shaped like cherries on the tables, and murals on the walls depicting cherubs who've somehow fallen from grace.
But the statues in the hotel's posh Asia de Cuba restaurant most closely resemble Bosch's work stone bowls with phallic-shaped piles of exotic fat fruits wrapped around each other in a citrus orgy. With so much hedonism decking the halls, we wouldn't be surprised to find the Tree of Knowledge growing somewhere on the premises.
Rat Pack paradise must look something like this. The midcentury design that makes you think of The Sands (now defunct). The sweeping driveway with the backlit retro signage. The generous patio overlooking the pool, with open fires nearby on cool nights. All you'd need is Dean Martin with a cocktail in hand, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. clownin' at the bar, and maybe a young Shirley MacLaine high on champagne, and the picture would be complete: a Scottsdale Ocean's Eleven, like the original 1960 version, not those dumb Steven Soderbergh remakes. Peter Lawford'd be wooing some curvy dame in Trader Vic's next door, and Joey Bishop'd be holed up in the hotel restaurant Café ZuZu, with a plate of gourmet meatloaf and copy of Daily Variety.
Bishop and MacLaine are still kickin', natch, but just go with the concept, okay? It ain't too far-fetched. Celebs like Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, and Robert Wagner all found reason to be here once upon a time. And now that this classy joint's reopened with its $80 million renovation, it's drawing a new round of Tinseltown types, like Jamie Foxx, and others. And perhaps even the ghosts of a few erstwhile Rat Packers on holiday from heaven.
When we're torn between the world of drinking wine in pajamas and watching Netflix versus getting gussied up for a night at a shiny club, there's one place where we can feel the thrill of grabbing a drink with the protective armor of anonymity. Kazimierz World Wine Bar offers a cozy cover of darkness with a burgundy interior prickled by candlelight. The stone walls and wooden wine casks make us feel like we're in a 19th-century port town cellar pub. The soft audio of jazz, Latin, and world beat serves an ambiance of private conversation as you sit on the squishy sofas and chairs. Sneak a meeting with a friend or love interest without the risk of being recognized or bombarded with social obligation. No need for the hat-and-glasses bit because even the entrance at the rear of the building is undercover.
The Black and Tan has been the subject of much secrecy and speculation over the past couple of years. The joint is an underground speakeasy of sorts, which is a nice way of saying it's not an official venue and that it doesn't have a liquor license (and, rumor has it, it's perpetually closing). Since we've already been falsely accused of "outing" the place in a recent Best of Phoenix issue (note: we have never disclosed anything about the club's location or who runs it, and in fact, we don't know the latter), we're not going to get into details. Let's just say you have to be "in the know" to go. But if and when you do go, drop some cash on the bar, because it'll be the best bang for your booze buck in the city. If you order a Vodka/Red Bull at the B&T, you get a plastic cup that's about 90 percent vodka and a couple drops of Red Bull a swine steal at $3. A straight-up Red Bull costs only a buck. Anything with alcohol is going to be made to lay you out here, and considering that we often have to order doubles at legit establishments just to get a buzz going, we'd be boozing at the B&T every night if we could.