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Best Of 2012

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Best Of :: Bars & Clubs

Best Hip-Hop DJ

One of the most memorable moments from the most recent season of IFC sketch comedy satire Portlandia was a hilarious vignette in which it seemed literally everyone and his mother (including Carrie Brownstein's onscreen mother) was becoming a DJ. What's even funnier is the fact that it's totally true-to-life, as embryonic mixer monkeys and knob-twisters are springing up everywhere, including here the Valley. Unfortunately, a brand new MacBook and a pirated copy of Serato Scratch Live does not a DJ make. Actual talent is necessary, son, not to mention voluminous knowledge of a chosen genre, many years honing your craft, and learning the true fundamentals of turntablism, like maybe how to mix and scratch some actual records. In other words, you'll wanna follow the same path as Logan Howard. For more than a decade, the 30-something mixmaster known as Element has been considered one of the best hip-hop selectas in the PHX, if not the entire Southwest. A hardcore crate-digger at heart, Howard grew up devouring his family's diverse vinyl collection and started working a pair of record decks at house parties during high school. In the years since, he's become a walking encyclopedia of hip-hop culture and turntable wizardry, not to mention a longtime favorite the Valley's DJ scene. When's he not unleashing a sick scratch-fest or spinning old-school jams at joints around the Valley, Howard can be found hunting in local record stores for his latest finds or gigging in cities around the world (including Europe and Asia). Hell, he's even big in Japan.

Readers Choice:

Best Cocktail Named After a Haboob
<i>The</i> Haboob at Lon's at the Hermosa Inn

By the middle of the summer of 2012, we were choking on dust and dying of thirst. Suddenly, it occurred to us: If New Orleans can have the Hurricane, what's stopping Phoenix from creating her own cocktail homage to the haboob? And so we set forth on a bar-to-bar quest to find the bartender who could make our dream come true. It happened at Lon's, where Alexandria Bowler created a drink so unique — and so fitting — it deserves italics in its name. Bowler kindly provided us with her recipe for The Haboob. You're welcome.

• 2.5 ounces of High Spirits Gin• .75 ounces of cactus blossom syrup• 1 ounce of lemon juice• three dashes of mole bittersShake with orange flower water and chamomile dust. Enjoy.
5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Paradise Valley, 85253
MAP
602-955-7878
Best Place to Learn to Love Whiskey
Old Town Whiskey
For+the+most+part%2C+Distrito%26rsquo%3Bs+cuisine+delivers+on+both+inspiration+and+flavor.

The world of whiskey is wide. Nearly every country that produces grain also makes its own version of the dark liquor, and with thousands of different varieties, styles and brands available, it's easy to get lost in your travels. Old Town Whiskey's collection of bottles is no less daunting — the restaurant's library of more than 100 whiskey varieties is one of the most comprehensive in the state — but there's no better place to make your way through every single one. The décor evokes an upscale version of a Western saloon, where cowboys would kick back the firewater with ease, and with flights of one-ounce tasters available for a set price, soon you will be, too. That Iron Chef Jose Garces lends his own talents to the food menu — which includes duck fat fries, pickled seasonal vegetables, burgers, and steak — is just a perk.

4000 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale, 85251
MAP
480-970-4444
Best Specialty Cocktails
Citizen R&D

Really, gin made tableside? Flaming shakers of Jameson? Can Richie Moe, Kris Korf, and crew get any more creative with their cocktails? Could anyone?! The Citizen Public House folks decided to make good use of an old VIP room by turning it into a speakeasy-style bar that serves cocktails you most definitely will not find anywhere else. If you're one of the lucky 30 to get in, you must try the Tableside G & T or the impressive Black Blazer, made with Jameson whiskey, black strap molasses rum, and maple syrup. The concoction is lit on fire and mixed until it reaches a beautifully sweet, boozy glaze that is poured over ice and topped with a float of fresh whipped cream and orange zest. It comes with a $17 price tag, but the show itself is worth the price, and the flavors are unforgettable.

7111 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale, 85251
MAP
602-904-3904
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2122 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 85257
MAP
480-429-9544
Best Skinny Cocktail
Skinny Chola at Barrio Queen

Rumor has it there's a cool, skinny chola at the bar. No need to size her up or whistle too loud; this chick keeps it real and authentic without the unnecessary mixes and syrups. Yep, she's the skinny, fresh face of a kick-ass margarita with all the essential ingredients — Jose Cuervo Tradicional Blanco Silver Tequila, agave nectar, and lime juice — and without the diet-driven hype. True, her complex flavors make her a little hard to read. And if you ask for her to touch a blender, she might show you some serious chola attitude. But if you've had a rough day or are in the mood to celebrate, head over to Barrio Queen and find her. There's no better chola to have by your side.

7114 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale, 85251
MAP
480-656-4197
Best Shot
The Pickle Back at Kitchen 56

WTF is a Pickle Back? That's probably what you're asking yourself right about now. We're about to tell you, but we need you to open your mind way up, so hear us out on this one. A Pickle Back isn't a shot of pickle juice mixed with something gross like tequila or ranch dressing, and it doesn't have any actual pickles in it whatsoever. It's more of a drink combo like a Lady Boy (gin and tonic, Bailey's, and a beer) or a bloody Mary with a sidecar (small beer). The Pickle Back is made up of three parts — one can of PBR, one shot of Jameson, and one shot of pickle juice — but you keep them all separate. Do not mix them together. Combining them into one drink may cause the world to explode (or leave a bad taste in your mouth). Once you have your three items in front of you, take the shot of Jameson, then chase it with the pickle juice (just do it; it's actually tasty and it takes away that pesky whiskey burn) and then sip on PBR. Try it, you might like it! Particularly at Kitchen 56, where they do it just right.

3433 N. 56th St., Phoenix, 85018
MAP
480-994-5656
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Best Hip-Hop DJ: Logan "Element" Howard

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