Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
The history of American music is littered with legends about "pickup bands," units of players so adept and quick on their feet that touring songwriters needed only to show up in town and contact the band to back them at a bar or club gig. The members of the karaoke band at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill in Mesa are kind of like those legendary sidemen, only they back up a different kind of performer: the warbling drunkard stumbling on stage to belt out a rendition of "Neon Moon." That these guys are pro enough to make even the worst singer sound passable isn't just a skill. It's what makes this East Valley haunt so popular with townies and regulars.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.