Best Of :: Nightlife
It's no secret that Rips Ales & Cocktails is one of the best dive bars in town. But the bar is more than just cheap beer and good people. It hosts live music fairly regularly, and when there's a punk show going down, look out. Tight quarters make for the best crowds, and when you're in a place like Rips, you feel out of place if you're not head-banging and jumping around when there's a band playing. Punk music might not have the same cultural cache as it once did, but catch a punk band at Rips, and it won't matter: You'll be having too good a time to care.
It's easy to get caught up in the latest cocktails trends, be it a return to tiki-style drinks or garnishes inspired by what's growing in the garden. But wanting to taste what's trendy doesn't mean we can't also respect the classics. When we're craving an impeccable Old Fashioned or a perfect Negroni, we head to Crudo, where mixologist Micah Olson and his crew of talented drink makers is just as good with old-school cocktails as they are at shaking up creative concoctions. You can count on anyone behind the bar to make anything from a Vieux Carré to a French 75, and during the bar's happy hour, you can even score many of these classic drinks for just $7. Never had a Mai Tai you didn't hate? Let Crudo give it a try. We bet you'll finally understand why some cocktails stand the test of time.
Readers Choice: Durant's
As they say, everything old is new again. So whether you're talking about modern takes on classic cocktails or drinks that incorporate the latest boozy trends, Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour in downtown Phoenix delivers. Brought to the historic Luhrs Building by expert barman Ross Simon, this upscale spot brings big-city mixology to the Valley with a 24-page Book o' Cocktails and geeky gadgetry, including a nano filtration system that produces bottle-quality water and CO2 wands that let bartenders carbonate any drink they want. This year, Simon led the charge on bringing frozen and blended drinks to the Valley, a trend that's already taken off in other big cities. And the second iteration of the bar's cocktail menu, which debuted this spring, includes fresh creations such as the L.I.T. Up, a take on Long Island iced tea made with "a medley of premium spirits" in addition to Averna, port, and lemon bitters. For simpler tastes, there's also the Czech Please, which features trendy Bacherovka liqueur with muddled lime and simple syrup.
Readers Choice: Bitter & Twisted
More than 230 whiskeys. That's pretty much the heads and the tails of why the Gladly is one of the best spots for whiskey drinkers in the Valley. The restaurant's list covers everything from Scotch and Irish whiskeys to All-American bourbon and other homegrown offerings — it even has a handful of Japanese selections for those who want to explore the newest kids on the international whiskey block. Of course, the whiskey cocktails also are above par — in particular, the Gladly Manhattan, one of our favorites in town. Featuring Russell's Reserve Bourbon, it gains depth from tobacco bitters and Guinness maple syrup. Smoky and sweet and garnished with a toasted orange peel, it's a perfect update to the whiskey drinker's standby drink.
As the barrel-aging of cocktails continues to become more popular, Citizen Public House maintains the tradition that it was one of the first in the Valley to adopt — and what did it do recently? Started from nearly scratch with a few new offerings, namely the Fernet-Chu Picchu, a blend of Lillet Rouge, Pêche De Vigne, and Pisco Portón — a spirit that in Peru is forbidden by law to be aged but is liberated and confined to oak barrels by the Citizen team. The result is a dark, slightly fruity and intense drink seasoned to caramel vanilla perfection.
"Snooze" might be in the name, but this Denver-based brunch spot is anything but boring. From the retro-futuristic design to the seasonal pancakes and eggs Benedicts, Snooze makes the most important meal of the day one of the easiest to enjoy. The fact that it offers a nearly full bar and menu of morning cocktails also helps, and when it comes to Bloody Marys, the restaurant pulls out all the stops. There's a classic Bloody Mary — called the Straight Up or Spicy — but also a list of more creative takes on your hangover's best friend. We like the Gazpacho, made with cucumber and pepper and garlic-infused vodka, and the Boss Hog, a seriously upgraded Bloody that features bacon-infused bourbon with Snooze's house Bloody mix.