10 Best Cocktail Bars in Metro Phoenix

Joshua James, co-owner of Central Phoenix's The Clever Koi, is a leader and tastemaker in the Valley's beverage scene.EXPAND
Joshua James, co-owner of Central Phoenix's The Clever Koi, is a leader and tastemaker in the Valley's beverage scene.
Shelby Moore

The last few years have been big for the Valley's cocktail scene. Newcomers including Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour and Counter Intuitive are proof, but they're not the only indication of how much things have changed.

In a town where the restaurant bar often reigns supreme, there's even more good news. Phoenix's bars are now, more than ever, embracing cross-pollination of talent, staff, and ideas, and are doing their best to bring up the next generation of bartenders. Here are our 10 favorites.

Left: You must be, at least professionally, a bit of a perfectionist to work at Rum Bar — and bartender Sam Penton fits the mold. Right: The Velvet & Vinyl cocktail gets its color from the bar's house-made hibiscus liqueur and is finished with rose mist.EXPAND
Left: You must be, at least professionally, a bit of a perfectionist to work at Rum Bar — and bartender Sam Penton fits the mold. Right: The Velvet & Vinyl cocktail gets its color from the bar's house-made hibiscus liqueur and is finished with rose mist.
Shelby Moore

Rum Bar

Tiki drinks begin with rum, and there’s no better place to sip on rum in all of its varieties than at Downtown Phoenix’s aptly-named Rum Bar. Go and sit at the dark bar, and you’ll realize this spot's been serving excellent, unfrozen daiquiris and mojitos since before tiki cocktails popped up all over town. The bar also serves rum flights, a rum old fashioned, and Jamaican cigars — plus it stocks ingredients inspired by owner Dwayne Allen’s native Jamaica including mauby bark tinctures, horehound bitters, and Irish moss, all of which come from the island. 

Left: Counter Intuitive bartender Mari Howe shakes up a cocktail. Right: The Golden Prince mixes passion fruit juice, Tapatio hot sauce, lemon, tiki bitters, nutmeg, tequila, apricot liqueur, amaro, and orgeat.EXPAND
Left: Counter Intuitive bartender Mari Howe shakes up a cocktail. Right: The Golden Prince mixes passion fruit juice, Tapatio hot sauce, lemon, tiki bitters, nutmeg, tequila, apricot liqueur, amaro, and orgeat.
Shelby Moore

Counter Intuitive

Counter Intuitive may be metro Phoenix's most interesting bar. The cocktail destination just released its fourth menu, called Agua Caliente Racetrack, which promises to dive into agave spirits. Plus, the team behind the concept is a hodgepodge of who’s-who around town, a merger of Phoenix’s veteran bar talent and some promising new names. Together they select some three to four dozen new cocktails to star on each new menu, which rotate (along with the bar's decor and food menu) about every six months. Counter Intuitive offers, without a doubt, some of best cocktail drinking in the Valley — and the bar recently changed its hours to open at 8 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. each Friday and Saturday, so you’ve got four more hours to belly up each weekend.

Left: The Ring My Bell uses savory bell peppers while managing to stay light and refreshing. Right: The cocktail is newest member to Crudo's menu, which switches with the seasons.EXPAND
Left: The Ring My Bell uses savory bell peppers while managing to stay light and refreshing. Right: The cocktail is newest member to Crudo's menu, which switches with the seasons.
Shelby Moore

Bar Crudo

Crudo will turn four this summer, which gives the Arcadia neighborhood restaurant and cocktail bar some seniority compared to other spots on this list. The menu stays hyper-fresh with updates every season, but also retains the signature drinks that fans have come to love over the years. During happy hour, which occurs every day, you can get classics drinks like an air mail, bee’s knees, paloma, caipirinha, or an old fashioned for a measly $7 — and some salty, truffled popcorn or crispy pig ears for $5 to pair. With excellent quality and value, you can see why this spot remains one of the best all-around restaurants and bars in town — and if it means anything, the #tipsforjesus guy thinks so too.

Left: As the vanilla pipe tobacco smokes beneath a glass, Ostrich General Manager Brandon Casey stirs his boozy mix of apple brandy, bourbon, rye whiskey, amaro and mint simple syrup. Right: The glass gets flipped, and the drink gets poured. Casey plays with the aromas of smoke, mint, and citrus.EXPAND
Left: As the vanilla pipe tobacco smokes beneath a glass, Ostrich General Manager Brandon Casey stirs his boozy mix of apple brandy, bourbon, rye whiskey, amaro and mint simple syrup. Right: The glass gets flipped, and the drink gets poured. Casey plays with the aromas of smoke, mint, and citrus.
Ash Ponders

The Ostrich

When Barrelhouse shuttered in early 2015, the East Valley lost its only craft cocktail destination. And that's why it’s such a good thing The Ostrich opened this year under the leadership of charismatic bartender Brandon Casey. Before heading south, Casey spent time honing his skills at Citizen Public House in Old Town Scottsdale. From the get-go, the bar was a hit, aiming to serve Prohibition-style cocktails in the basement of the San Marcos hotel, where city-founder Dr. AJ Chandler is rumored to have once kept an ungodly amount of ostrich feathers. As time goes on, Casey says the bar will continue to branch out slowly from classics into more signature drinks..

Left: The Clever Koi's co-owner, Joshua James, bundles Thai basil, mint, sage, and rosemary for Sour Times garnish. Right: The Sour Times aims to be pretty — to see, smell, and drink.EXPAND
Left: The Clever Koi's co-owner, Joshua James, bundles Thai basil, mint, sage, and rosemary for Sour Times garnish. Right: The Sour Times aims to be pretty — to see, smell, and drink.
Shelby Moore

The Clever Koi

Pairing cocktails with rotisserie chicken is easy. Or, at least, it’s gotta be easier than pairing cocktails with The Clever Koi’s one-of-a-kind take on Asian cuisine. But Joshua James, who's responsible for the spot's reputation as a cocktail destination, has always had a firm grasp on how to fold unexpected Asian flavors into his beverages. Since the restaurant first opened at the tail end of 2013,  the cocktail menu has pivoted ever-so-slightly. The once large menu has been leaned out, helping to make the bar a haven for those seeking good tiki drinks. The spot also has one of the prettiest cocktails in the Valley. And good news: The East Valley won’t be missing out much longer, since The Clever Koi is set to open up its second location in Gilbert later this year.


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