A Guide to Summer Drinking in Metro Phoenix
One thing any visitor or new resident to Phoenix should know: People still love to bitch about the summers here. So not only are you coping with the heat (underwear sticking to you, wrestling with those windshield sun shades, the electric bill in general), you’re coping with people complaining endlessly about the heat.
If you’re a native, you know it can start as early as March. It’s a pain. But what’s the one thing that helps most everyone deal with just about anything?
Each year, you eventually will realize that you have to lean into the heat. Phoenix can become a tropical paradise, a sunny destination, a place to don big sun hats and shorts and tank tops. And what’s that in your hand? A cold, dripping-wet, regional cocktail of some kind.
Bar lead Kurtis Williams smacks a Thai basil leaf, releasing its aroma, to garnish the popular Thai Margarita at The Gladly.
Let’s start with margaritas.
Margaritas are best enjoyed through a straw while peering over a pair of oversize sunglasses, and the drink menus of Phoenix offer some impressive concoctions. Try the Lowrider Margarita, the Flor de Jamaica Margarita, or the Margarita de la Casa at the pretty famous Barrio Café (2814 N. 16th St., 602-636-0240) — a colorful eatery covered in Calle 16-themed street art and overseen by our beloved Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza. There’s also the house-made and fairly inexpensive rocks margaritas at Mi Patio (3347 N. Seventh Ave., 602-277-4831), plus the Thai Margarita at The Gladly (2201 E. Camelback Road, 602-759-8132), and margarita options like White Peach & Hibiscus, Mango Jalapeno, and Tropical Pineapple at Sam Fox’s Blanco Tacos + Tequila.
Other fairly excellent margaritas are found at Crudo (3603 E. Indian School Road, 602-358-8666), Modern Margarita, Someburros, The Duce (525 S. Central Ave., 602-866-3823), Rokerij (6335 N. 16th St., 602-287-8900), and Roaring Fork (4800 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-947-0795). Basically, just throw a rock, and you’ll hit a place with good margaritas.
The Painkiller at Hula's Modern Tiki.
Moving on to tropical drinks ...
Keeping with that mindset of the Valley as vacationland, you don’t have to sport a flower behind your ear or a Tommy Bahama shirt (in fact, please don’t), to enjoy a tropical drink. Phoenix has a decent smattering of tropical drink menus and tiki bars — some old, some pretty new — to help fuel your fantasy.
The piña colada at Bitter & Twisted is made with house-charred pineapple rum.
A go-to when it comes to drinking tropical is the piña colada, and Phoenix has a few on deck. There’s the Ango Colada at Okra Cookhouse & Cocktails (5813 N. Seventh St., 602-296-4147), Carly’s Colada at Carly’s Bistro (128 E. Roosevelt St., 602-262-2759), Clever Koi’s piña colada, the piña colada at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour (1 W. Jefferson St., 602-340-1924), and some iterations like the Painkiller #3 at Beckett’s Table (3717 E. Indian School Road, 602-954-1700). And believe it or not, they make a really good piña colada at Texaz Grill (6003 N. 16th St., 602-248-7827), too.
Jason Asher pours a tiki-themed cocktail at UnderTow.
For a menu full of fruity bevvies, check out The Ostrich (10 N. San Marcos Pl., Chandler, 480-917-4903), an underground bar with Tiki Tuesdays; The Breadfruit & Rum Bar (108 E. Pierce St., 602-267-1266), with drinks like Hemingway’s Daiquiri and Late Night in Rio; Hula’s Modern Tiki, with signature cocktails like the Tropical Itch and the very shareable Volcano Bowl; and UnderTow (3620 E. Indian School Road, Suite B, 602-753-6504), another underground tiki bar with original cocktails like the Heart of a Sailor, the Smoking Cannon, and Ain’t No Bali Hai Enough. And strictly for atmosphere, be sure to visit Bikini Lounge (502 Grand Avenue, 602-252-0472).
Cool off with a poolside tipple at The Saguaro.
Another obvious activity for a summer in Phoenix: drinking in the pool.
Pool bars are often found at hotels, and oftentimes, like casinos, as long as you’re drinking, you can usually stay and play for free. If not, plenty of Phoenix swimming holes offer poolside service along with cabana rentals or room bookings. Well-known pool bars include the Lustre Rooftop Bar at the Kimpton Palomar Hotel in CityScape (2 E. Jefferson St., 602-253-6633), Tapacubo at The Graduate Tempe (225 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, 480-387-5915), and Wade Poolside Bar at The Camby (2401 E. Camelback Road, 602-468-0700) in the Biltmore area.
Other pools with alcohol in reach are found at The Saguaro Scottsdale (4000 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-308-1100), The Clarendon Hotel & Spa (401 W. Clarendon Ave., 602-252-7363), OH Pool Bar + Cabanas at Hotel Valley Ho (6850 E. Main St., Scottsdale, 480-376-2600), where they call their drinks “potions,” and the Hole-in-the-Wall River Ranch at Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort (7677 N. 16th St., 602-997-2626). Yes, you can take your drink in the lazy river.
Pool parties are also heavy on the cocktail orders around here. Drinkers should join the party at the WET Pool Deck at W Scottsdale (7277 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale, 480-970-2100) and Maya Day & Nightclub (7333 E. Indian Plaza, Scottsdale, 480-625-0528), and be sure to experience the Release Pool Party at Talking Stick Resort (9800 Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale, 480-850-7777).
Another telltale sign of summer that we particularly enjoy is the siren song of neighborhood bars offering all the "cold beer and A/C” you could want. Sandwich boards on the street, APBs on social media sites, and the ever-present lure of summer drink specials are constant.
Bars like this include, but are not limited to, Time Out Lounge (3129 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, 480-968-6491), Pomeroy’s (5551 N. Seventh St., 602-264-5411), Roman’s County Line (10540 W. Indian School Road, #8, 623-877-8191), Jay’s Cocktail Lounge (3208 W. Indian School Road, 602-242-1150), The Quail Lounge (4134 N. Seventh Ave., 602-265-1148), and Swizzle Inn (5835 N. 16th St., Suite A, 602-277-7775). The “cold beer” part often means Coors Light on draft, or a Michelob Ultra in a frosty pint glass, but we’re not complaining.
Shady's Fine Ales and Cocktails
Of course, not only neighborhood bars with a little character (a nice way of saying “dive”) offer all the cold beer and air conditioning. Beer connoisseurs may require a more elevated menu, and Phoenix has you covered there, too.
For the beyond-domestic beer drinkers, a tall cool glass of grapefruit Shandy, a colorful gose, a crisp kolsch, or really any wheat beer, sounds pretty good. But where to escape the heat with a craft beer?
Grab a Stiegl Radler from Shady’s Fine Ales and Cocktails (2701 E. Indian School Road, 602-956-8998), a delightful Crush Cucumber Sour from Taste of Tops (403 W. University Dr., Tempe, 480-967-2520), and a Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy pretty much anywhere. For a taste of local brews, try the Sunday Funday Pale Session Wheat or Raspberry Wheat from Huss Brewing Company, the Lady Banks Gose from Wren House Brewing Company, the Popcycle Blonde at O.H.S.O. Eatery & nano-Brewery, and the Grapefruit Shandy or Mr. Pineapple from SanTan Brewing Company. More? Try the Watermelon Ale from The Phoenix Ale Brewery, the Peach Ale from Four Peaks Brewing Company, the Bearded Blonde from SunUp Brewing Co., and Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.’s Hibiscus Tea Gose or Woolsey Wit. (Check out our guide to buying these and other craft beers by the bottle or growler here.)
Sorso Wine Room
Summer is also white season, and we’re not just talking about donning white linen pants before Labor Day. Fans of white wines — your sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, chardonnay, etc. — can post up at a number of wine-centric restaurants and watering holes in town. Think Postino, with six Valley locations at this point, Sun Devil Liquors & Cellar Pub (235 N. Country Club Dr., Mesa, 480-834-5050), an underground wine bar, Terroir Wine Pub (7001 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-922-3470), The Whining Pig, Sorso Wine Room (15323 N. Scottsdale Road, #150, Scottsdale, 480-951-4344), and Timo Wine Bar (8801 N. Central Ave., #104, 602-354-3846).
One last trick, and we’ll let you start drinking.
Did someone say "day drinking"?
Sometimes the only “nice” part of the day during Phoenix’s summertime lag is the very early morning. Maybe alcohol consumption is the furthest thing from your mind (unless you’re still partying), but we may be about to change that.
Many bars across the Valley open at 6 a.m., including Yucca Tap Room (29 W. Southern Ave., Tempe, 480-967-4777), Rogue Bar (423 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-947-3580), Rips Bar (3045 N. 16th St., 602-266-0015), Overtime Lounge (5304 N. 59th Ave., Glendale, 623-939-2576), Hambone Sports Bar (903 E. Main St., Mesa, 480-833-9839), Coach House (7011 E. Indian School Road, Scottsdale, 480- 990-3433), and Roadrunner Lounge (3219 N. Hayden Road, Scottsdale, 480-941-8340). You can grab a stool free of judgment, order a Bloody Mary or cold beer, and probably make a few friends (the morning crowds are always chatty).
We’ll see you in the morning.
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