The 11 Best Things I Drank in 2012

Delicious un-named cocktail from Travis Nass at The Last Drop
Delicious un-named cocktail from Travis Nass at The Last Drop
Courtesy of Travis Nass

Say what you will about weird weather, the economy, the election, the budget battle, gun control or whatever else has put your brow in a knot and your britches in a bunch this past 12 months, but 2012 has been a fantastic year for cocktail drinkers. Here in Phoenix, we've got serious behind-the-bar talent as well as a growing number of indie restaurants committed to taking cocktails and the culture surrounding them to higher ground.

See also: 10 (Okay, 11) Best First Tastes of 2012 in Greater Phoenix

I've had my mind blown and whistle wetted in the most delightful ways. Here are 11 luscious libations I hope to drink again -- in no particular order:

The Kiwi Reserve at Rum Bar

Last March, when the city's citrus trees were in bloom, Rum Bar owners Dwayne Allen and Danielle Leoni made a tincture out of pilfered lemon blossoms (shaken from a neighbor's tree), creating a fragrant bit of magic they later added to a mixture of Mt. Gay Special Reserve Rum, muddled organic kiwi fruit, hand-squeezed lemon and pineapple juices and house-made lavender bitters. The result was a light, lovely cocktail, served in a coupe, whose pale green color and fresh flavor profiles perfectly reflected the season ($9). Here's hoping these thirst-quenching thieves never mend their ways.

Un-named Cocktail at The Last Drop Bar in Lon's at the Hermosa

Super-talent Travis Nass, who barkeeps at The Last Drop, made me this gorgeous and as yet un-named cocktail late last summer as I dithered about what I wanted to drink. It's his elegant riff on the Clover Club, a pre-Prohibition cocktail named for a famous Philadelphia men's club, frequented by the movers and shakers of the early 1900's. Nass's version contained Nolet's gin, fresh raspberries, lemon juice and egg white. What made it his -- and not simply a remarkably good re-make of a classic -- was the addition of fig syrup, which added sweetness and complexity to a frothy pink confection that seemed just right for me but surprisingly girlie for the early titans of industry. Garnished with a single rose petal, it's a beautiful drink -- a little tart, a little sweet, a little creamy. If we're lucky, it will go on The Last Drop's menu in the weeks to come at $12-$15.

Ants on a Log from Travis Nass

That same day, Nass was fiddling around with a cocktail for BLT's upcoming Bourbon Battle, and his entry was to be Ants on a Log. Admittedly, it's a drink that might be too out there for many people, but I loved its playfulness. Nass cleverly captured the celery, peanut butter and raisin flavors of that beloved childhood snack, and he did it with W.L. Weller bourbon, Pedro Jimenez sherry (which lends the raisin component), celery juice, lemon juice and peanut butter foam. Doubt if it will ever make the menu but it sure was fun.

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