BEST DESIGNER DRINK 2007 | Blanche Davidian's "Orange Sunshine" shot | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
Veteran Valley bartender and mini-music-mogul Vil Vodka is known for his potent custom shots, usually created for the purpose of promoting or paying homage to local bands. Vodka's "Robitussin" shot, introduced in 2004, smells and tastes like its cough syrup namesake, but taking one shot is probably the equivalent of downing two bottles of the real stuff. Vodka's latest concoction, the "Orange Sunshine" shot — which he calls "a ghetto variant of the vodka bomber commonly known as Tic-Tac or Sunkist" — is named after the new album by local psych-punks Blanche Davidian, and it's stronger than shit, too. The recipe for destruction is as follows: Place one shot of cheap orange vodka (the creator says, "save your Stoli and Grey Goose for your martinis") inside three ounces of the juicy Kronik Entourage energy drink, and chug. Sounds slight enough if you make it at home, but if you order one at Hollywood Alley, be prepared for a head spin.
Molly Smith
Located in the heart of the Grand Avenue arts district, Paisley continues to bless red-eyed customers with caffeinated godsends. The cute cafe with a European flair features a stacked coffee bar chock full of espresso drinks, mochas, and the completely delicious maple latte, a concoction with two shots of Italian espresso, a healthy pour of 100 percent maple syrup, and steamed milk. Enjoy the best meal of the day (coffee) during select eves showcasing ambient jazz by acts like Try Me Bicycle and acoustic singer/songwriter specialities by out-of-towners such as Tiff Jimber.
You live in downtown Phoenix, your friend hangs in Scottsdale, and you need a meeting point before you hit a house party in Tempe. It's 9 p.m., and you and your crew want to start boozing ASAP, but God forbid you're the first ones at the party. Meet up at a bar, but beware and choose wisely, because the wrong decision could easily bust up the night's agenda. If you go to a club that's really bumpin', you're not going to want to leave. Hit a dive bar, and you'll be overdressed and uncomfortable — no way to gear up for a night of debauchery. Zen 32 has saved our social asses on a number of occasions. With its teeny but super-swanky bar, this sushi and drinking bar is the perfect rendezvous. Reasonable drink prices and a decent, well-dressed crowd offer just enough to hold you over for that crucial hour and a half before you have to move on. See you there.
Jackie Mercandetti
The folks at Tradiciones could coast on their great location: a nice, new restaurant smack northeast of downtown, just far enough away not to be mired in Metro construction, convenient and close enough to lure customers from several busy areas. But they've stepped up and made a little Eden of drinking and munching, whether you choose the charming patio (separated from abundant parking by a flowery courtyard, splashy fountain, and several stalls of colorful merchandise) or the cavernous-yet-welcoming interior, with elevated booths, large and small tables, and a full bar. No matter where you sit, you're likely to be serenaded by live musicians. You'll want to take advantage of Tradiciones' specialties, like a premium margarita, a gem-toned sangria, or a pitcher of something to share with your amigos. On the appetizer tip, one solid sopecito topped with beans, cheese, and/or meat is one dolla. Have a cilantro marg for us.
Okay, so it's the worst-kept secret in the history of Phoenix. And, yeah, the parking is a pain in the neck by Valley car-centric standards. (Any time we have to park more than a few spaces away or — gasp! — pay a valet, we tend to feel put upon.) But when it comes to classy places to hang with a bottle of red and watch the night fall, there is no place we'd rather be than this Arcadia hot spot. The lighting is intimate, the crowd smart, and we'd just about kill for the bruschetta. Heck, we'll even pay that damn valet!
Greg Brickey and Jeff Davis take their wine seriously. They stock thousands of bottles of domestic and imported wines in their lovely, low-key spot, tucked away in a strip mall just off Scottsdale Road. Come by for a tasting on a Friday night, and they'll take you to New Zealand, Australia, or South Africa, via some carefully chosen bottles. Or stop by for a half bottle (never a cork fee!) and a cheese board or hummus and pita chips, off the "bites" menu.

You can get as serious as these self-described Wine Guys, and they'll help you plan your own wine cellar. Or take a class in wine/food pairing, offered at the wine bar by an instructor at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. They'll even arrange a private tasting for you and a group of friends, and tailor the selection to fit your desires. Brickey and Davis better watch out: At this rate, you'll get so into wine you'll want to toss your day job — like these two did — and open up your own wine bar. We're betting they're up to the competition.

Not only does Crazy Ed's lure in tourists by the busload with its kitschy, Disney-like Western Town attraction on its property, the Cave Creek brew pub also attracts a fair amount of locals who come for its tasty selection of seven or eight signature beers (depending on the season) that come straight from its on-premises microbrewery — available either in bottles or on tap. Patrons relax in the county bunker's saloon or beer garden, sucking down the popular Chili Beer (which packs a major kick), as well as equally favored Ocotillo Ale, Lemon Lager, and Black Mountain Gold stout. There's also the crisp Frog Light ale, Pinnacle Peak Porter, and an unnamed wheat beer that tastes great with some of the down-home comfort food straight from the kitchen, including delicious Arizona fried chicken, barbecued ribs, or sirloin steaks. They've even got a brand-new ice cream emporium, which, sadly, only serves root beer in their floats instead of the alcoholic kind.
Don't look now, but it seems as though downtown Phoenix's nightlife scene has finally developed a pulse. Instead of avoiding the formerly lifeless city core (which, in years past, had the reputation of rolling up the sidewalks at 5 p.m.), hordes of hipsters of every stripe are heading downtown to drink and dance. Ground zero for this nightlife explosion has been a particular block of Copper Square where nearly a half-dozen nightclubs and restaurants offer a wide variety of music, bands, and DJs every night of the week. Bringing new definition to the word blockbuster, this off-the-chain area (located between Washington and Adams streets and First and Second streets) contains the queer-friendly cool of Burn, with chic gay and lesbian clubgoers dancing to house one night and indie kids rocking to the turntablism of Mykil and Kevin the Makeout Bandit the next. There's also the trendy two-level joint Bar Smith, with DJ Senbad and Benjamin Cutswell pumping their record decks every Saturday, and the upscale Latin danceteria Sky Lounge packing 'em in next door. Around the corner is jock haven Majerle's, whose 9 Lounge hosts the hip-hop night Grown & Gorgeous Thursdays with Dangerous MC, and on the other side of the block, the Matador Restaurant serves up Caliente Chica Fridays, with DJs AL3 and the Manic Hispanic spinning reggaeton, old school, and cumbias. Looks like Scottsdale isn't the only place to see and be seen anymore.
Jennifer Goldberg
Casey's is an institution in downtown Tempe, in that you can count on it to be full of crazies any evening after 9 p.m.

But during the day, this old, allegedly haunted house is literally a living room for an assortment of characters (some who actually work there and, perhaps, some who work — or have worked — for this fine paper) who make the yahoos on Cheers seem like a bunch of strangers.

If retirees Sherman and Stormy don't show up, the bartenders are prone to calling to make sure they're still capable of walking. The joke goes, "Of course, Casey Moore's is haunted — Sherman and Stormy have been dead for 10 years."

But those two are the least of it. The place is home to a plethora of neighborhooders like Cigar Bob, Don across the street, local artist Rodgell, musician-about-town P.C., and more, who know one another and make like a virtual family despite an age range that spans at least 50 years. Come summer, when the students are mostly away, these are the folks who give the bar its character, and many of them spend more time at the bar than they do at home.

We haven't been to every dive in Phoenix, but we're getting close. The Fox Hole sure seems like the real deal to us — sometimes you walk into a place and it just feels right. The Hole is a typical dive in a bad part of town, complete with an abandoned, dumpy-looking empty lot behind it. Walking around to the front (don't ask what we were doing in the empty lot) there are large letters on the wall that say, simply, COCKTAILS. And above the door it reads, "Welcome to the Fox Hole."

We open the door to crinkled, old, sodden carpet, and through the doorway we spot two mangy pool tables to the left, and to the right a shuffleboard table and a brass-plated bar — the whole thing is this old, pounded brass plate, like gold-colored tin all over the bar. Awesome.

Dee the bartender is seasoned and just hired from the defunct Thunderbird Lounge up the road; she's from Ohio and brings some personality and warmth to the place.

We settle in and order a beer, which shows up quickly in a subzero frosty mug. We notice the centerpiece of the bar, a nice fish tank with a half a dozen or so of the little guys looking out at us. We ask Dee if she names them and she says, "Nah, but the big one on the bottom is the prettiest." The big guy next to us chimes in loudly, "Yeah, the shit-sucker!" Dee laughs and the big guy says, "Why is it that the prettiest one in there is the one that just sits around and eats shit all day... I don't get it."

Well, as we look around at these folks and the drunken grins and swaggers in this place, we get it loud and clear: This is the prettiest place we've found ourselves, in a long time.

But, perhaps, not for long. You'd better get over to The Fox Hole soon — word is the place has new owners, and they already made the men's room "nice," and we guess they're looking to add new carpet soon... Giddy up before they ruin the charm up in the joint.

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