MercBar
MercBar

When it came time to round up our 10 best girlfriends for the long-awaited Sex and the City movie, we knew there was only one place to go afterward, for a round of cosmopolitans: Merc Bar. We love this Biltmore hotspot because it's not only dark and sexy but comfy — the perfect place to talk, sip, and ogle eye candy. We particularly love the cosmopolitans: classic pink tartness in an elegant glass. To quote Samantha Jones, "What could be more fabulous?"

Durant's

Flashy, trendoid nightclubs have tried their best to Disney up the martini, essentially dumping the dessert of the day into a cocktail glass, splashing around some alcohol, and slapping the suffix "-tini" on it. The result is a concoction that looks like something a Kool-Aid-swilling, Skittle-chomping Muppet might have vomited.

The beauty of the martini is its crisp simplicity. Durant's, the unparalleled old school steakhouse and lounge, has understood this since its inception in 1950. Martinis here are as smooth as the red leather interior is swingingly swank. For the best that the classic martini can be, Durant's always feels like home.

Padre's Modern Mexican

We'd always been big fans of the margaritas at Padre's, but, as every drinker knows, man cannot live on margaritas alone. So we scanned the menu one night and found Padre's signature daiquiri — and we're pleased to say we've never looked back. Named for Ernest Hemingway, who was a daiquiri lush, Padre's version isn't the stiff slush that you might remember your great-aunt drinking in Acapulco. A simple mix of rum, fresh lime juice, and a touch of sugar, it's light, tart, and divine. Somewhere in Heaven, Papa is smiling.

Barrio Cafe

Finding the best liquor selection is just a matter of geography. If you want a killer poured pint, visit an Irish bar. For wine, try a European bistro. So, it's no surprise that we discovered the best tequila selection at a top-rated Mexican restaurant. Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's neighborhood cafe boasts more than 250 top-shelf, premium, and Super-Jalisco tequilas, from the classic and relatively inexpensive Jose Cuervo to rarer, extra-añejo (well-aged) varieties. Because the choices are so vast, the Barrio's bartenders will recommend a great pairing, much as a sommelier would help you select the perfect wine. And they won't even fault uninitiated gringos for looking for the worm — which is only found in mescal, a different type of liquor made from the agave plant.

Fuego Bistro

The perfect mojito is light and refreshing, with a sweet overtone that masks the kick of the rum. That's why we love the Prickly Pear version at Fuego Bistro, in central Phoenix. The flavor is subtler than the mojito's standard lemony notes, and tastes a little like watermelon without the sickening sweetness that comes with most fruity drinks. Mojito purists might argue that the lack of mint and citrus disqualifies this one, but we say get with the times! Any place that carries 61 rums and 12 flavorings sure as hell knows what a mojito is. Do the math. That's over 700 possible combinations, and Fuego's mixologists know how to make 'em all.

Ticoz Resto-Bar

This colorful hotspot — popular both with stylin' gay guys and ladies who lush — does a great job with every drink on the menu. Lychee mojito? Guavatini? Trust us: You can't go wrong. But our quaff of choice has become Ticoz's passion fruit sangria. Think Cabernet, passion fruit, pineapple, and orange, all in a lightly iced blend. Yum! And for just $7, we guarantee you're going to want more than one glass.

Cien Agaves Tacos & Tequila
Jamie Peachey

They've got nine very interesting margaritas on the menu at Cien Agaves — and though we are normally a sucker for things flavored with pomegranate or tinged with tamarind, we never exactly got around to trying any of the specialty versions here. Why? The house margarita — just $4 during happy hour and $7 the rest of the time — was so damn good that we pledged our eternal loyalty on the spot. The Jose Cuervo-based drink tastes just as good as the top-shelf margs we've had down the street. And unlike some lesser Mexican spots, Cien Agaves would never dream of using bottled sour mix instead of fresh squeezed lime. Perfecto.

Pinnacle Peak Patio
Courtesy of Pinnacle Peak

Sonoran's commercial description calls Cordillera Blanca White Chocolate Ale "light, refreshing, and completely unique," and, for once, it's not just a bullshit company line. Chocolate stouts are pretty commonplace now, but this is the first time we've had a light, honey-colored chocolate beer at a local pub. We adore Cordillera Blanca because it's potent, but pale and sweet enough to drink any time of day. The ale has a thin white head that never seems to disappear and just the right balance of hoppiness, with a slight bittersweet aftertaste. If you've got a good nose for beer, Cordillera Blanca smells a bit like beer-infused brownies (what an awesome idea!) with hazelnut and vanilla notes. It's a deceptively light little brew, so be careful. At 4.7 percent alcohol, and with a body that's nearly as weightless as iced tea, it'd be pretty easy to get yourself in trouble with Sheriff Joe over this one.

So you won't drink anything not served in a crystal goblet. You sneer at the thought of second-growth Bordeaux. Well, wine snobs beware, there's a new kid in town — and he's knocking down your asinine assumptions about beer faster than you can say Gewurztraminer. Four Peaks' Hopsquatch Barleywine comes from a centuries-old English recipe that uses extra malt to produce a super-strength beer as potent as wine. After being aged for a year in stainless steel containers, the resulting brew has a sweet, rich flavor reminiscent of port or sherry. Yes, we know. A beer named after a mythical monster doesn't have the pedigree of a 40-year-old Cabernet. But if you can pull the grapevine out of your rear for one second and give Hopsquatch a chance, this three-time World Beer Cup award winner is a damn fine brew.

Yucca Tap Room
Lauren Cusimano

Mary Cope has tended bar at Yucca Tap Room for 22 years. A lot of her stories are too graphic (even for us) to print, but she does have one that qualifies as a classic.

A man walks into the bar and orders a drink from Ms. Cope. She can tell right away that he's three sheets to the wind. She asks him to leave; when he refuses, she escorts him out the back entrance.

A few minutes later, the man walks in the front entrance, makes eye contact with Cope, shakes his head and walks out. A few more moments pass and he walks through the other front entrance. This time he makes eye contact with Cope and says, "Do you work at every goddamn bar in Tempe?"

Don't get it? Swing by Yucca Tap Room and count the entrances . . . and get out more.

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