Best Place to Hear Jazz in Scottsdale

Nello's

Jac's Pizzeria & Pub
Evie Carpenter

When we were young, we threw a temper tantrum when Mommy tried to force us to take those dreaded piano lessons. Now, as slightly more mature adults, we wanna cry out of jealously when we watch the amazing piano-based trios who gig every Tuesday night at Nello's in Old Town Scottsdale during their Moonshiner Jazz series. Jazz pianist Dan Delaney programs this weekly event, which has featured Rachel Eckroth, Jacob Koller, Nick Manson, and ASU jazz studies director Michael Kocour wowing the audience on the house piano. Many of the scene's best musicians, such as drummer Rob Moore, pianist Andy Margolis, and saxophonist Paul-Eirik Melhus have attended and have been asked to stop stuffing their faces with pizza to play a couple of tunes with the band. The three sets of music from 7 to 10 p.m. are always free.

This place will ruin your diet. But isn't the point of happy hour to get all nasty on some bar food and cheap beer after a frustrating day at work? We know that after a long day of calling people who don't want to talk to us, that's about all we're good for. And Mickey's is the perfect place to dig in while slumping on an old couch and watching the game. This place has turned bar food into a lowbrow art form. Our personal fave is the mozzarella and pesto cheese stix (yeah, spelled like that), though we don't mind the mountain of cheese fries, either. These and other selected munchies are half-price from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and so are well drinks, beer, and wine. Just make sure to clear out around 9, when the place starts to fill up with $30K millionaires.

Big Fish Pub

If you read our feature story about Agwa de Bolivia Coca Leaf Liqueur ("Liquid Blow," Niki D'Andrea, June 26, 2008), a new liqueur made from Bolivian coca leaves, you may have tried to order it at your favorite local bar, only to find that it either didn't carry Agwa or was completely out of the tasty new booze. Thank goodness for Tempe rock club Big Fish Pub — not only does the bar stock the sweet green elixir, but it makes sure you know it: There's a big sign behind the bar that reads "NOW SERVING AGWA." And the bartenders are staying on top of things, too, concocting a variety of Agwa drink recipes to suit any taste, whether patrons crave something with a spicy bite (like an Agwa Mojito) or the equivalent of a liquid speedball (Agwa/Red Bull).

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.

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