Sail Inn

We've always wondered: Where do bars and clubs go when they die (i.e., close)? Whisked away to the nightspot great beyond after falling to a wrecking ball, perhaps, never to return (like Tempe's Long Wong's)? Or maybe reincarnation into a completely new identity is in order, like when the old Mason Jar became gay dive Velocity 2303. In the case of The Sail Inn in Tempe, the legendary hippie hangout was revived, Lazarus-style, in its original location by owner Gina Lombardi. The original version of the Sail closed after it was bought out by real estate developers in late 2005, ultimately becoming the ill-conceived danceteria Trax, which fizzled out after 18 months. Fortunately, Lombardi swept in and resurrected her old stomping grounds earlier this year, upgrading the décor in the process. And though its look may have changed, Lombardi's continuing the old habit of booking a wide variety of musicians — ranging from the jam-rockers of Xtra Ticket and The Noodles to burgeoning indie acts like Black Carl — nearly every night since re-opening. It couldn't have happened at a better time, too, as The Sail Inn is just about the only dedicated music venue in downtown Tempe, an area once renowned for its live bands. Thanks, Gina.

Since debuting in January, Cream Stereo Lounge has endured a significant amount of both love and hate, much like any new nightspot. Its supporters easily gush about its mix of European and Las Vegas-style touches, including swimsuit-clad models engaging in burlesque-like bathtub shows. The haters, on the other side of the coin, have groused about alleged rude service, the club's minuscule size, and overpriced covers. But over the past few months, the grumblings have quieted down and the place is more popular than ever. One factor in its success has been the selection of superstar DJs that have been booked to spin here. The list is quite impressive, including Lee Burridge, Paul Oakenfold, George Acosta, and Paul van Dyk, just to name a few. Like the saying goes, the Cream rises to the top.

Maizie's Cafe and Bistro

This is not your cigar-smoker's martini. And don't put an olive near it. The Cashmere Martini — one of the signature cocktails at one of our favorite new CenPho eateries — is luxury in a glass: vanilla vodka, pineapple juice, and a splash of Chambord. The soft pink hue and exotic aroma move this cocktail to the top of our list of smooth, rich, and — okay, we'll say it — feminine elixirs. Move over last year's Cosmopolitan, there's a new "C" in the city.

Hanny's
Lauren Cusimano

For a long time, we were great admirers of the "super-size me" martini trend. So what if a Hendrick's martini at Durant's set us back $20? There were at least four shots of gin in that baby — and we had the buzz to match our bar bill. But this is 2009. We're broke, we're terrified of DUIs, and (frankly) there's a part of us that's just sick and tired of being sick and tired all the time. We were experiencing the good life, but today we're living through the hangover. Enter the "Essential Arctic Martini." At just $5, it's a bargain. And you can gripe about Hanny's tiny little "up" glasses, but this was what a martini looked like in 1950: a shot-and-a-half of gin, a dash of vermouth, and a lot of ice, shaken hard. If it was good enough for Hepburn and Tracy — and James Bond — who are we to complain?

A shakeup within Peter Kasperski's Old Town empire earlier this year ended with two unfortunate developments: the closing of his award-winning Sea Saw, and the downsizing of his new-yet-admired Digestif. Now, Digestif inhabits a much smaller space across the street (in fact, it's the same sleek room that used to house Sea Saw) and has a much trimmer menu. But what hasn't changed is the restaurant's commitment to interesting, complex libations. When we visited this summer, we were thrilled to see that the Pretti Ugly was still on the menu. A light fizz of chartreuse, Uglifruit liqueur, lemon and seltzer, it's a great hot weather treat. And then there's our new favorite, the Plum Dandy, which combines plum and agave nectars, tequila, and creme de mescal — yum! We're continuing to explore the rest of Digestif's cocktail list as summer becomes fall; we're pleased to report we have yet to be disappointed.

Four Peaks Brewing Company
New Times Archives

Ah, beer: the most humble and refreshing form of recuperation after the daily beatdown that is your job. Just gather your friends and head to a bar for a happy hour (or two). What? Your friends don't like beer? Teach them the error of their ways, starting with the Peach Ale at Four Peaks. Forget hoppy goodness and the power of top-fermenting (that's for real drinkers). Instead, surprise them with the light peach notes of this sumptuous brew. Who knows? Maybe next time they'll want to try an I.P.A. or stout.

Pinnacle Peak Patio
Courtesy of Pinnacle Peak

We don't remember drinking the Inebriator. Then again, how could we remember drinking anything containing 9 percent alcohol by volume? What we heard from our friends after re-hydrating, cleaning ourselves up, and figuring out which surface was the floor (without hitting it with our heads this time) was that the Inebriator from Sonoran Brewing Company is dark and delicious, like a caramel-wrapped chocolate revolution for your taste buds.

The Lost Leaf
The Lost Leaf

We didn't know what the hell Delirium Tremens was. Framboise Lambic? Sorry, we don't speak French. Or German. Especially not at the same time. Luckily, we stumbled into the Lost Leaf, where we took to the finer points of beer education. The coursework? One bottled beer at a time from the hundreds available: Dead Guy Ale, Ska Brewing, Nimbus Ale . . . Lost Leaf has them all. Want to make your beer blitz a social occasion? Hang out with friends any day of the week or during First Friday, when things go nuts with local music and an intimate dance space.

Mesa Amphitheatre

In Germany, it's October. In Arizona, it's March. Yes, we're referring to that magical time when every weekend seems to bring a new opportunity to engage in the drunken debauchery of a massive outdoor beer festival. Kicking things off on the last Saturday in February, the Arizona Strong Beer Festival in Mesa gets many of the same brewers as the other festivals, but its prime location (the intimate and lush Mesa Amphitheatre) and its great time slot (before there's any hint of heat to dampen the fun) make it special. Oh, yes, the beer . . . The Strong Beer fest gives brewers a chance to break out the high-octane stuff, meaning the lowest alcohol content you'll find is 8 percent. Yes, every beer you drink has about twice as much buzz as Bud Light. To mark the occasion, local brewers such as Four Peaks bring stuff you've probably never tried, and such regional brew powers as Dogfish Head are known to bust out a few barrels of limited-edition suds you'd pay a mint to sample otherwise.

Brigett's Last Laugh

Like karaoke and pool, Pabst Blue Ribbon is an American bar tradition, and Brigett's Last Laugh has all three. Sure, there are other places in town that serve PBR, but few serve it as cold or as cheap ($1.50 per can) as Brigett's. And because PBR has been associated with things like trailer parks, cheap drunks, and punk rock, many places that carry PBR don't advertise it. Not Brigett's. There's a big, shiny Pabst Blue Ribbon mirror hanging prominently in the bar, and the waitress will happily include it in her rundown of drink specials. So what if your friends roll their eyes when you order PBR and try to tell you to at least buy a Budweiser? At Brigett's, PBR's still king.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of