Taste of Tops
Lauren Cusimano
Is anyone really surprised that a beer-and-wine bar attached to one of the biggest indie liquor stores in town is going to have its coolers stocked with anything but the best? If you can't find something you like on one of the 20 tap handles, mosey over to the coolers, where you will find a selection of ciders, IPAs, double bocks, coffee stouts, and even a Flemish sour. One thing you won't find at Taste of Tops is anything made by the "big three." But if you ask real nicely, one of the friendly bartenders might go next door to Tops and grab you one — but not until he's attempted to talk you into something a little more challenging.
Kazimierz Wine & Whiskey Bar
Kazimierz Wine & Whiskey Bar
Kazimierz World Wine Bar is a lot like an old-time speakeasy, except instead of making booze in bathtubs, they serve wine in bottles. (It's more sanitary that way.) What they're doing isn't illegal, but it's kind of fun to pretend it is, and clearly the owners agree. A single, nondescript door in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale leads down candlelit stairs to reveal a full wine bar, packed with comfortable plush furnishings and a wine list that's 2,000 labels strong. The bar serves a wide array of Scottsdale crowds: It's not uncommon to see the occasional wine snob purchase a $2,600 bottle of '75 Chateau d'Yquem semillon blend or an Old Town 30K millionaire choosing to opt for the $12 bottle of '05 Kouros rhoditis. Not the wine type? Trust your palate to one of the bar's real sommeliers. You'll learn to appreciate those woodsy aromas in no time.
Fuego Bistro
Everyone needs his or her daily dose of fruit, and if that fruit just happens to be liquor-soaked, who are we to complain? Fuego Bistro understands this frame of mind and serves up bold, red sangria spiked with all sorts of fruit. It is full-bodied, lightly sweetened, and strong enough that you'll be more than happy with just a glass. We recommend you swing by for happy hour for a real deal, because the only thing better than discounted appetizers like empanadas, street tacos, and chiles rellenos is a discounted glass of made-from-scratch sangria to wash it all down. Is it quitting time yet?
La Grande Orange Grocery
Courtesy of La Grande Orange
La Grande Orange, or LGO for those in the know, is a classy Arcadia pizzeria, bistro, and market that pays homage to the orange orchards of Arizona's history. (After all, citrus is one of the five Cs every native learns growing up in Arizona, along with copper, cattle, cotton, and climate.) It only makes sense that LGO makes use of this lovely citrus to create a crisp, clean, and fruity white sangria. Order it by the pitcher or by the glass, and let the aromatics of this fruit-spiked summery quaff wash over you. You can almost smell the orange blossoms.
The Vig Uptown
You can drink a bloody Mary any time of the day, but the optimum time is mid-morning, just after you've somehow managed to get out of bed, hangover headache pounding, and showed up a few minutes late to that brunch date you poorly scheduled the day before. "Hair of the dog" doesn't sound appetizing, but in the hands of the Vig Uptown's capable bartenders, the morning-after elixir is something special. Garnished with lemon, lime, olives, and liberally peppered, the Vig's take on the classic a.m. drink hits like a punch to the face — a delicious, spicy, invigorating punch in the face. We suppose you don't have to be in the throes of last night's indiscretions to enjoy one of these babies, but it certainly helps.
Durant's
Durant's is a Phoenix institution synonymous with old-school charm, from the "humble kitchen" to the low-lit bar that transports you to yesteryear. In honor of the vintage Rat Pack environment, we recommend you indulge in a cocktail that defined that era: the martini. Leave the appletinis and cosmos for girls' night out, because, at Durant's, you should be sipping a cocktail that will put a fire in your belly and/or hair on your chest. We're talking straight gin or vodka (we'll leave that debate for another day) swirled with vermouth and accented by olives. If you're lucky, you may even get to sip your martini to Sinatra crooning in the background.
FEZ
Nobody really likes vermouth. It's just a necessary evil that allows you to justify drinking a double shot of gin in martini form. FEZ understands this and offers the "Straight Up" martini — so strong that it will curl your toes. But what this chic eatery is really known for is ignoring the classic martini rules in favor of fruity and fanciful (but by no means less potent) fusions. Take the Feztini, for example, with raspberry vodka, Chambord, a champagne float, and a sugary rim that will have you feeling bubbly in no time. There are more than a dozen martinis on the menu, but we like the Apri-cosmo with a hint of apricot, the Mojo-tini that pays homage to the mojito, and the Key Lime Pie martini that totally eliminates the need for dessert. We'll take Chambord over vermouth any day.
MercBar
MercBar
We have seen quite a few so-called lounges pop up recently, but none of them have the authenticity of Merc Bar. Dress to impress and be prepared to drop a pretty penny at this Phoenix installation. The timeless dim lighting, low-set seating, and dark wood surroundings set the stage for a proper evening of libations and eye candy. Lurk in the dark nooks of the swanky lounge and sip your Manhattan while you take in the scenery, or snag a coveted seat at the bar and chat up the friendly (and attractive) bartenders. Don't pass up your chance to try one of the new bar chef's creations (the stuffed peppadew peppers practically melt in your mouth) and keep your eyes peeled; the Merc is known to cater to the celebrity clientele at the nearby Ritz-Carlton.
Smashboxx
Nightlife impresario Chad Landau and the other proprietors of Smashboxx must've hired a shaman to bless the nightclub before they opened for business late last year. How do we know this? Because every previous business that's occupied the property that houses the stylish Scottsdale spot was practically cursed. Each nightlife endeavor that launched at the Indian Plaza location in recent years didn't seem to last long, whether it was ultra lounges (Lyte, NV Lounge), a rock 'n' roll piano bar (Howl at the Moon), or even a jazz joint (The Blue Note Cellar). Smashboxx, however, has not only survived, but it has thrived. The dance floor is typically packed as clubgoers bump their rumps to Top 40 video remixes playing on the TVs that ring the place while patrons stand four deep at bar for the latest in trendy drinkage. There's a line of peeps waiting to get inside the club's Hotboxx video booth, where the inebriated can document their evening out for visitors to Smashboxx's Facebook page. What better way to recall all of the previous night's shenanigans during the dreaded morning after?
The Rhythm Room
Simply put, the Rhythm Room is a Phoenix blues institution. There are plenty of great places to catch the blues in Phoenix, but no other spot brings the blues on a scale comparable to Rhythm Room. Owner Bob Corritore's deep ties to the roots and traditional blues scenes ensure that even as nights during the week feature indie rock, alternative, hip-hop, and rock, the weekend always belong to the blues. The club celebrates 20 years of bringing "those lowdown sounds" to the Valley this year, and continues to do what the club set out to do way back in '91: bring the sounds of touring blues musicians and give locals like The Rhythm Room Allstars, Hans Olson, George Thomas and The Flamekeepers, The Rocket 88s and more a place to strut their stuff.

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