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.
Afterlife
There isn't a liquor license plastered on the wall at Afterlife in Scottsdale, which means there aren't any patrons getting plastered inside the club, either. Hence, owner Aron Mezo doesn't offer any primo bottle service, chic cocktails, or cheap-ass drink nights. While the lack of liquor sales definitely cuts into his bottom line every month, there are two upsides to the situation: The club can stay open long past last call, and — more importantly — the 18-and-up crowd beats its way to Afterlife's door. Barely legal boys and babes are in abundance at the after-hours dance hall, where the lack of booze doesn't equate to boredom. To wit: Step into the often-crowded Liquid Room and you'll see dancers covered in glow paint staging sultry shower shows while a blaring soundtrack of Top 40 cuts plays over the loudspeakers. Or step out onto the patio, where games of the casino and arcade variety are available. Upstairs in the Fire Room, a fiery red glow lights up the dirty dance moves of go-go girls, while the downstairs den offers hookahs, hit-spinning DJs, and an energy drink bar.
Sail Inn
We really love The Sail Inn. It's got a great location, just off Mill. Oh, and friendly bouncers, stiff drinks, and, of course, great bands. Though the place skews a little hippie, between the indoor and outdoor stages they book just about everything other than death metal. There's plenty of parking, lots of little nooks to have a conversation, and it's easy to walk to other bars before or after the show. Also, they often have entertainment, like fire twirlers, in the parking lot. Does this sound like a long list of semi-related things that we like about the place? Well, umm, yeah, it sorta is. But it's the total package — did we mention the restrooms are pretty nice and they sometimes have vendors selling food at bigger weekend shows? — that makes The Sail Inn the best overall rock club in town. Wait 'til they book a band you really like and tell us you disagree.

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