Barrio Queen Tequileria
Mark Susan

When the drinking is done and the hangover is gone, it's those damn calories that always seem to stick around — souvenirs from sipping one too many rich cocktails. Fortunately, there are drinks out there for those who want to be health-conscious while still drinking themselves unconscious. Take the Skinny Chola Margarita at Barrio Queen. This light Latin beverage is all natural, with a simple but satisfying mixture of Jose Cuervo tradicional blanco, agave nectar, and fresh lime juice served on the rocks. Free from syrups, mixes, and other artificial substitutes, the Skinny Chola Margarita is as much a staple for body-conscious barflies as it is for anyone in search of a straightforward, no-frills cocktail.

Rita's Kitchen

A few years ago, we got our hands on the recipe for the red sangria from Rita's Kitchen, but try as we might, we just can't perfect the blend served at the casual restaurant at the Camelback Inn. Red wine, orange juice, vanilla, sugar, cut-up fruit, and — what? We suspect we weren't told the whole truth. But we can't blame Rita's. Some secrets are too good to give away. And we're more than happy to sit on the patio here — under the bubble lights, with live music playing and fires roaring in the winter — and contemplate just what might be in that sangria. Nutmeg? Cinnamon? We'd better order one more. You know, for experimental purposes only.

Kazimierz Wine & Whiskey Bar
Kazimierz Wine & Whiskey Bar

Some might argue about how to pronounce the name (for the record, it's "Kaz-MEER-ehz"), but most locals can agree that Kazimierz World Wine Bar is the go-to spot for fine vino. As the more reclusive sister to restaurant Cowboy Ciao, Kazimierz makes you feel as though you've stepped out of Scottsdale and into your own underground speakeasy, complete with dark stony surroundings, dim lighting, backdoor entrance, and low couches, chairs, and tables. Offering an overwhelming selection of more than 2,000 wines, internationally inspired late-night noshes till 1:30 a.m., and live musical acts on the daily, Kazimierz is a trip for your taste buds as much as it is your eardrums. With wines from around the world and sounds — jazz, Latin, world beat, you name it — that are just as diverse, an evening visit to Kazimierz can almost feel like a mini-getaway.

San Tan Brewing Company

In a phrase popular among douchey business types, SanTan crushed it this year. Not only did the Chandler-based brewery pioneer the AmeriCAN Craft Beer Festival (which we named the year's best fest in this issue), they did it while opening a new 35,000-square-foot warehouse that soon will enable them to increase distribution outside the state. The past year also saw the release of seasonal brews in cans, making it possible for us to enjoy Rail Slide, Sex Panther, and Mr. Pineapple wherever we damn well pleased. You'd expect them to get at least a little distracted by the weekly cask tappings at their brewpub and the upcoming release of Count Hopula, but no. SanTan had no time for distractions. They were too busy crushing it.

Fate Brewing Company
Heather Hoch

We knew Fate Brewing Co. owner and head brewer Steve McFate, with his experience at the Colorado Boy Pub & Brewery in Ridgeway, Colorado, was good at making beer. We just misjudged the madness of his mad skillz. For the past few months, Fate's been burning up the leadership boards on beer-rating sites with concoctions like his dank, grapefruity Double IPA and unique Coconut Oatmeal IPA, but it's the special versions of the milk stout we love. Candy Bar Milk Stout, brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla bean, sea salt, and honey-roasted peanuts? Mexican Hot Chocolate Milk Stout, brewed with cinnamon, cocoa nibs, and vanilla? With beers like those, Fate's Best Of was, well, fate.

Papago Brewing Company
Meagan Simmons

Every so often, you find a beer that is so incredibly delicious that it haunts your drinking regimen, popping into your mind every time you crack open a different brew. Like the one that got away, you want it, even though you've already got something else. Luckily, Papago Brewing Company's Orange Blossom Ale doesn't have to get away from you. It's sold year-round at the brewery in Scottsdale, along with several other bars in town. The creamy, fruity, and floral beer is truly one of a kind in a market saturated with bitter IPAs and super-wheaty hefeweizens. When it comes to locally made, highly available beers in town, there's absolutely no competition. It takes skill to craft flavors like that in a beer, so try out a pint or two of Orange Blossom Ale for yourself and you'll see what's up.

The House Brasserie

According to chef Matt Carter, the stately tree that rises over the sprawling patio of The House, his newest restaurant set in a charming 1920s bungalow, was planted over 70 years ago and once was used as a Christmas tree by the home's previous occupants. If that isn't homespun enough to make you want to pull up a chair and dine al fresco, consider the white picket fence, the massive brick fireplace, the candlelit tables, and servers gliding by with plates of lamb Bolognese, grilled Scottish salmon, or Berkshire pork country ribs. Lounging a bit longer with a glass of wine or a cranberry mojito pretty much goes without saying.

The Handlebar Tempe
Jessica Obert

Generally, we're purists when it comes to beer — keep your shandy to yourself — but we make one exception, and that's for Handlebar's Gooseneck. The beer/liquor blend, which the Mill Ave bar also calls a Hopped Collins, is itself based on a classic cocktail called the Tom Collins, traditionally crafted with lemon juice, soda water, gin, and simple syrup. The gooseneck skips the soda like a fat kid at recess and goes straight for a ringer: Four Peaks' beautiful American IPA, Hop Knot. The resulting blend is a dance of citrusy, floral aromas and flavors, with the beer's biting hops playing off both the bright juice of the lemon and the dry spiciness of Beefeater's juniper. It's almost enough to make us want to try other beer blends. Almost.

Bink's Midtown

Phoenicians, rejoice — well, actually, pretty much anyone outside of the vicinity of Carefree and therefore far from Café Bink can rejoice too, because the new Bink's Midtown location has made Kevin Binkley's heavenly cuisine even more accessible for the rest of us. The cozy, homey spot may not look like anything too fancy, but the finger food and appetizers served during Bink's daily happy hour from 2:30 to 6 p.m. definitely have a gourmet twist. The nuggets are sweetbread nuggets, the burger is filled with bits of bacon, and the fries are both award-winning and accompanied by three fancy dipping sauces. The wine and beer selection features local treasures on tap and are $5 and $4 per glass respectively. Plus, Bink's Midtown serves a plate of deep fried ribs with a honey sauce for only $9. What more can you ask for?

Bonjour Vietnam
Heather Hoch

Drop in on this restaurant in downtown's San Carlos Hotel during weekdays from 3 until 6 p.m., when the deals are in full bloom. Most food options range from $5 to $8 during happy hour, including the crunchy, fresh, light and flavorful soft shell crab spring rolls. However, if you're not looking for healthy, the French onion soup is also discounted and comes with a heaping pile of melted Gruyère and a quail egg on top. The decadence and balance of the food is also matched by the beverage options, which include $5 Duvel and house wine as well as $2 off specialty cocktails. The wickedly spicy and fruity Vietnamese Spiced Punch and the floral and classy Kir Violette are both worth dropping in for on their own.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of