Best Barrel-Aged Cocktail 2014 | Citizen R+D's Sea Salt Negroni | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
Tirion Boan

We love a good story with our cocktail, and the sea-salt-infused Negroni at Citizen R+D has an interesting one, for sure. You see, when booze was being shipped in the olden days (across the sea, that is), the story is that the transported liquor usually would get soaked in ocean water in the hull en route, thus changing the flavor. At Citizen, the concept is simulated and here's how: First, the mixologists combine the necessary Negroni components — gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari — in a barrel. Then, they take that barrel and dunk it in a saltwater solution before letting the barrel dry. After repeating the curing process several times until the cocktail has reached both an optimum smoothness from the barrel and light funkiness from the salt, it's ready to serve. Just like sailors used to drink, right?

Just about everybody likes a Pimm's Cup. That's because the gin liqueur-based drink is light and fresh with either lemonade or ginger beer, citrus slices, and cucumber. During brunch at Windsor, you can get all that cocktail goodness super-sized to pitcher quantity for just $5 — pretty much the most outrageously good deal on cocktails in town. Garnished with fresh mint, the drink is totally refreshing. Unfortunately, it's only on the menu weekends from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., but you can't really expect a deal that good to be available all the time. Plus, Pimm's Cup is a great brunch drink, and a whole pitcher of it means there's maybe even enough to share with your brunch companions.

If you think moonshine is a drink for hillbillies and country bumpkins, we've got three words for you: apple pie moonshine. Specifically, the apple pie moonshine at Bootleggers will forever change your mind about the un-aged distilled corn liquor. First, just think of it as bourbon without the barrel. Then, get a dirt-cheap $5 housemade apple pie moonshine, which, not surprisingly, tastes like apples and cinnamon. More surprisingly, the concoction has a warmth and smoothness to it that makes it as dangerous as it is delicious. If you're feeling noncommittal, you can opt for a moonshine flight and taste the housemade apple pie variety alongside other varieties that incorporate peach, blueberry, blackberry, and other fruity flavors.

This ain't your grandpa's whiskey bar. Well, actually, this is probably exactly the kind of spot your grandfather would've hung out in (and probably still does hang out in). But there's room for you, too. The North Phoenix bar is unmistakably a cigar bar first, based on aroma alone. However, even if you aren't a smoker, the ventilation system makes it so there's only a cigar aroma without the giant cloud of smoke. Plus, the whiskey list, which reads like a book and is set up on shelves like a library, is killer. With whiskey and cigar pairings courtesy of Jason Asher, this spot really is about the spirits and stogies. Even the cocktails are mostly whiskey-based, with Sazerac, Old Fashioned, and even a peaty Laphroaig cocktail on the menu for $12 to $15.

Lauren Saria

Second Story Liquor Bar might be a new spot on the Scottsdale dining scene, but bartender John Christie has been around. Originally a Bostonian, Christie made an indelible imprint on Valley cocktail bars during his time at the now-defunct Old Town Whiskey. Back in action behind the stick, he still loves his whiskey, even teaching whiskey classes at the bar from time to time. However, his menu, which features the granddaddy of the modern cocktail, the Philadelphia Fish House Punch, is more than just great Old Fashioneds. Bubbly types should go for the French 75. If you're feeling a little worse for the wear, maybe a Corpse Reviver is in order. Even gin lovers have something to look forward to with the Gin Fizz. Anyway, you get the point — Christie does classics right at his Mad Men-era-inspired bar in Scottsdale.

Heather Hoch

In terms of being on the cutting edge of cocktail trends, The Clever Koi's back bar stock is as hip as the bar itself looks. With an ever-changing rotation of en vogue herbal liqueurs like Ancho Reyes, Suze, and Génépi, mixologist Joshua James crafts drinks that are crisp, clean, dry, and balanced. You can say goodbye to syrupy drinks forever because James' increasingly simplistic take on cocktails makes all those Coke highballs and juiced-up mocktails look like kids' stuff. Though the drink menu is updated seasonally at The Clever Koi, you usually can rely on a Pimm Jung Ill (an amaro-spiked Pimm's Cup) or Bee's Knees during happy hour and a Sloe Burn made with bourbon, sloe gin, shiso, and Thai bird honey for dinner.

Best Place for Drinks After a Show


Allison Young

To be honest, we can't think of a bad time to drink at AZ88. But we particularly love heading over to the bar/restaurant after a show at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts or Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, in part because this is the hangout for artists, musicians, and other performers. Long the home to the revolving designs of Janis Leonard, who passed away this year, AZ88 has set the stage for drinks, dinner, and conversation on many an evening. We recommend the lavosh and a martini — our favorite is the espresso, strong and sweet with a bean floating on top — and a seat on the patio, when the weather is nice. Late in the night the music gets loud and the crowd a little crazy, and that's all part of the fun.

Jackie Mercandetti

If any bar menu typifies both reverence to the classics and a new Arizona cocktail outlook, it's Travis Nass' menu at Last Drop Bar. That's because while he keeps old favorites in the repertoire, the cocktails he creates almost always are well-balanced and light — even when they're liquor-forward. Bringing the cocktail scene away from the over-juiced attempts at refreshment that plague many local watering holes, Nass presents grown-up drinks for a more developed palate. If you've ever wondered what Phoenix cocktails should be like, know that they should be something like the smooth, clean, and simple craft concoctions at the Hermosa Inn's bar. For the less adventurous, he'll surely whip up any of the old favorites from memory, too.

The patio at House of Tricks isn't the largest in town, or the fanciest. The drink menu isn't super-remarkable (though the wine list is good). But time and again, as soon as the temperature dips, you'll find us on the patio of this downtown Tempe mainstay enjoying a fireside cocktail. The bricked-in, tree-covered patio is simple, comfortable and typically packed, making us wonder why there aren't more spots like this around town. Long known as the place ASU students take their parents, this restaurant is more than that — it's an oasis just off Mill Avenue, a sophisticated but laid back little spot with killer cuisine and a sweet vibe teetering on the verge of tea party but still edgy enough that your boyfriend won't mind going. Particularly if he can cuddle up to you next to that fireplace.

Dominique Chatterjee
Desert at Lux

Nerd alert! We like to take our laptop to a coffee shop and call it a night on the town. And that's what it is at Lux, where you can start your day with a shot of espresso and end it with a craft cocktail. We're nerds but we're not alone — just about any time, you'll have trouble finding a spot at a table or the bar at this CenPho hangout. The DJ's always playing something interesting, the eavesdropping is top-notch (as long as you don't happen to sit next to some church mice — unless that's your thing) and the drinks are delicious. Just be careful not to spill that gin and tonic on your keyboard.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of