Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
Don't let the location fool you — tucked in the corner of an unassuming strip mall in North Phoenix lies Joe's Grotto, a bar and music venue that hosts some of the best rock and metal shows in the Valley. The place has a killer stage (lights included!) and a screaming sound system capable of doing justice to everyone from your friendly local alternative band to the distorted chaos of a touring death metal band. Two nights a week, you'll find open mics on the smaller of the venue's two stages, where amateurs get a chance to strut their stuff and perhaps be broadcast live on KWSS 93.9 FM. And the owner, Joe Grotto (yes, that's his real name), is always ready with a grin and easy conversation. What more could you want in a rock club?
Looking to impress a visiting tourist or just yearning for a great place to kick up your feet after work? Head to the patio at the Four Seasons resort, where a tangy Copper City Mule awaits you — not to mention some of the most stunning, sweeping views of the desert to be had. Those vistas, combined with a daily happy hour from 3 to 5:30 p.m., make for an unbeatable twilight drink. A killer list of tap wine, tap beer, and by-the-bottle vino choices will have you staying well past sunset (and what a sunset it is!), then heading into the Four Seasons' Proof, an upscale, homestyle diner where you can add a little dinner to the perfect dusk-hour cocktail.
Let's be honest: Bar Crudo could've pulled a win in several cocktail categories. However, none of the others really put forth everything this Arcadia spot has to offer quite like the happy hour category. From a long list of classic cocktails made to the rigorous and historically accurate standards co-owner and master mixologist Micah Olson enforces in his bar to the phenomenal bar bites with Italian flair, everything you could order is dirt cheap (cocktails are $7 and dishes range from $5 to $12) for the quality you're getting. After all, well liquor pretty much means nothing at this bar and those crispy pig ears are the stuff dreams are made of. Take a seat in the beautiful lounge and bar area Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. and get the full Crudo experience.
Nothing says chilling by the pool on a relaxing Saturday afternoon quite like an ice-cold can of Mr. Pineapple. Yes, this San Tan brew now is available for purchase in cans at most local liquor stores and even area Trader Joe's. Though it's not the most complex brew crafted in town, drinkability is the name of the game here, and we've found few who can resist this beer's charm, even after just one sip. With a nice, light wheat beer base and a strong, acidic, and fruity kick of pineapple flavor, Mr. Pineapple definitely isn't a misnomer, although the name is kind of creepy. Don't worry, though, this tasty brew plays nice.
Late summer, Four Peaks employees hear the same question from local beer lovers: "When can I get my hands on a pint of that pumpkin beer?" It might be because this brew's arrival is synonymous with the end of a long, hard heatwave. But there's definitely more to it than that. After all, there's a reason the pumpkin taps (and now even cans) run dry earlier and earlier every year, though the brewery makes more and more every year. The dark, coffee-colored beer is like drinking liquid pumpkin pie. Now that you know about its roasted malt, baking spice, and, of course, pumpkin flavors, make sure to get your stash of this autumn mainstay before it's gone. Because it will be gone. Soon.
It's funny how one brewery can come into the craft beer scene in Phoenix and completely blow it up. Sure, there was plenty of great local beer in town before Arizona Wilderness Brewing, but in just about a year, it's already been named best new brewery in the world by beer geeks in the know and has put our fair state on the map in ways it hadn't been before. Maybe it's the focus on using as much local grain as possible. Maybe it's the unique ingredient list, from cacao nibs to spruce tips. But once you get your first sip, you know it's something new. The almost daily changing list of experimental microbrews has us coming back for more and, with its being a Kickstarter-funded endeavor, we're just glad these artful brewers got the opportunity to open in the first place.
You've probably heard about this Scottsdale spot and wondered about how to spell — let alone pronounce — the complicated name. And even if you've never stepped foot inside, chances are you've walked by it a million times without ever knowing it. The unmarked entrance — which, by the way, predates the new speakeasy trend — leads into a dark, ancient-looking space built to remind patrons of an underground wine cellar. The interior is cool enough to make us want to go back, but it's the extensive wine list that really does the trick. To call Kaz Bar's menu a "list" isn't really fair. It's really a veritable book, with more than 3,200 wine selections if you're going for a whole bottle. The by-the-glass options are far less numerous but still give you plenty of choices in different styles from around the world.
You might go to Crescent for the concerts, considering that the Phoenix venue usually gets some of the best local and national acts around. You might go there for the beloved bean and cheese burritos wrapped in La Sonorense tortillas or for $2 tacos on Wednesday during lunch. Whatever the reason, you might want to consider setting down that can of Hamm's or PBR and ordering a glass of house sangria instead. The flavorful blend of red wine, liqueurs, San Pellegrino Aranciata soda, and citrus juice is a great base, but the real secret to this refreshing, fruity drink is the healthy dose of cinnamon added to each batch. Garnished with a cherry and an orange slice and sold for just $5 for a pint, the worst thing about Crescent's sangria is you won't be able to stop at one.
When we wake up hungover, our go-to remedy is the classic hair of the dog, usually in the form of a tall and extra spicy Bloody Mary. For this treatment, our favorite spot is RnR in Scottsdale. Sunday Funday at this hopping bar and restaurant means bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys. And we're not just talking about a glass of tomato juice with a touch of vodka. This place does it right. It pours never-ending glasses of perfectly made Bloody Marys made with tomato juice, spices, vodka, and bacon. That's right. Bacon. You can imagine how popular such a morning-after beverage might be with the party-loving Old Town Scottsdale crowd, so if you want to avoid a long wait, best to get there early.
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.