Best Whiskey Bar 2014 | Magnum's Cigar Bar | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix

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.

Jackie Mercandetti

There are a lot of great mixology classes in town if you have cash to shell out, or you can just take a seat at the bar at Barrelhouse and listen to Geoffrey Wilson tell you pretty much everything you need to know. Though his specialty is New Orleans cocktail history (like Henry Ramos' Gin Fizz or the origins of the Sazerac), he's an encyclopedia of booze know-how. On a personal level, he's witty, jovial, and entirely professional — everything you could want from a bartender. His warm personality is so inviting and his cocktails are so well-executed that you just might find it impossible to leave your barstool once you've taken a seat. Any doubts about whether bartender is a respectable profession go out the window in his presence.

Even if you were somehow able to match Smite for his turntable skills — and fat chance of that — the Phoenix DJ still would boast a collection that puts most DJs to shame. Rare funk, soul, cumbia, reggae, psych, and world beat selections make each performance by Smite at clubs like Crescent Ballroom (where he hosts his weekly "Buttermilk and Biscuits" evening), the Lost Leaf, Bitter & Twisted, the Pressroom, or other downtown haunts a special event. Smite's taste is all-encompassing, and his technical skill is incredible. Phoenix is a great town for DJs, but Smite maintains an air of dedication that few get close to emulating.

For hipsters, vinyl hoarders, or even your dad, a turntable is either a contraption meant for cueing up one's favorite platters or it's merely a conversation piece. But when David Dimmick starts sticking needles in grooves and performs as Fact135, it becomes a finely tuned instrument on which he works hip-hop wax into a symphony of scratching, cutting, chopping, and chirping between laying down the boom-bap. And the NYC native's been doin' it and doin' it and doin' it well since the late '90s, when he tag-teamed decks on both coasts and opened for rap legends like Pharoahe Monch and Biz Markie alongside fellow local turntablist legend Megadef.

Fast-forward to the present day and Dimmick, widely considered a DJ's DJ by those in the know, is still in demand, whether it's taking over the airwaves of 101.1 FM's Friday night/Saturday morning Rhyme & Reason radio show, judging local DJ competitions (including the DMC World Championship regionals whenever it swings through Phoenix), or backing up rappers at club nights like the Hip Hop House. And that's a fact.

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