Counter Intuitive
Counter Intuitive/Facebook

While most cocktail menus straddle a bias between classics on one page and a handful of their own creations on the other, Old Town Scottsdale's Counter Intuitive went ahead and dreamed up a few dozen new, original drinks for their Mexican-inspired episode, Agua Caliente Racetrack. Just as the team created their Chinatown-inspired menu before it, the drink creation is entirely flavor-driven, starting with a list of ingredients that represent a region or a theme. From there, they work their way backward into cocktails that must withstand substantial criticism before any one drink makes the final menu. There is, indeed, a "new school" in the Phoenix craft cocktail movement, and it's in session at Counter Intuitive.

The Rum Bar

Like bourbon and whiskey, rum has the power to warm the mind, body, and soul through a long and hard winter — but we don't have those in Phoenix. It's a good thing, then, that we have Rum Bar, guided by Jamaican-born owner Dwayne Allen, for the long and hard summers, where the bartenders know exactly how to beat the heat with concoctions that are refreshingly cool — and refreshingly creative, too. Here, the apothecary is stocked exotically and the house-designed shrubs flow into drinking territory less traveled. Not that the stalwarts of hot-weather rum drinks aren't there to please and impress; Rum Bar does mojitos, daiquiris, and piña coladas better than any of the other guys.

The Parlor Pizzeria
Heather Hoch

Critics will call them watery salsa or liquified salad, and it can be true. Loaded up with celery sticks and skewered veggies, a Bloody Mary can often knock out a round of drinks and your salad course all at once.

But now, salads and vegetables are getting star treatment — and the Bloody Mary can just as easily steal the show when uncommon ingredients and better booze are in the mix. Cue the Bloody Mary at The Parlor — it's prosciutto fat-washed (that means they let prosciutto fat sit and infuse with alcohol, giving it a rich taste), with a house-made mix, and green chile-flavored vodka. Not a bad way to get those veggies in.

The Gladly
The Gladly

Take one look at the Gladly's towering whiskey collection, stocked from the ceiling down to the bar, and you'll have little doubts they've got it all — or, you know, at least a lot of it. To be accurate, this collection clocks in at around 200 types of rye whiskey, bourbon, and scotch — bottled in bond, pot stilled, blended, or peated. Pick your poison. Tacking a few bucks to each order gets you a perfectly compressed ice ball, too — perfect for kicking around the glass with an agile pinkie and unquenchable thirst for the finer things in life. And, by that, we mean bourbon.

Arizona Distilling Co.
Evie Carpenter

Arizona Distilling Co. has come a long way in just a couple of short years of producing spirits that not only Arizonans could be proud of, but which can compete with most anyone on a national stage. Originally, the company was best know for its gin, which blends a handful of Arizona botanicals into an aromatic and flexible gin — recently, though, it's their Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey, made from locally grown durum wheat. Billed as "Arizona's first-ever grain-to-bottle whiskey," the spirit sets the pace for a company that's wants to be known for quality and community before anything else.

The distillation industry may be large, but in Phoenix, things are still pretty small. That means that when a new distiller opens up its doors, it can potentially make waves quickly — and that's exactly what CaskWerks did after setting up shop in Tempe. Owner Rick Burch and head distiller John Miller were hoping they had a recipe for success when they debuted the spirit they're now so well known for: their delicious, signature Apple Pie Liqueur. What they didn't have, yet, was a liaison to tap into the Valley's bartender community. Enter bartender extraordinaire and one the community's best-known ambassadors, Travis Nass, who joined the team to man the customer-facing side of the equation. Cheers to a bright future.

Though it hails from down south in Tucson, Hamilton Distillers has done a phenomenal job of getting their Whiskey Del Bac spirit placed onto shelves in Phoenix — after all, who wouldn't want to stock and pour one of the state's most intriguing alcoholic products? If you ask us, it's a game-changer; the distillery is taking organic local barley grown in the Tucson area and malting it with mesquite smoke made from wood collected in the surrounding desert — a process not unlike Scotch-making, which requires grain be malted by burning peat. Mesquite is an important part of our local terroir, and Hamilton's Whiskey Del Bac is an important part of appreciating that terroir. We can't wait for what they do next.

Served at the cozy bar inside of downtown Phoenix's Nobuo at Teeter House, every component of the Smokey Thompson — a textbook whiskey sour by build, something profound when you examine its pieces — says Arizona. There are local limes and yuzu orange citrus when they're in season at Bob McClendon's farm; honey made by desert-foraging bees; the whites of chicken eggs from Dave Jordan's Two Wash Ranch in Queen Creek; and last, but not least, Whiskey Del Bac, a scotch-like spirit made from Tucson-grown barley, malted with burning mesquite collected in the neighboring desert. Hey, this is no prickly pear margarita — and that's because it's much, much better.

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
Heather Hoch

There's nothing wrong with good, reliable beer that you can get just about anywhere in town — but there's something about that jog out to the distant, previously brewery-less town of Gilbert all just to wet your whistle with one of what, after a few years, has grown into a solid collection of Arizona Wilderness' very hyped small-batch brews. Their DC Mountain Double IPA is quickly gaining ground as one of America's most delicious IPAs. Loads of local produce and the occasional heritage grain prove Arizona Wilderness are progressive beer makers, with buying practices that invest heavily in the local economy — concepts that elude most other breweries, even at the small and local level.

Wren House Brewing Co.
Lauren Cusimano

Wren House could have been just like any other neighborhood bar in Phoenix — but it's special. Not only do they brew their own beer, they do it in a stylishly designed, repurposed house that dates back to 1922. That means some cool Phoenix history, and even cooler: cold craft beer. At this small scale, the brewery nimbly built a cast of dependable beers that run the gamut from Jomax Oatmeal Stout, brewed with coffee from the local Press Roasters, to the Hi Jolly American Wheat Ale, which folds chamomile and local desert honey into each batch. Finally, we've got a brewery and bar that reflects a new, tasteful, and modern vision for Phoenix.

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