Clever Koi
Heather Hoch

When it gets to be prime time in Phoenix, when dinner plates go whizzing by, when seats are saturated and the bubbly diner talk boils to a gentle rumble, you'd count yourself lucky to have scored a seat at Clever Koi's bar — or better yet, the patio, which, east-facing as it is, gets itself a pastel backdrop each and every evening. A good view makes anything taste terrific — terrific-er in the case of the consistently great drinks under co-owner Joshua James' careful guide. Whether it's for Fourth of July fireworks or blowing off a little post-work steam, The Clever Koi is where you should let a good drink tell all and a great drink cure all.

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Lauren Saria

Plenty of sensible people like to begin a night out when the sun goes down — which means dinner at 7, 8, or even 9 p.m. But at that juncture, when the next sensible thing to do is get a great cocktail and keep the night going, Phoenix leaves one wanting should you desire to stay out past 10 or 11 p.m. We must be grateful, then, for establishments like downtown Phoenix's Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour, which aim for quality — and do so till 2 a.m., when the law says they no longer may. Most food sucks in those final hours of the night, especially bar food — but not at Bitter & Twisted, where Bob Tam's penchant for re-imagining classic Asian dishes in the style of upscale American comfort food (like the steam bun burger, with chili oil dipping sauce) is both tasteful and tasty.

How to cure your Sunday morning hangover, La Cruda-style: Take a glass of tomato juice, add a healthy splash of clamato, a squirt of tabasco, a squiggle of chamoy sauce, a sprinkling of Tajin chili seasoning, and some lime. Garnish with shrimp, a couple of celery sticks, and a hunk of chewy carne seca, aka beef jerky. At least, that's how the folks at Clamatos La Cruda ("cruda" is Mexican slang for hangover) recommend you come back to life, and it's pretty hard not to feel fully replenished after one of their post-hangover, alcohol-free mariscos-style cocktails on the menu at this east side hangout spot. Along with the menu of clamato-based drinks, this small eatery also offers snacks like shrimp tostadas, tacos, and fruit salad. Plus, there's a crockpot of complimentary seafood broth by the counter, designed to give you a quick, life-giving boost of sodium.


Crudo
Crudo

A good margarita, like a daiquiri or an old fashioned, should be easy to get right, and yet the really good ones are so few and far between. Do most places over-complicate it? The ingredients — good tequila, orange liqueur, fresh citrus, and a salted rim — are simple enough to bore some, making the marg ripe for riffing. Crudo, being an Italian joint, is thematically about as far as things get from Mexico and its native margarita.

But Crudo's proximity to the border and the bar's commitment to quality in all things spirits and cocktails means co-owner Micah Olson feels the pressure to not only get it right, but to make it delicious and uniquely high-quality. No strange riffs here. It's by the book. Furthermore, as you could guess by this point, he nails it.

Situated in a corner inside Scott's Generations deli in central Phoenix, Tres Leches Café is the place to go for irresistibly good lattes (and other coffee and smoothie drinks), inspired by the flavors of Mexico and Latin America. On the menu, you'll find delicious concoctions like the Café Churro, a blend of cinnamony "churro sauce," fresh-ground espresso, and the cafe's signature tres leches cream, which is kind of like the house version of half-and-half. Other drinks include Café Mexicano, a deeply flavored latte made with Abuela-brand chocolate Mexicano, and the Tres Aztecas Café, made with a deep, dark, "drink of the gods," Aztec-style xocolate. You'd be hard-pressed to find a drink here that isn't delicious.

Barrio Urbano

There were so many cocktails across the Valley to choose from — mezcal, Jalisco's state spirit, being the hottest thing show up since tequila — but the obvious pick may be the simplest, the one that shows off the spirit in bare-bones fashion, the Oaxaqueño margarita at Barrio Urbano. Nothing too flashy here — just a rim of sal de gusano (a classic Mexican ingredient; that's salt ground down with dried worm, for the record) which adds a great savory quality to the drink that's already so smoky. It's an in-your-face, wonderful take on a classic margarita.

Counter Intuitive
Counter Intuitive/Facebook

The guys over at the ever-changing Counter Intuitive got crazy with their Agua Caliente Racetrack menu, blending all sorts of chili peppers and spices into drinks anchored by a plethora of agave spirits and fresh juices — which leads to a lot of flavor. Case in point: the Gallant Sir, which is rooted with earthy and rustic bacanora, the state spirit of Sonora, and thrown for a loop with a supporting cast of amaro, scotch, cantaloupe, and muddled Fresno chilies. The cocktail is brash, requiring some bravery. But the reward is stellar drinking with a real sense of place here in the Sonoran Desert.

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Lauren Saria

The Sotol Tale calls for what Bitter & Twisted proprietor Ross Simon describes as a "cheeky amount of sotol," Chihuahua's state spirit. Dusty-tasting and a bit herbal, it pairs nicely with Bitter & Twisted's house blend of sweet vermouth, Maraschino liqueur, and bitters. The end result? A dusty Martinez, if you will, as opposed to the classic Dirty Martinez cocktail, somewhere in between the negroni and the manhattan. This classic is a spin, reborn with Northeastern Mexican flare — it's worth the whirl — and is light enough to be the first drink of the night but boozy enough to be the last (unless you want a second — we'd totally understand).

If you willfully block out about 90 percent of the menu at Los Reyes De La Tortas — the part with all the griddled tortas, quesadillas, and pork-chop-stuffed "super tacos" — you could almost make the argument that this local Mexico City-styled chain is a bona fide health-food destination. That's because the restaurant offers a sprawling menu of aguas frescas naturales — fresh fruit drinks made with real fruit, ice, and then lightly sweetened with sugar. The drink menu boasts an impressive selection, including standards like pineapple and limón, along with harder-to-find aguas frescas like papaya, mango, and watermelon. The restaurant also whips up novelty healthy drinks like the vampiro, which is made with orange juice, carrots, celery, and beets. No plastic foam here: Your smoothie comes in a chilled glass, with a cheery little paper umbrella.

Las Glorias Grill

Neighborhood restaurants are found all over this big sprawling place we call home, many of which have unbelievable specials. On Wednesdays, Las Glorias Grill has $1.99 margaritas that are out of this world, and provide more bang for the buck than they probably should for the price as the house tequila, Zarco, is pretty much the bomb diggity. Salt or not, on the rocks or blended, you can't go wrong with this sweet and tangy margarita. Trade a picture of Thomas Jefferson for one today (as long as it is legal tender, of course) while you munch on Las Glorias' delicious food. We recommend the fish tacos on Taco Thursday. Muy delicioso.

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