Best Frozen Drink 2017 | Mango La Sandunga | Food & Drink | Phoenix

You can't go wrong with either of the two frozen cocktails that the bartenders at Ladera tap swiftly out of slushy machines. Recite eenie-meenie if you must, but if you end up with the Mango La Sandunga, a tropical and tiki-evoking mixture of tequila, bitter orange Aperol aperitif, a nutty almond syrup called orgeat (it's in your mai tai), mango, and pineapple, consider yourself blessed. The other option, the less complex mezcolada, is straightforward and delightful all the same — essentially, a smoky piña colada (and only $5 at happy hour).

Tirion Boan

The team behind Counter Intuitive, one of the Valley's most creative cocktail bars, made a splash when they opened UnderTow in Arcadia. What they got was an underground tiki bar, decked out like a real-life below-deck cargo bay — with crashing thunder coming through speakers, lightning effects, and LCD screens depicting ocean-scapes. Meanwhile, top-talent bartenders shake and stir old- and new-school tiki drinks alike. UnderTow's mai tai is the best in town, no doubt about it, as are other historical stalwarts of the genre, like the Zombie. And you can order a classic Jungle Bird, but you might opt for one of the bar's many originals, like a stirred version — the Stirred Bird — that drinks like a tropical Negroni, made with rum, Campari, lime oils, and house-made pineapple syrup.

When it's hot, there's no cooler thing to do than sip any one of Rum Bar's creative, Caribbean-inspired concoctions. We like the fact that although owner Dwayne Allen consistently puts together an impressive list of original cocktails that changes twice a year to match Phoenix's two seasons (hot and less hot, but always sunny), he makes sure that the most iconic rum drinks — mojitos, piña coladas, and daiquiris — are far from cliche treatments. We are sure that you would be hard-pressed to find better versions of any of the aforementioned rum cocktails elsewhere in town. A shaded and misted back patio is the cherry atop the equation, especially if you're one to enjoy the occasional cigar, which Rum Bar offers an assortment of as well.

Heather Hoch

It's easier than ever to find a well-made classic cocktail, if not the ever-elusive, perfect ideal. It's obvious that while the bartenders at Bitter & Twisted are chasing perfection, they also want to provide guests with something memorable. That's certainly the case with the B&T martini, engineered to be served chillier than any in town, or their series of Negroni cocktails that have been batched and done sous vide with floral flavors such as chamomile, Earl Grey, or rose. And with regards to punch, what's very old — old English, that is — is made anew with Bitter & Twisted's take on the centuries-old milk punch, where spirits meet milk. We'll spare you the details, but the end product is a drink so smooth and luscious you'd swear you're drinking, well, milk, and maybe you kind of are, and yet it isn't the least bit opaque, nor does it taste milky — just booze beautifully rounded by seasonally picked flavors, combining with a texture that makes your mouth feel downright fancy. The drink is served in a handsome teacup, swimming with a fabulously large and crystal-clear ice cube.

It's strange that a drink as elemental and refreshing as the mint julep — just sugar, bourbon, and mint beneath a mound of melting ice — could come to be thought of as something to be employed on only one day out of the 365 we get each year: the day of the Kentucky Derby. Well, owner Micah Olson put the mint julep center stage at his Southern concept, Okra, where the drink has its own section of the menu, home to historical variants and some modern takes alike. In fact, bourbon, whether in an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan, or something different entirely, gets star treatment here.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

On a beverage menu that shifts both subtly and frequently alongside the dishes at Tratto, one cocktail sticks around through the seasons: the Durum Old Fashioned. It should be said, though, that it has moving parts as well, as bourbons cycle through it at Blaise Faber's whim (sometimes it's Arizona Distilling Company's desert durum wheat whiskey, other times it's 107-proof W.L. Weller bourbon from Kentucky). But the mix is always secured by Faber's very own cordial crafted from Arizona-grown durum wheat and dates. The drink also gets dotted with Workhorse Rye coffee bitters, made by a friend in San Francisco with deep Tucson roots.

This is a tough call. Arizona's young wine industry is beginning to produce a number of standouts, and try as we might, we haven't yet sampled them all. Rock star Maynard James Keenan's Caduceus Cellars, which has a tasting room in Jerome, produces some excellent reds, but at 50 bucks-plus, they're a little pricey for us. For value, it's hard to beat Provisioner, the off-label of Page Springs Cellars. The reds, whites, and rosés are all under $15. But for the best balance of price and taste, we're going against the grain — or grape — and selecting a white from Cochise County, film director Sam Pillsbury's Symphony Sweet Lies Reserve, a blend of grenache gris and muscat grapes, which checks out for about $25. We liked it so much when we first had it paired with seafood at Little Cleo's at The Yard in Phoenix that we ordered a six-pack the next day.

Wine in a can? We'll admit, we were skeptical. After all, we had been hurt before by brands that based their entire appeal on edgy packaging. But then, Arizona-based winery and trusted favorite Dos Cabezas introduced its 2016 Carbonated Pink, and everything changed. The unbottled bubbly, a mostly grenache blend served in a 700-milliliter tallboy can, quickly became a spring and summer essential. Refreshing in both flavor and figure, the Carbonated Pink is now a status symbol for Phoenix scenesters and self-appointed sommeliers alike. Unfortunately, being the most coveted can at the bar does come with caveats. It's sold out online and only available in select restaurants around town, so getting your hands on one only makes the first sip taste that much sweeter.

We've all seen it. Just like independently owned bookstores and record shops, warehouse-style stores have all but obliterated the existence of mom-and-pop wine merchants. That's why we're over the moon about Hidden Track Bottle Shop. Don't let its small size fool you. It's tiny, but its offerings are mighty. Every bottle of wine on the shelves has been handpicked and tasted by the owners. This means that not only can Hidden Track lay claim to having the most interesting and surprising wine selection in metro Phoenix, but the staff has the knowledge to educate and enlighten consumers, too.

We love a road trip as much as the next person, but when the mood strikes to sample Arizona grapes on a Monday night, what's an oenophile to do? Trekking two hours north to the Verde Valley or three hours south to Willcox just doesn't cut it. Thank goodness for Winery 101. At this tasting room in Peoria, you can sample up to 14 wines made from grapes grown in Arizona. Owners Irlyn and Gavin Gallifant showcase two lines: Gallifant Cellars and Southpaw Cellars. Gallifant offers single-varietal wines, such as the earthy and peppery zinfandel, while Southpaw is all blends. Stop by the tasting room Thursday to Monday for a red, white, or "sweet" flight. Or, if you plan to play hooky from work the next day, head north to Winery 101's Cottonwood location.

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