Best Martinis, Negronis, and Punch 2017 | Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour | Food & Drink | Phoenix
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.

Debby Wolvos

Around 2014, the world of apple cider beyond Martinelli's and Woodchuck bubbled up into the public consciousness, and America's most on-trend food cities became obsessed with the stuff. Entire cider-centric bars and restaurants popped up, and they sourced heirloom apple ciders from New England and Canada's remaining operations, and found funky and bone-dry ciders from Spain, and many more across Europe. Some trends die, but it seems cider stuck — and until FnB remodeled their bodega shop into the FnBar, there really wasn't a solid cider list in town. Just as Pavle Milic has done for so many years by believing in Arizona wine, he has given Phoenicians what they didn't know they wanted with cider. Salud!

Huss Brewing Company

We dare you to find someone who doesn't love Huss Brewing's Scottsdale Blonde. This German-style kölsch somehow manages to satisfy both craft brew aficionados and beer newbies — no easy feat. How does it work its witchy magic on us? It's well-balanced and crisp, light and refreshing. And what's with that delightful, ever-so-slight sweetness on the finish? It's impossible to drink just one glass of the Scottsdale Blonde, which is why we suggest you hit up Huss Brewing's tasting room during happy hour, when you can get a pitcher for the price of a pint. This beer gets bonus points for its availability in cans, making the Blonde poolside-ready.

Lauren Cusimano

Figuratively speaking, The Shop Beer Company has come a long way since their previous setup brewing under the same roof as Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe. Physically, however, they moved a minute's drive away into a beautiful little house that feels light, airy, and right at home in the Southwest. What isn't little is their beer selection. What used to be just a handful of beers anchored by their F.Y.I.T.M., a clean IPA with a dirty mouth and a "sneaky" 10.1 percent ABV, is now over a dozen suds long, tapping everything from two darker nitro beers to lighter witbiers and juicy IPAs clocking in at a modest 7.2 percent ABV. These guys have range, legs, and even a cool food truck (Fire & Foraged) that calls their brewery home base. This is a real neighborhood spot worth the drive wherever you live.

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