La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop

There are a lot of mediocre horchatas in metro Phoenix — chalky and cloyingly sweet concoctions that are usually made using store-bought powder mixes. If you want to savor what a fresh, thirst-quenching horchata should taste like, head over to one of La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop's two Valley locations. La Santisima's horchata is cool, frothy, and lightly sweet, with fragrant notes of cinnamon. It's topped with fresh fruit and chopped pecans. It's a perfect palate cleanser between tacos, or simply as a light, sweet finish to your meal.

Sweet Republic
Courtesy of Sweet Republic

Living in Phoenix can be hard sometimes — we've got face-melting summer temperatures, crazy politicians, and disappointing sports teams. But then, we think of Sweet Republic, a source of Phoenix pride and joy for a decade now. Sweet Republic, which adds culinary ingenuity to top-quality ingredients to create out-of-the-box flavors like blue cheese and date, sweet corn, and coconut cashew curry, while elevating traditional flavors like salted butter caramel swirl, Belgian chocolate, real mint chip, and sweet berry cobbler. Sweet Republic, which Bon Appetit named one of the top 10 ice cream stores in the United States, and whose Toffee Banofi Sundae was highlighted on the Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Sweet Republic, which we return to over and over again, day or night, summer or winter, whenever we crave a taste of the sublime.

The humble doughnut, that mainstay of road-trip breakfasts and morning office meetings, becomes something special, something elevated in the hands of Welcome Chicken + Donuts. There's no guessing at a typical doughnut joint; the offerings are predictable and familiar. This isn't the case at Welcome, where every visit brings new flavors and new questions: Will I like a chipotle limon doughnut? (Yes.) How does a chocolate rose pistachio doughnut taste? (Surprising and delicious.) We doubt we'll get tired of the Welcome crew's innovative spirit, but if we do feel a desire for the classics, they do mainstays like apple fritters and plain with "sprankles" just as well as the unique ones. And on the off chance you find yourself there and aren't in the mood for doughnuts (what's wrong with you?), Welcome's fried chicken, ramen, and breakfast sandwiches are mighty good, too.

Jobot Coffee
Heather Hoch

When it's time for a caffeine fix (which is pretty often, truth be told), there's nowhere we'd rather go than Jobot Coffee Shop in Roosevelt Row. It's hip enough that we feel cool just hanging out there, but it's also got a comfortable, welcoming vibe that isn't present at some of the other trendy coffeehouses in town. Jobot has it all, from a full slate of coffee and tea drinks to a small but satisfying menu of breakfast and lunch/dinner options (the breakfast burrito, which is served all day, is outstanding). Depending on your mood, you can sip and sup in the industrial-style interior or hang out on the patio and take in the hustle and bustle of downtown Phoenix.

Dark Hall Coffee
Meagan Mastriani

Did someone say "all-vegan coffee shop in central Phoenix"? If so, they were likely talking about Dark Hall Coffee, where vegans and those who just like tasty treats and a strong cup of java can get their coffee on. Dark Hall's tasty joe comes courtesy of Xanadu Coffee's on-site roastery, which has provided beans for local cafes for nearly a decade. Those who want a little something in their java will find a house-made cashew milk and another blend made from cashews, hazelnuts, and Brazil nuts. Also available is a rotating monthly house-special milk. Baked goods change from day to day, and include a delicious fresh berry galette, lavender macarons (which are even better when paired with Dark Hall's tart lemonade), moist blueberry crumb cake, and sticky, decadent cinnamon rolls. Brought to us by the same friendly folks who run the restaurant The Coronado PHX, Dark Hall is here for everyone, no matter their diet.

Arizona Distilling Co.
Evie Carpenter

This popular micro-distillery, which recently debuted its tasting room and cocktail lounge near the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, uses local ingredients to craft unique, top-flight spirits. Try the Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey, which is made from high-quality Arizona durum wheat that's also used in the production of Italian pasta. The stars of Arizona Distilling Company's spirit portfolio are its Commerce Gin, Mission Vodka, and Copper City Bourbon (the first Arizona-made bourbon), all of which have earned double gold medal wins at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

Phil Clark, a relatively recent import from Washington, D.C., has brought a huge new personality to Phoenix's craft cocktail scene. Over the past year, he has aggressively flipped and revitalized his roster of cocktails at Blue Hound, always striving for more. You'll find a bulletproof Old Fashioned here, yes. But you would be wise to put your lips to one of Clark's specialty drinks. The lush, tropical depths of his impossibly juicy Junglebird will unspool into your thirsty daydreams. Never satisfied, Clark recently dropped a new line featuring a drink that unites peanut butter syrup, bacon, and egg white, a head nod to Elvis Presley's famous sandwich.

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Lauren Saria

Ross Simon's downtown cocktail emporium continues to glass beautiful libations. This past year, after a six-month revision, his menu moved from a fairy-tale theme to a dark fairy-tale theme. Potable highlights from the latest iteration include a sultry grasshopper (the drink) served with a paper sleeve of fried grasshoppers (the insects), as well as a super-fresh and imposingly tall drink of coconut, lime, carrot juice, and vodka. The illustrated pages of the book-like menu can whisk you to happy places: cocktails with bubbles, a night filled with fresh remixes on the Negroni. With rad upholstered seating and ceilings to the sky, this bar is always a glorious place to be drinking.

Hanging out at UnderTow is exactly like sailing the seas in a 19th-century ship's hold — if your boatmates were thirsty hipsters instead of weathered seamen. From the moment you descend the staircase in the middle of Arcadia's Sip Coffee & Beer, you're in a drinking experience unlike anything else in metro Phoenix. The tiny underground space is adorned with faux portholes and barrels, tiki carvings and lanterns, to set the mood. Then come the drinks. UnderTow dropped a new menu in mid-September. Like the previous two iterations, it's divided into UnderTow originals and tiki classics, and most drinks on both sides of the menu are new to the bar's lineup. We like the fruity, potent Signal Fire, made with tequila, rums from three islands, orange curaçao, mango, habanero, orange, pineapple, and lime. Note that the bar only seats a couple of dozen people, which makes for a friendly atmosphere among the guests, but also makes a reservation (especially on the weekends) virtually mandatory.

The Gladly
The Gladly

Move over, Prescott. The real Whiskey Row is lined up behind the enormous chrome-and-glass bar at The Gladly in Phoenix, which offers more than 250 labels of bourbon, rye, American and Canadian whiskey, single-malt scotch, and blended scotch. And any of them can be served over a perfectly shaped ice ball, formed at your table. Magically, the ice takes two to three hours to melt, so it will cool your whiskey without watering it down. We took our ice ball (an extra $3) on a tour through familiar Kentucky bourbons — Woodford Reserve, Basil Hayden, and Angels Envy. The taste held up through all, and there was still enough left of our cute little ice ball that we could have taken it home with us. Next time, we'll bring a small cooler. We were also pleased to see our local favorite, Arizona Distilling's Copper City bourbon, standing tall among the heavy hitters at the bar, and at only $10 a shot. The Tempe product holds its own with middle-shelf Kentucky bourbons like Knob Creek and Maker's Mark. Our only disappointment was that the bar did not stock any 20-year or 23-year Pappy Van Winkle, the most elusive bourbon on the planet. You can buy it online for up to $2,000 a bottle. The Gladly does offer a 10-year Pappy for $60 a shot. That's cheap compared with Orphan Barrel's 26-year Old Blowhard bourbon for $110 a pour. You need balls of ice to pay that for a drink.

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