Arizona Distilling Co.
Evie Carpenter

Though the craft food and beverage movement has made giant leaps this century, small-scale distilling has lagged behind the pack. Not Arizona Distilling Company. This is one of the local providers of gin, vodka, and whiskey that you'll want to seek out. To some degree, all vodkas are the same. Hit the whiskeys. With a core roster of four, some of which use grains from elite local providers, this Tempe distillery has options to go with the medals it has scored over a few years of competition. Grab a tour of the distillery. Grab a classic cocktail in the Old Walrus cocktail lounge. Kick it and sip made-right-there bourbon with enough sweetness and depth to make you think you're in Kentucky.

Little Rituals
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Chanel Godwin-McMaken will forever be among the first wave of mixologists behind the bar at the 2019-established Little Rituals. As we've stated, the cocktail bar on the fourth floor of downtown's Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott is a step forward for cocktails in Phoenix, and that's in no small part because of Godwin-McMaken's talents. Need proof? She also got first place at the 2019 Last Slinger Standing competition in February. But if you need real-world evidence, walk through the beaded curtains of Little Rituals' entrance and see if she's hustling behind the bar. A drink from Godwin-McMaken, especially off the imaginative custom menu, will make your eyes reflexively close. You'll almost need to make sure you're sitting down. And after a few more sips, you'll need to be.

Sunrise Market is your one-stop, no-thrills-or-frills neighborhood liquor store with a bodega feel. Just leave your bike outside. Not only does Sunrise have a wider variety of adult beverages than your favorite gas station, it has your favorite Mexican candies and cleaning supplies in case your get-together gets a little messy. Oh, and its deli is now open for a late-night, next-morning snack. Back to the liquor. It has a whole shelving unit full of sake and an entire aisle of wine in case you're feeling fancy. Feeling trashy? There's a variety of under-$2 tallboys; you'll find one to fit your night's vibe. Surprisingly, the market also has a space in its fridge dedicated to ciders. Basically, Sunrise Market has it all, and no one's going to judge you (even if you pick up some White Claw).

Hash Kitchen
Hash Kitchen

Hash Kitchen had a good year, and that's because it finally saw the opening of its fourth location in the Arcadia neighborhood. And what that new location has, as do the other Hash Kitchen spots, is a 60-item, build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. It's a like a Golden Corral, but for your one drink. It goes like this: Pick your own house-infused vodka flavor, then your scratch-made Bloody Mary mix, then your salt. Then, things get weird. Toppings include everything from pickles, olives, bacon, and vegetables to beef jerky and fried ravioli. Therefore, the best Bloody Mary in town is the one of your own making. A trip to the Bloody Mary bar is $13, or you can spring for the 32-ounce Big Hash Bloody Mary for $34.

Carly's Bistro

Touting itself as Roosevelt Row's favorite bistro, Carly's has a list of rotating draft and bottled craft beer, wine, and signature cocktails. But the best cure for that midsummer, right-out-of-the-car feeling is the classic mojito, a mix of rum, mint, muddled lime, simple syrup, and soda water. The mint and lime hit simultaneously, making it entirely refreshing. You may also add fruit, like watermelon, strawberry, or blueberry, which is pureed and strained fresh every day. With local artwork, performers, and views of Roosevelt Street, consider it your go-to cocktail lounge as well as bistro.

There is nothing more satisfying than a perfectly chilled, filled-to-the-brim martini. Here's a rule to remember: If the first couple of sips from your martini aren't taken by craning your neck to the glass and sipping it, hands free, to avoid spillage, it doesn't belong in the best-of conversation. When your martini is delivered at AZ/88, it is chilled, garnished abundantly, and brimming like an infinity pool. This is one of those places where if you don't know to order a martini, you will be forever grateful when you find out. You will find yourself back at AZ/88, time and time again, craving what is simply one of the best classic martinis you will ever have.

Whining Pig Arcadia
Lauren Cusimano

Since its inception in 2013, the Whining Pig has become synonymous with "Phoenix wine bar." That's because there are now several locations throughout the Valley, like Arcadia, Gilbert, Ahwatukee, Desert Ridge, and downtown. But the wine is what makes customers knock off a little early to come in and hit the glass, meet friends, and maybe participate in some trivia. The Whining Pig's signature massive chalkboard menu offers an ever-changing selection of local and international wines and craft beers. For a quick snack, grilled cheese sandwiches and a pretty impressive meat and cheese plate are at the ready. Happy hour is 1 to 8 p.m. on the daily, which includes wine by the glass and all craft beers. But Whining Pig isn't just for post-work warriors, as every location is open late.

Avoiding the industry phrase loaded with cachet, Chris Lingua won't call his offerings "natural wines." He prefers similar nomenclature that gets at overlapping ideas — that very little sulfur and other additives have entered the mix, resulting in wines with room to develop groovier personalities. Lingua sources some good ones. Horizontally, they line the wall of his shipping-container nook in The Churchill, organized by price point. Offerings change daily, often considerably. He has stocked nero d'Avola and frappato blends from a progressive Sicilian vintner. Austrian zweigelt, sold in the state for the first time at his shop. Biodynamic cider from Oregon. This is the cutting edge of wine today. Locally, it lives in this tiny-but-mighty downtown shop.

We've changed our standards for judging the state's best wines this year. The winners have to be available at retail outlets in the Phoenix area. Arizona's wine industry is still relatively small, and most labels are only available in tasting rooms or from the wine clubs of the vintners. Case in point: The most honored white wine in the state this year was Pillsbury's 2015 Bonnie Lee malvasia, which was the only Arizona wine to win a Best in Class at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in January. But we couldn't find the malvasia at any local outlets. That's why we selected Pillsbury's 2015 WildChild White, which we found for around $20 at Total Wine and AJ's Fine Foods. The WildChild from film director Sam Pillsbury's vineyard always has been a favorite, and it was awarded two gold medals in San Francisco. The dry varietal is a blend of chenin blanc, riesling, and viognier grapes. It paired perfectly with walleye served hot off the grill.

In this category, the judgment of the experts worked beautifully with the availability of the wine. The 2015 Aguileon totally dominated the 2018 AZCentral Arizona Wine Competition, winning both Best in Show and Best Red Wine for winemakers Todd and Kelly Bostock. It's another blend, primarily of Spanish tempranillo and graciano grapes with a taste of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and petite syrah tossed into the vat. We found the wine, priced around $30, at both Total Wine and AJ's Fine Foods. We took it home and immediately tried it with a seared porterhouse, medium rare, and the bottle was empty just like that. It's well worth the price and the accolades.

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