Best Ice Cream 2019 | Sweet Republic | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Evie Carpenter

Ice cream is the perfect respite for Arizona's relentless summer heat, and there's no better place to cool off than Sweet Republic, owned by Helen Yung and Jan Wichayanuparp. Sweet Republic's rotating array of unique ice cream flavors will keep you coming back to try as many as you can. There are top-quality takes on classic flavors, like Madagascar vanilla, salted butter caramel, and apple pie, but the menu has also featured more exotic choices, like blue-cheese ice cream with Medjool dates. There are even vegan and gluten-free options for those who really can't resist the siren call of sweet ice cream, even when your diet would rather you did.

You can (and should) find Denae Hostetler's bean-to-bar chocolates at places like Moon Dust Farms in Mesa and Highland Yard Vintage in Chandler. Hostetler sources only Criollo beans for the arduous process of turning them to high-end chocolate. She winnows using a machine that her dad built, grinds using stone, and roasts in a common kitchen oven. The love and intention are there, rippling through a final product that makes big-name chocolate taste like birthday candle wax. Hostetler sells truffles and cacao discs for mixing and forming into the Mexican chocolate drink with ancient Aztec roots. If you consider yourself a more-than-casual chocolate fan, tracking down these bars is a must.

Songbird Coffee & Tea House is the kind of coffee stand that turns heads. Meaning, if you're unfamiliar, you'll spot Songbird while driving on Third Street in downtown Phoenix and wonder what it possibly could be. The inviting yard party-style tables, the welcoming front porch, and within, the cozy coffee shop, all make this place really ... sing. The historic house, built in 1904, offers classic coffee and tea choices on its tight menu. And that Espresso Spritzer will make you practically dance off the front steps. There are also house-made pastries, and breakfast sandwiches, and a staff that will learn your order, and probably your name, after a visit or two. To further solidify the community feel, coffee-lovers can also expect live music, storytelling, craft nights, and a number of other occasions happening at Songbird.

Iced coffee is a necessity in Phoenix, and its potential goes far beyond the ozone-murdering hellscape of EDM and teenage hypoglycemia that is the Dutch Bros. drive-thru. Finding your iced-coffee spot is a rite of passage, and you shouldn't settle for a commodified mixture of machine-pulled espresso and sugar that comes with questions like (gag) "How many pumps?" Then, there's the real grail quest: go-to cold brew. The balance between elements in a good cold brew is almost unattainable. (Think about how much money you've wasted on cold brew from concentrate at the grocery store, only to end up with chalky imitation mocha taste stuck to the roof of your mouth.) But where so many have tried and failed, beCoffee on Roosevelt shines with untouchable grace. Four words: spiced habanero cold brew. This stuff is incredible — all the flavor and intensity of habanero with the smoothest spiced roast you've ever imagined. This is the best treat in the dead of summer, especially when you think about how you never have to sit in a scorching chain coffee drive-thru again.

You're probably used to the most ubiquitous Arnold Palmer, a.k.a. the one at Starbucks. It's fine; it does the job. It only tastes terrible sometimes (all shade, all tea intended). You could do better though, and that's where Urban Beans' Arnold Palmer comes into play. There's a lot more about Urban Beans that we could gush about, but the Arnold Palmer is a refreshing start. Here's how you have to order it: 24 ounces, black tea, and don't mess with the sweetener (the baristas have that under control). When you get it, make sure it's well-mixed before you take a sip; once that's confirmed, you're good to go. That first sip is going to be the perfect balance of lemon and sweetness with the black tea peeking through. Keep in mind, we don't know any of the ratios the baristas at Urban Beans use; we just know it results in magic — absolute magic. We can taste it now. Are you on your way yet? Freshness is waiting.

There's an unexpected British surprise in Carefree — a chance to enjoy fancy English tea time. As you walk into the small British-style tea shop, it's an explosion of everything English: hand-painted teacups, over 50 types of tea, merchandise commemorating the royal family, and of course, pictures of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, and Diana's sons, William and Harry. Owner Jo Gemmill is a native Englander and knows how tea is served in Britain. It isn't just about the tea. There are scones with Devon cream and strawberry preserves, crumpets, and quiches, and to slide into Downton Abbey mode, you can wear hats during your proper tea time. Cheerio!

At a typical afternoon tea, you might nibble on some pastries, enjoy some scones with jam and clotted cream, and eat dainty cucumber sandwiches. At Tipsy Tea in the The Bees Knees dark-paneled bar inside The Camby, you still get the tiny crustless sandwiches, but with a bit more variety. Think a mango crab avocado slider or an Amarillo tater tot with caviar. Dessert is delivered in a cookie tin filled with colorful sprinkles and consists of delectables like pistachio cream pie and French macarons. And of course, there's the alcohol — it is named Tipsy Tea, after all. Tea is served hot or cold infused with liquor. Each spiked pot of tea is equivalent to throwing back a few cocktails, so they're perfect to split with a friend. If you're not feeling the tea concoctions, a glass of Champagne will do.

Best Place to Drink a Cup of Authentic Chai

Om Bistro

Skip the line at Starbucks and head to Om Bistro for authentic chai. Don't let the white Styrofoam cup fool you — the no-frills presentation is the only way chai should be served. The warm waft of spices somersaulting in the air indicate this chai hasn't been rushed, but was made just as the street vendors in India do it. One drink of this deep mocha blend of ginger, cardamom, black peppercorn, sugar, and real Indian tea grounds (not a liquid squirt of processed ingredients you cannot pronounce) will transport you to Bombay. As Bollywood videos flash on the screen and you listen to the sounds of Hindi, you'll understand why true chai-drinking isn't meant to be rushed. Grab a table, call some friends, and explore India's version of tea time in a strip mall in the middle of Phoenix.

Kava, a plant known in the South Pacific for its soothing qualities, caught on with New Age spiritualists many years ago, as did kratom, a stimulant native to Southeast Asia. Recently, both plants have found a new consumer base. The legal drugs are experiencing a boom among fitness junkies and young urban professionals. Enter Lacuna Kava Bar, a relatively new downtown drinking establishment where hippie-plant evangelists congregate day and night. Stop by for an afternoon study session propelled by a cool kratom prickly pear lemonade. Or, skip the bars on a Friday evening and enjoy a hangover-free "kava colada."

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.

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