Best Afternoon Tea 2020 | English Rose Tearoom | Food & Drink | Phoenix

In the midst of a global pandemic, English Rose Tearoom was there, packaging up to-go containers of sandwiches, petit fours, and scones with all the fixings as part of its curbside offerings. That was hardly a surprise. All year long — during regular years, at least — owner Jo Gemmill goes above and beyond, wowing adult and child guests alike with events like an afternoon with Edgar Allan Poe and a visit with Santa in July. Along with multiple variations of afternoon tea, menu items like the green apple, chicken, and Stilton salad; cottage pie; and mini teacups of the soup of the day make this place truly stand out. Bonus: There's a lifesize cutout of Queen Elizabeth herself you can pose with as you walk in. Do it for the 'gram.

If craft coffee is a foreign concept to you, visit Driftwood Coffee Co. in Old Town Peoria. This west Valley coffee house, founded in 2017 by buds and owners Luke Bentley and Lance Linderman, uses beans by Arizona companies like Mythical Coffee as well as other artisan roasters around the country, like Iowa's Horizon Line Coffee. The menu is divided into three sections: the speed bar, the slow bar, and the espresso bar; patrons can walk away with anything from a quick cold brew to something brewed via a Chemex, V60, or French press. Choose from an ever-changing menu of pastries, or just go straight for a specialty drink like the Dostoevsky (ginger beer, espresso, simple syrup, peach bitters, and lime). Other perks? Local art for sale, ceramic drinkware for in-house sipping, and a clean, simple space for work, chats, or just focusing on drinking these tasty, caffeinated bevs.

Lauren Cusimano

We were already crazy about Copper Star before we discovered they sell their own locally grown, house-roasted coffee beans. At first, we worried that owning a bag might keep us from the cozy confines of Copper Star, where the staff is so nice to us and the homemade bagels are so fresh and tasty. But even after dragging home a bagful of his mellow, rich beans, we found that we kept visiting Bill Sandweg's swell coffee shop as often as we could. As tasty as our home-brewed Copper Star is, as both a hot latte and a chilly iced coffee, we can't stay away from our favorite corner cafe.

We love a good buffet. Why commit to just one entree when there's so many different flavors to explore? Same with wine. Which is why we dig what Sorso Wine Room at Scottsdale Quarter does with its vino selection. Sure, Sorso has more than 100 wines by the bottle, so if you're the decisive type, go ahead and order a glass from that list. But we prefer to snag a wine card and help ourselves to one of the 32 wines available in the Sorso dispenser system. Each is available in a sip, taste, or glass size. Insert your card, press a button, and you get your desired portion. The card acts as your running tab. It allows us to try several wines while enjoying an Italian-leaning menu of bruschetta, flatbreads, sandwiches, salads, and more. Cheers to that.

Geri Koeppel

In the age of COVID, one can no longer wander into Chris Lingua's shop inside The Churchill, pepper him with questions, and fantasize about the bottles displayed on the north wall. Instead, his online store awaits. It contains the most thrilling selection of wine and wine-adjacent bottles in town. Lingua sells low-intervention wines, meaning natural-leaning bottles. This is progressive stuff, the opposite of your sleepy industrial cab from Napa. Lingua stocks biodynamic ciders, orange wines from the Puglia avant-garde producer Valentina Passalacqua, and experimental cocktails canned by alums of the groundbreaking Danish restaurant Noma. If you love to drink weird and well, going to Sauvage is like going to church.

Debby Wolvos

Not that it needs the validation, but FnB Restaurant was a semifinalist nominee for outstanding wine program for the James Beard Foundation 2020 awards (2017, too). The individual behind this lauded beverage program is Pavle Milic, who's also been FnB's co-owner since it opened in 2009. Milic curates a varied roster of mostly Arizona wines, a passion he brought home after helping with vintages at a friend's Napa winery. FnB offers Arizona bottles from Callaghan Vineyards in Elgin, Caduceus Cellars in Jerome, Laramita Cellars in Willcox, and Dos Cabezas WineWorks out of Sonoita. Any glass here should be enjoyed in the intimate bar area in the restaurant's eastern chamber. There, the dark-wood bar is inviting, and the intricate, colorful tile is fun and pretty iconic to Arizona food fans — it's an often-used and easily recognizable backdrop for food and drink photos. Milic is also in the process of opening his own vineyard, Los Milics, in Elgin, Arizona — one of Arizona's two southern wine regions — at some point in 2020.

Many Arizona wine producers led a different life before turning into vineyard parents in our arid state. Aside from Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan's Caduceus Cellars in Jerome, there's also Pillsbury Wine Company's Sam Pillsbury — a famous filmmaker turned winemaker. The New Zealand-to-Arizona journey Pillsbury made is storied, but we're here to talk about his products — Arizona wines, the best in the state. We're not the only ones who think so. Pillsbury continues to score awards from the San Francisco Chronicle American Wine Competition, earning 14 medals for 14 entries three years in a row. Want to try a bottle of WildChild Red, a bottle of WildChild White, or a bottle of One Night Stand rosé? Try spots like Hidden Track Bottleshop, Tracy Dempsey Originals, Sphinx Date Ranch, and the Arcadia Meat Market; big stores like Bashas', AJ's Fine Foods, and Total Wine; or metro Phoenix restaurants like Hearth '61, Persephen, Fabio on Fire, and The Breadfruit & Rum Bar. Or, the Pillsbury team will deliver in the Phoenix and Cottonwood areas with a six-bottle minimum order during the hotter months.

Imagine the taste of an apple. Sweet. Crisp. Sweet some more. You might think appley sugar is a necessary component of hard cider. But Stoic Cider, produced by the Routson clan and led by biologist Kanin Routson, turns out ultra-small-batch apple ciders so bereft of sugar they seem to wick moisture from your mouth. Stoic Cider reimagines what apple cider can be — tamping down sweetness, sharpening carbonation, and multiplying funk. The Routsons have elevated Arizona cider to a new, strange, beautiful, almost Champagne-like plane, and one that's different from bottle to bottle. At their on-farm cidery near Prescott, they ferment using unusual, well-considered apple varieties from across the American West. They also grow arcane apples on their farm, and even make spellbinding micro cider batches from wild fruit.

The Shop Beer Co. keeps things simple but executes well. The tasting room is clean and intimate; the staff is tight-knit and knowledgeable; the patio is a roomy backyard, softly lit. The latter, which separates the taproom from the onsite brewery, is a magnet for craft beer drinkers around Tempe and beyond. But they come for the beer, too. The Church Music is one of The Shop's best brews —a 6.7 percent IPA composed of pineapple juice and a little bit of "loud." Other tasty bevs include the Coffee Brown, an American nut-brown ale, the F.Y.I.T.M. double IPA, and the crispy blonde lager. Around since 2016, The Shop was formerly known as Cartel Brewery, but broke off from the flagship location of Cartel Coffee Lab to do its own thing about a mile north — where we hope they'll remain for years to come.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Months before Tales of the Cocktail and the James Beard Association anointed Little Rituals with nominations, the people who are very, very wonky about cocktails were frequenting this new downtown bar. It's the brainchild of Aaron DeFeo and Ross Simon, the latter the man behind Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour, just down the street. B&T is famously intense in its approach to mixology, and Little Rituals goes even further. A pink number unites miso-infused genever, lychee, and raspberry falernum. A daiquiri seamlessly integrates curry. An alliance of many amari chills under a frothy peak of salty foam, meant to conjure beachside drinking. If you want a glimpse of the cocktail's potential, post up at Little Rituals.

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