36 Below owners Josh Katz, Moe Murillo, and Sheldon Wiley say 36 Below, which opened in July, was inspired by the 36th verse of Genesis 2:5, the story of creation. The verse describes a fertile world where no shrubs or small plants have yet sprung up because two essential elements were missing: rain and someone to nurture the garden.
It'll cost you to enter this biblical promised land, though: Reservations are $25 per person and are credited to your tab.
The 600-square-foot subterranean space is adorned with various plants and greenery to give the feel of a modern greenhouse. As you descend the staircase, it’s like transitioning to another world. The attendant checks you in, then opens the rope, club-style. Lush leafy panels line the two sides of the staircase. Wall-to-wall VR screens display images to transport you away from the triple-digit heat of Phoenix. When we stopped by, one side projected images of mountains; the other, bistro chairs and tables in a garden setting. Two wall fountains rounded out the garden ambiance. Here, it’s easy to forget you live in the desert.
For small bites, a charcuterie board is available on most days. But by the time we arrived at 7:15 p.m. on a Saturday in early September, they had run out.
The menu consists of four parts: Spirituous, Non-alcoholic, Wine, and Beer. We focused on the most creative section, Spirituous. (If all 36 Below's servers are as friendly and knowledgeable as Becca, you are in good hands. Take heed of the recommendations.) Here's what we thought of some of those cocktails:
—Genesis, a vodka martini, arrived in a martini glass with tentacles and “36” inscribed on its surface in matcha powder. Refreshing and peach-forward, it had a faint lychee flavor. The matcha gave the last few sips a perfectly earthy finish.
—Purity and Grace, an amber liquid, was presented in a swan vessel. It was reminiscent of a good Old Fashioned, but with Anejo tequila and mezcal for a smoky touch. Gents, this is a solid drink!
—Garden of Gypsies wins the award for Best Presentation. The pea flower-infusion of the Tanqueray imparts a beautiful purple as it's mixed at your table. One of us had trouble finding harmony between the sweet and savory flavors. The other swore it tasted like Thanksgiving.
—Coco Arcadian is 36 Below’s take on the pina colada, served in a round glass with a totem-pole stem. The turmeric foam was a serenade to the tastebuds. But that was just the beginning of the sublime cocktail. It remained airy despite the layers of flavor: hints of cinnamon, lime, and turmeric shining through coconut and pineapple. Big thumbs up.
—Utopia, a s’mores-inspired drink, came under a smokey glass cloche and a marshmallow clipped to the side of the glass, toasted table-side. It’s a traditional Old Fashioned with cinnamon bitters in the bottom. This is what we call glamping!
All in all, we enjoyed the vibe of 36 Below, and plan to go back with friends and family. According to Katz, they're working on an event room called the Rose Garden that will host special events (bachelorette parties, baby showers, etc.) and should be open by the end of October.
You can find up-to-date information on the bar's Instagram page.
3620 East Indian School Rd
Hours: 3 p.m. to midnight every day