Returning for its sixth year, Arizona Cocktail Week will take place February 17-24. Growing in reputation since its inception, the annual event and celebration of the Arizona’s spirit and cocktail industry has become one of the Southwest’s most visible bar-related events, capable of attracting national talents to host its seminars, throw its parties, and compete in its Last Slinger Standing competition. While some will take place around Phoenix and in Tucson, most of the seminars, events, and parties will take place at Old Town Scottsdale’s Hotel Valley Ho.
The official drink of Arizona Cocktail Week was crowned Friday evening at Counter Intuitive, the Old Town Scottsdale cocktail bar. The organizers of 2017 Cocktail Contest, which challenged bartenders to create an Southwest-inspired drink incorporating chile pepper flavor, had already narrowed submissions from across the country down to just three finalists. Local social media personality and cocktail blogger Elliot Clark (@apartment_bartender) won for his Zonie Land beverage, made from locally sourced mesquite-smoked whiskey, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, orange and lime juices, almond-based orgeat syrup, and pineapple syrup, garnished with a sprig of mint.
As for the must-attend events, the week will kick off with the signature Cocktail Carnival, a party with more than 25 spirit and cocktail tasting stations, and will end with Last Call, a food and cocktail party hosted by Jack Daniels. And of course we’ve already briefed you on the event's first ever marijuana-studded food and beverage seminar, so here are 5 more (of many) events we’re excited for:
Last Slinger Standing
Monday, February 20, 7-10 p.m.
The Yard, Tempe
One of the week’s premiere events sees teams from the Southwest’s various United States Bartender’s Guild Chapters — Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Austin, and, of course, Arizona — pitted against each other in an elimination-round bartending competition. Last year, the New Mexico team took top prize. This year, Clint Spotleson (of Second Story Liquor Bar), Piroose Hajizadeh-Amini (of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour), and Ella Perez (of The Gladly and UnderTow) will be representing Team Phoenix.
The Art of the Tiki
Saturday, February 18, 12:30-2 p.m.
Hotel Valley Ho
Among the most highlighted talent across the week will be Martin Cate, owner of San Francisco’s Smuggler’s Cove (last in town last September for a book-signing event), the reigning Spirited Awards Best American Cocktail Bar, who will be speaking alongside Georgi Radev, of London’s Mahiki nightclub. They’ll be diving into Polynesian Pop stylings and Tiki’s deep American roots, and giving insight into the future of the genre. Meanwhile, you’ll be drinking fine tiki beverages and shopping at a bazaar showcasing works from some of the Southwest’s greatest tiki artists.
Sunday, February 19, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Hotel Valley Ho
Flair bartending took on a life of its own after surfacing to mainstream audiences during the early days of TGI Fridays. Top flair bartenders Moe Isaza and Chris Cardone will be putting on a show, surely, but centered around a conversation about showmanship and what bartenders can do to entertain guests and set themselves apart from the pack. Part workshop, bartenders and flair hopefuls will even learn some beginner-level techniques.
Sunday, February 19, 12:30-2 p.m.
Hotel Valley Ho
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London is home to some of the flashiest and highest quality bars in the world. Speaking at the British Invasion seminar, among a few others including Radev, will be Declan Padraic McGurk, who manages London’s American Bar at the Savoy Hotel, currently ranked by The World’s 50 Best Bars academy as number two in the world and number one in Europe. They’ll speak to what makes London’s bar atmosphere so unique, and the factors that have contributed to its rise as one of the best cocktail cities around.
This is Tucson Cocktail Showcase
Wednesday, February 22, 7-10 p.m.
Playground Lounge, Tucson
Tucson is home to not only one of the Arizona’s most exciting restaurant scenes, but one of its most original cocktail scenes as well. Loaded with Southwestern ingredients, spirits, purveyors, and flavors, Tucson’s bartenders are locked into what makes the Southwest such an exciting culinary playground. This showcase brings Tucson’s best together for a night of libations and fundraising for the Jupiter Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to advance the bartending craft via education and events.
A full list of events, pricing, and advanced ticket-purchasing can be found on Arizona Cocktail Week's official event page.