Best of Phoenix

Best of Phoenix 2021: The Valley's Best Beverages and Places to Drink

A selection from inside the Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. downtown location.
A selection from inside the Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. downtown location. Lauren Cusimano
In the Valley, it can get awfully hot, and nothing hits the spot better than a refreshing beverage, with or without a little kick. When it's time to quench your thirst, day or night, check out these local spots that earned a Best of Phoenix award in 2021.

Best Boba

Share Tea
21001 North Tatum Boulevard, #36-1230

The lines are always long at Share Tea. Don't worry, though: the orders are taken quickly, and within a few minutes, your whole crew will be slurping that sweet boba. A bestseller is the Pearl Black Milk Tea, with boba that's soft and not too chewy and a sweetness level custom-made to match your preferences. We also recommend the Happy Family, which boasts five toppings — red bean, nata de coco, normal pearls, mini pearls, and pudding — in one boba drink. If the mood is for something not-so-milky, an alternate option is mango or peach mojito. You'll find yourself wanting to come back for more boba, and good news: Repeat customers are rewarded with a stamp card where you get one on the house after buying 10 drinks.

click to enlarge At Futuro, coffee and pastries look like art. - ALLISON YOUNG
At Futuro, coffee and pastries look like art.
Allison Young

Best Coffeehouse

909 North First Street

Inside a room that feels like being enclosed in a box of glossy computer paper, Jorge Ignacio Torres oversees the most vibrant coffee program in Phoenix. Futuro exists inside Palabra, the multipurpose downtown space that also houses the eatery Pasado, a hair salon, and rotating displays of up-to-the-minute avant-garde art. The coffee, much of it single-origin, pushes new limits creatively, making you reconsider what coffee can be. Innovative blends like a double espresso with milk and marzipan candy, or cold brew with nectarine, honeysuckle, and cream often come in stemless wine glasses when iced, hand-thrown ceramics when hot. Torres' beans and whimsical-yet-rigorous flavor weavings have deep roots in Mexico. Classics like cafe de olla and cajeta latte feel brand new.
Roastery of Cave Creek - ROASTERY OF CAVE CREEK
Roastery of Cave Creek
Roastery of Cave Creek

Best Cold Coffee

Roastery Of Cave Creek (Roc 2)
7003 East Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek

With two decades of roasting experience and some of the most sought-after roasting machinery in the world in his shop, Kansas transplant Dave Anderson and his Cave Creek crew roll out the red carpet for coffee beans, bringing them to their full pre-brew flavor at Roastery of Cave Creek. He started canning his nitro cold brew a few years ago. It has a deeply frothy head that could give Guinness a run for its money and such an astonishing array of lightly nutty, malty, fragrant flavors that it almost seems like you aren't drinking coffee — until its buzz zaps you like a thunderbolt. Wake up with one of these, and a big day is pretty much guaranteed.

click to enlarge Brittany Martinez-Chavez and Raul Chavez, proprietors of Native Coffee Co. - CHRIS MALLOY
Brittany Martinez-Chavez and Raul Chavez, proprietors of Native Coffee Co.
Chris Malloy

Best Mobile Coffee

Native Coffee Co.

Pulling up to this sky-blue, cloud-white, wood-paneled coffee trailer with a psychedelic saguaro painted on its door feels like a block party at Mobile Coffee Co. Whether they're parked in their customary lot in downtown Tolleson or elsewhere, Raul Chavez and Brittany Martinez-Chavez sling their fun latte riffs to big crowds. They use Quetzal Co-Op coffee and mix espresso-based drinks like a Mexican hot chocolate mocha and a churro latte. Drinks are sweet and iced and giant, the best ones a touch or more crazy. The two also brew mean teas, some from Native Seeds/SEARCH, like prickly pear and desert mint. But the coffees deserve their star turn. They're just so unique: Mexican in spirit with Akimel O'odham influences and plenty of whimsy.

click to enlarge Moxie Coffee - MOXIE COFFEE
Moxie Coffee
Moxie Coffee

Best Coffee Shop To Work At

Moxie Coffee Co.
4626 North 16th Street, #101

The intersection of 16th Street and Highland Avenue is a chaotic one, packed with impatient motorists making their way to or from the State Highway 51 ramp a few blocks away. As of this year, though, you can escape to chill vibes inside Moxie Coffee Co., which opened up shop in May inside one of the ground-level retail spaces beneath a luxury apartment complex called The Art on Highland. The coffee shop, owned by Matt Heltzel, is airy, white, and clean, with high ceilings and lots of natural light. It's also large enough that we've never struggled to find a table to work, despite it always being fairly busy there. There are several long tables for collaborative work/study sessions, square two-seaters, a row of high chairs overlooking 16th Street, and some patio seating out front. Plus, the tables are spread out nicely, meaning you won't be distracted by the next table's conversation (and you'll be less likely to get COVID from them). Order a nitro or a New Orleans-style iced coffee (cold brew with chicory and house-made vanilla, topped with cream), arrange your stuff on the table, and breathe in the freshly roasted tranquility. Time to get to work.

click to enlarge Wren House Brewing Co. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Wren House Brewing Co.
Lauren Cusimano

Best Brewery

Wren House Brewing Company
2125 North 24th Street

Little Wren has grown up. Once a small, charming, upstart brewery operating out of a cramped bungalow, Wren House has multiplied its production capacity with an off-site facility and has opened a biergarten in Prescott called The Prairie Patio. Even with all this, Wren House hasn't taken even a half-step back in quality or lost a drop of charm. The IPAs leveled up a few years ago. More classic styles like pilsner (Valley Beer) remain first-rate, and Wren still makes what might be the state's best stout in Jomax. So many classic styles are well executed. So many newcomers are still inspired. Cheers to Wren taking flight.

click to enlarge There are plenty of good options at Tombstone Brewing North. - CHRIS MALLOY
There are plenty of good options at Tombstone Brewing North.
Chris Malloy

Best New Brewery

Tombstone Brewing North
3935 East Thomas Road

We're going to shoot straight with you here: Tombstone Brewing isn't a new Arizona brewery. But it's new to Phoenix. In October 2020, respected head brewer Weedy Weidenthal took over the fermentation tanks at the old Helio Basin Brewing, expanding the production and style capacity of Tombstone and giving this top-tier Arizona brewery a northern outpost. Tombstone is known largely for its dank, juicy, giant IPAs, doubles and triples with pleasant hoppy nuances despite their power. Tombstone's range is total. From trendy pastry sours to old-school barley wines and English bitters, the brew crew cranks out reliably delicious beers. In the case of strong IPAs and special releases, they're often spectacular.

click to enlarge Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
Lauren Cusimano

Best Beer Garden

Arizona Wilderness DTPHX
201 East Roosevelt Street

True statement: Everyone goes to Wilderness. The Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.'s second location, the downtown Phoenix beer garden, turned out to be more successful than its first (which is saying something). Upon opening in spring 2019, it became instantly Phoenix-famous thanks to its biggest draw — the patio. This outdoor beer garden is massive, covered with a thick sunshade, and bird-friendly. (During the pandemic, the team installed native plants to attract native birds and bugs, embracing the brewery's name.) Inside, you'll find cold pints of Refuge, the "flagship IPA incepted in our founder's garage," the DON'T F#%K IT UP Blonde Ale, the water-conserving, Belgian-style witbier Sonora White, and many more signature brews (as well as cocktails and above-average bar food, heavy on Arizona ingredients).

click to enlarge The Shop Beer Co. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The Shop Beer Co.
Lauren Cusimano

Best Brewery For Day-Drinking

The Shop Beer Co.
922 West First Street

One of the great things about The Shop Beer Co. is how excellent the patio is for kicking it with a brew or many, the hours draining away like the first-rate IPA and blonde lager. The patio's casual, high-energy atmosphere is made for session drinking: long picnic tables, fun murals, trees wavering in the breeze. It's all illuminated by hard desert sunlight by day and string lights by night. You couldn't ask for a better place to attend church — crush a few cans of Church Music, that is — or sip the latest can in the brewery's Neonic series, a line of fruited sours. Post-COVID, this patio is going to be a blast.

Best Craft Beer

Helton Boysenberry Sour
2144 East Indian School Road

Longtime craft beer maestro Todd Helton uses 88 pounds of Oregon boysenberries for every batch of his Boysenberry Sour. This brew, the best staple at Helton (yes, better than the pilsner), is made for sipping or flat-out crushing under the desert sun. It's bright and crisp with a rounded tartness and the lush, mellow fruit of the berries blushing through. This sour is complex yet cohesive. Somehow, it seems to take on a new personality based on the food you eat while enjoying a bottle or two. Sours are a difficult style, and Helton has cemented his year-round staple as the most memorable version made in Phoenix.

Best Made-In-AZ Beverage

Arizona Sake's Desert Snow

By now, many drinkers have heard the legend of Atsuo Sakurai, a sake brewer who traded Japan for Holbrook and painstakingly crafts Arizona Sake — at first out of his garage, now out of a modest sake brewery. Sakurai's standard sake, his junmai ginjo, is indeed excellent. But one of his rarer bottles, Desert Snow, is even better. Desert Snow is sparkling. In the bottle, this gray-white unfiltered rice brew looks about as cloudy as fresh-squeezed lemonade. All of that extra sediment brings an unreal, milky goodness. The fizz adds liftoff. Sometimes you can find this sake on higher-end menus around town, but you might have to head to Holbrook.

Sorso Wine Room in Scottsdale. - GRACE STUFKOSKY
Sorso Wine Room in Scottsdale.
Grace Stufkosky

Best Wine Bar

Sorso Wine Room
15323 North Scottsdale Road, #150, Scottsdale

You've got an incredible amount of choices at this independent and locally owned wine room that boasts a selection of 125 wines from Italy, Spain, and Australia, as well as California and Oregon. You can order off the menu by the glass or the bottle, or you can take part in what we love best about Sorso: the wine dispensers. Put money on a wine card, then use that card to pick from the 32 wine dispensers around the Sorso dining room. Each wine in the dispensers comes in three sizes/price points — sip, taste, and pour — allowing you to maximize your explorations. Of course, if you're drinking that much, you should probably eat something, and Sorso's got you covered with an Italian-leaning menu of bruschetta, salads, sandwiches, and flatbreads. We recommend sitting out on the patio when the weather cooperates; people-watching at Scottsdale Quarter only adds to the experience.

Low-intervention wine bottles on the sound-absorbent cork wall at Sauvage. - CHRIS MALLOY
Low-intervention wine bottles on the sound-absorbent cork wall at Sauvage.
Chris Malloy

Best Wine Shop

Sauvage Bottle Shop
901 North First Street, #109

When The Churchill opened, Phoenix got its first new-age natural wine shop. Over the few years since, Sauvage has transformed into something more: an epicenter of cutting-edge wine drinking in Phoenix. Sauvage has channeled the zeitgeist, not by following the national trends but by leading with Chris Lingua's opinions, tastes, selections, and friendliness. Sauvage stocks experimental liquors from Empirical Spirits and vino from growers who do things the old way, the organic way, which has now become the progressive way. His little shop is like a tiny Valhalla for adults who drink boldly and honestly. Sparkling sangiovese. A deep selection of orange wine. High-end bacanora. Sublime bottles at painless prices.

click to enlarge The Liquor Wheel has been a mainstay of East McDowell Road in Phoenix since its opening in the 1950s. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
The Liquor Wheel has been a mainstay of East McDowell Road in Phoenix since its opening in the 1950s.
Benjamin Leatherman

Best Liquor Store

Liquor Wheel
3445 East McDowell Road

Should we tell of all the things we should not have done because of products we bought at Liquor Wheel? The answer is a hard no. So let's talk about the venerable institution itself, which has been around since the 1950s. We've been going there since the late '80s, and if you're a longtime Phoenician, you've probably been there, too. The Aranki family bought it in 1999 and added title loans to its repertoire, but little else has changed. Its offbeat name, which apparently refers to its drive-thru and is emblazoned in blue-and-red neon, has always made the place stand out as the gritty liquor store it is. The location in south-south-Arcadia is perfect for all the low-rent apartments in the area. And the booze selection will appeal to both sommeliers and the average working man or woman. Going back to the Liquor Wheel is as natural as the Circle of Life.
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