With proprietor Ross Simon at the helm since the start menu, the team at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour have navigated their way through three expert levels of meteorite fields and alien invasions, of time-traveling phone booths and H.G. Wells fever dreams. All this, amid the ever-looming threat of attack, should it come at the free hand of a martini-wielding 50-foot woman, painted on the back wall of the Downtown Phoenix cocktail bar.
Tonight, when service begins at 4 p.m., Simon and his cocktail crew will unveil their fourth annual Book O’ Cocktails to the public. This is their first menu update since receiving a Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar nomination for the 2016 Spirited Awards, the Oscars of the cocktail world.
This time, you’re invited to gather ‘round and drink from the looking glass, so to speak — Simon has transitioned from a portrait-oriented booklet into that of a landscape storybook, brought to life by New York illustrator Matt Andrews. The story unfolds by bravely tiptoeing through the familiar, yet alcohol-askew realms of your favorite childhood picture books and animated films. Best to leave the kids at home with a babysitter.
If you’ve imbibed at Bitter & Twisted before, you’ll notice Simon has left in the hits — pages of not only best-selling originals created at the bar, but retro drinks, cocktails from friends in the bar community around the world, and classic cocktails and their riffs — for example, a beloved section of Negronis infused with flavors like chamomile and Earl Grey via sous vide.
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And upon opening the book, you’ll see that the bar team has concocted a handful of original cocktails created expressly for the new menu. As with every B&T list, expect a range from seemingly simple drinks to unabashedly complex ones — nearly all with inventive, novel garnishes done in a style you’re more likely to find at eccentric top-flight bars overseas than those readily found in the U.S.
For an example of the straightforward, there's the Smokin’ Pear, a mix of smoky mezcal and herbal liqueurs, which gets served in a chilly, stemmed cocktail glass, with a simple, spliced lemon peel sitting on the rim. On the other side of the spectrum, the Taste The Rainbow shakes up house-infused kaffir lime gin with sloe-berry gin and fresh lime, pineapple, and strawberry, and gets a tricolor rainbow dusting atop its foamy hat.
Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour is located at 1 West Jefferson Street. Hours are 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call 602-340-1924 or visit the website.