You could say Bitter & Twisted does something pretty rare when it comes to craft cocktail spots these days. While most change their menus with the seasons, the downtown Phoenix bar swaps out its cocktail offerings just once per year. But that’s because the menu — the drinks, the theme, and the overall design — is a work of art, a yearly dive into pop-culture history and cocktail lore alike.
Now the time has come for version 3.0 of the bar's “Book O’ Cocktails,” which will premiere Tuesday, May 3, to the public. With the new menu, Bitter & Twisted Proprietor Ross Simon dumps last year’s sci-fi theme and introduces an 8-bit video game-inspired menu billing "60+ amazing cocktails,” 21 of which are are new to the menu and at least a dozen of which are new to the world.
It includes the Cane & Enabler, a mix of yellow Chartreuse, cachaça, gin, banana liqueur, and eucalyptus. It looks dark and brooding, but guess again: It’s actually light, given its booziness, and the sweetness of the Chartreuse and the banana liqueur is kept in check by both the herbal quality of the eucalyptus and what Simon’s calling “reconstituted Virgin Island sea water.” It's actually a dash of salt, but serves as a nod-and-a-wink to overwrought cocktail menus everywhere.
You can also look forward to the easier-drinking Bear Witness. So far as appearances go, it’s the new version of last year’s L.I.T. Up cocktail, a drink that made use of an old Coca-Cola can. This time around, it’s an emptied honey bear squeeze bottle stuffed with Kikori whiskey, lemon, grapefruit, yuzu marmalade, and pink peppercorn honey syrup. The cocktail is served over crushed ice and garnished with a sprig of dill.
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A mood for something fruitier would you have reaching for the Quit Your Wining, which combines pineapple juice, raspberries, red wine, and vanilla for a tart, sweet, and refreshing beverage.
And that’s all in the first chapter. Another section called the Bitter Hall of Fame lists the bar's most famous creations (the L.I.T. Up is on there, and so is La Chocolat Sazerac), while still another introduces Fabulous Flying Negronis. It includes creative flavor-infused versions of the “one of the greatest cocktails ever created.” Options include chamomile, Earl Grey tea, rose, or jasmine.
As for multi-players, Bitter & Twisted's Duck Bath Punch — a punch served in a miniature bath tub that serves up to six — has landed on the menu full time. And right below it sits a single-serving, milk-clarified punch served in a tea cup that should not be missed. Elegant as the Queen’s tea, the “soft and creamy” cocktail invites good cheer. Its flavors will change seasonally.
So, if in the past you only had a fuzzy idea of what Bitter & Twisted had to offer as a cocktail concept and a late-night eatery, then the bar's third installment should clear things up. It's Bitter & Twisted at its sharpest, nearly every pixel in its rightful place.