Best of Phoenix

Classic Summer Cocktails and Where to Find Them in Phoenix

Try not too many of the Zombies over at The Ostrich.
Try not too many of the Zombies over at The Ostrich. Lauren Cusimano
Refreshing citrus, a few flourishes, and hard alcohol. That’s all you need to create a great summer cocktail, and a number of the classics can be found in the Valley. From the famed Tequila Sunrise, which originated in Phoenix at the Arizona Biltmore, to margaritas and tiki go-tos like the Zombie, piña colada, and daiquiri, we have assembled a list of where to find some of your favorite summer drinks across metro Phoenix.

click to enlarge The Tequila Sunrise was created right here in Phoenix. - COURTESY OF THE ARIZONA BILTMORE
The Tequila Sunrise was created right here in Phoenix.
Courtesy of the Arizona Biltmore
Tequila Sunrise at the Arizona Biltmore
2400 East Missouri Avenue
One of the essential drinks of the Valley, the famed Tequila Sunrise actually originated in Phoenix, or so they say. Apparently, a guest of the Arizona Biltmore in the 1930s asked barman Gene Sulit to whip up something tequila-based yet refreshing enough to drink outside by the pool. The original recipe calls for tequila, soda water, crème de cassis, and fresh lime – which is what you'll get at this hotel.

click to enlarge The house margarita at Barrio Café. - MELISSA CAMPANA
The house margarita at Barrio Café.
Melissa Campana
Margarita at Barrio Café
2814 North 16th Street
Since its establishment in 2002 by Wendy Gruber and Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, Barrio Café has been serving up well-known margaritas to thirsty patrons on the daily. There’s a whole section of margaritas to start off the menu, grabbing your attention with the Lowrider Margarita (Don Julio Blanco tequila, fresh lime juice, and Cointreau). There’s also the Flor De Jamaica Margarita with Tesoro Silver tequila, hibiscus flower reduction, and Grand Marnier. And there's the house classic – the Margarita de la Casa, made with blanco tequila.

click to enlarge Try not too many of the Zombies over at The Ostrich. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Try not too many of the Zombies over at The Ostrich.
Lauren Cusimano
Zombie at The Ostrich
10 North San Marcos Place, Chandler
The Ostrich is the perfect place to order up a couple of summer cocktails. It’s dark, underground, and historic – with a history stretching back to 1912 (not as a tiki bar, of course). And this being an upscale bar in downtown Chandler, the drinks are as imaginative as they are strong. We recommend the house cure-all, a.k.a. the Zombie. It’s a blend of Puerto Rican and Jamaican rum, Demerara 151 (more rum), Velvet Falernum, grenadine, Zombie Ostrich mix, and fresh lime. Back in 1934, patrons were only allowed to have two. We recommend you cut yourself off at two as well before heading back up those stairs.

click to enlarge The Limoncello at Cibo is great. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
The Limoncello at Cibo is great.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
Limoncello at Cibo
603 North Fifth Avenue
Another essential drink of the Phoenix area, the limoncello at Cibo is a house-made liqueur meant for after-dinner sipping. The Italian lemon liqueur glows yellow, consisting of lemon, sugar, water, and grain alcohol. Cibo's take has been created by chef Guido Saccone. He has been using the same family recipe since he started whipping them up in 2005. The digs at Cibo are almost as impressive, and you’re encouraged to enjoy your limoncello inside the historic bungalow at the bar, or under the twinkle lights on the restaurant's scenic patio or lawn. This technically isn't a cocktail, but is so good for summer drinking we had to make the recommendation.

click to enlarge The addictive Carly's Colada at Carly's Bistro. - CARLY'S BISTRO
The addictive Carly's Colada at Carly's Bistro.
Carly's Bistro
Pina Colada at Carly's Bistro
128 East Roosevelt Street
The Carly's Colada at Carly's Bistro in the Roosevelt Arts District is a fun mix of flavors, and they go down fast and smooth. The cocktail is comprised of rumchata, creme de banana, and pineapple juice. The Roosevelt Row eatery and bar offers the Carly's Colada all summer, and you can enjoy them at the colorful bar, one of the many tables in the dining room, or – may we suggest – the patio. Out there, you can people-watch with your new favorite summer beverage.

click to enlarge Hemingway’s Daiquiri at The Breadfruit & Rum Bar – a sugary work of art. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Hemingway’s Daiquiri at The Breadfruit & Rum Bar – a sugary work of art.
Lauren Cusimano
Daiquiri at The Breadfruit & Rum Bar
108 East Pierce Street
There are a couple of fun daiquiri options at The Breadfruit & Rum Bar. A section of Dwayne Allen's cocktail menu is called Classics Revisited, and the Selector’s Daiquiri tops the list. Choose your rum, and they stir it up with lime and sugar. But we propose Hemingway’s Daiquiri – a blend of Matusalem Platino rum with maraschino liqueur, grapefruit, lime, and Demerara sugar. It looks as fun as it tastes, and is best enjoyed at the bar, where you watch the liquid magic right before your eyes at this tucked-away Jamaican bar and eatery.

Mai Tai at Undertow
3620 East Indian School Road
Another underground tiki bar offering a fun atmosphere and great cocktail menu, Undertow kicks out quite a mean drink or two. Though they have a slew of signature cocktails, a portion of their drink menu is dedicated to the storied classics. Topping the list is the Mai Tai, which the menu dutifully notes was established in 1944. They mix overproof Jamaican rum, aged rum from Martinique, curacao, and lime. Get it in a classic wooden tiki mug if you can, and we’ll see you on the other side.

Mojito at Fuego Bistro
713 East Palo Verde Drive

The mojito is a perfect summer drink thanks to the refreshing soda water, mint, and lime. And if you enjoy a flavored mojito, your best bet is Fuego Bistro. They have a classic lime mojito – mixing Matusalem rum with mint, lime, syrup, and soda – plus over a dozen flavored options for a fun addition. Think blood orange, prickly pear, pomegranate, blackberry, coconut, mango, pineapple, peach, and more.

click to enlarge The Painkiller #3 at Beckett's Table - BECKETT'S TABLE
The Painkiller #3 at Beckett's Table
Beckett's Table
Painkiller at Beckett's Table
3717 East Indian School Road
The Classic Painkiller #3 at Beckett's Table comes with the tagline, “A sailing vacation in a glass, fortified with a generous ‘tot’ of rum for good measure.” This Arcadia area eatery’s answer to the Painkiller mixes Pusser’s Rum with orange juice, pineapple juice, cream of coconut, and a dusting of fresh nutmeg – all topped with an orange slice. Closed Mondays for dinner, Beckett’s Table does offer Social Hour from 5 to 6:30 p.m. daily. Note: the Classic Painkiller #3 is not on the Social Hour menu, so plan accordingly.

click to enlarge Rita’s Red Sangria at Rita’s Kitchen in the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. - COURTESY OF RITA’S KITCHEN
Rita’s Red Sangria at Rita’s Kitchen in the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa.
Courtesy of Rita’s Kitchen
Sangria at Rita’s Kitchen
5402 East Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale
Set at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, Rita's Kitchen is known for its ambiance, Sunday brunch, and sangrias. Rita’s Red Sangria is spotted on the hand-crafted cocktails section of the drink menu, and includes a blend of red wine, freshly squeezed orange juice, chunks of fruit, vanilla, and cinnamon. It’s recommended you enjoy this drink order on the patio, but you know, we won’t fault you for staying in the A/C.

Bonus Drink: Classic Bellini at MercBar
2525 East Camelback Road
At MercBar, a swanky classic cocktail lounge, they have a dangerously good blend of Prosecco and white peach puree. Come summer, there's nothing like a classic Bellini.
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Lauren Cusimano is Phoenix New Times' food and drink editor. She is a journalist and food waste writer based in Tempe. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.
Contact: Lauren Cusimano