Being Phoenix’s slowest season, summer is a time for Valley chefs and bartenders to try things out, a time to experiment with ingredients, themes, and personnel — to go off-brand a tad, like The Parlor did. The Biltmore-area restaurant and bar is going on eight years in business, and last Wednesday dropped a new fall menu.
Unlike the summer cocktail list, which boasted some funky poolside creations and tiki influence, the new menu returns to an emphasis on the garden-to-glass ethos, offering an education in bitter amari, the herbal liqueurs of Italy.
Bar manager Bryan McCarrick says the new menu, with a re-energized focus on Italian amari and the garden, is mindful of the restaurant's Southwestern surroundings. A few drinks expressively showcase the hybridized flavors of the Southwest and Italy. The boozy and stirred Give My Love To Rose plays with the Negroni formula (spirit, amaro, vermouth), blending smokey mezcal, spiced and syrupy Meletti amaro, sweet vermouth, and a touch of rose water to a fiery and elegant effect.
Two more examples of this Western drink style would be both the Agent Cooper, which mixes a forest-in-a-glass St. George Terroir Gin with lemon, spiced cherry, and Amargo Vallet, a Mexican amaro made in the Italian style, and the Life of Pablo, which balances tequila with grapefruit juice, lemon, soda water, and a float of Borsci, a bittersweet liqueur from San Marzano, Italy. It’s built tall over ice and drinks like a bitter, boozed-up winter-time Arnold Palmer.
The Valliere is a garden-to-glass French 75, but instead of gin it uses Zubrówka, a vodka flavored with a wild grass that offers flavors of coconut and vanilla, grouped with peach liqueur, cinnamon honey, sage, and Champagne to what the menu aptly describes as “sweet cinnamon bubbles.” The drink winds up being a successful bridge between summer and fall flavors.
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The goal, McCarrick says, was to create a menu that’s the best possible balance between adventurous and approachable, nerdy and casual.
After all of the Parlor’s years open, he says, “Our best seller is still the pepperoni pizza. Our best-selling drink is still the sangria. But 20 percent of our customer base still wants to try something new.”