I couldn’t tell you the last time — if ever — I got drunk at a restaurant. I’ve had plenty of drinks at plenty of restaurants. I’ve been drunk, and then gone to restaurants; but going to a restaurant to get drunk is definitely something new to me.
The IHOP, now open on the corner of 17th Street and Camelback Road at Camelback Colonnade in central Phoenix, is the first physical location of the mega-chain in the country to have a full bar — so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to pop my metaphorical cherry. (Some airport locations serve alcohol.)
I walked into the brand-new IHOP (formerly known as IHOb) and took a look at the bar immediately on the left, which comfortably seats 20 or so patrons. The TVs were on, and a friendly bartender who doubled as a server for the bar section walked up and enthusiastically oversold the one-of-a-kind drink menu. If I hadn’t already planned on getting tanked at a pancake house, I would have agreed to have a drink. She did a great job pitching.
The drink menu, appropriately called “Rise and Shine,” has a dozen different specialty cocktails, four domestic beer options, a local craft beer from O.H.S.O Brewery, and also three California wines. For this purpose, I decided to stick with the cocktails, of which I tried just four.
First up, based on the recommendation of the friendly server, was the Frozen Cookies & Cream. A vanilla vodka-based drink with tons of cream, espresso, and more vanilla alcohol, was topped with whipped cream and three mini Oreos. The cocktail presented in a clear glass mug had a tad too much whipped cream drizzling over the sides, but that was the least of its problems.
The first six or seven sips I took tasted of pure flavored vodka that had been sitting out in the open for at least a few hours. Each time I took a sip it was even harder to swallow. I couldn’t believe there was a way to fuck up a cookies-and-cream blended drink, but lo and behold — here we were. As I gagged trying to get the rest of this “drink” down my throat — finally tasting Oreo — I glanced over the menu to figure out what I was going to drink next. I saved the cookies for last so I could try to redeem what was left of my taste buds. It helped a little.
Next up was the drink I was looking forward to most, because of its name: the Frozen Rooty Rita. If you’re familiar with the signature pancake option the Rooty, Tooty, Fresh ‘N Fruity, that's where this drink derives its name. Consider it an adult version if you will, but prepare for what you’re about to consume here.
Described as their “signature blended margarita with a fresh and fruity swirl of strawberry puree,” it does not look like the image on the menu.
A white slush mixed with what looks like red syrup comes in a pint topped with what I believe should be a fresh strawberry, but was actually a strawberry that was about an hour or so from shriveling up and going into the trash. I immediately tossed the fruit garnish and took a large glug of this drink. I can confidently say this was the nastiest thing I have ever consumed. The strawberry puree overpowered the margarita taste, and through almost every sip I had to subject myself to choking on full pieces of strawberry firing through my reusable straw (fuck plastic!) into my throat. I would have much rather enjoyed chugging the strawberry syrup on the table a la Super Troopers, rather than ever taste this colorful albeit nauseating beverage ever again. The only noticeable tequila flavor was from the top of the drink, where no red puree could be found. It was obviously not top-shelf tequila, maybe not even bottom shelf, but it still tasted better than whatever the fuck that puree was supposed to be.
When I ordered the margarita, I decided to order their Mulemosa at the same time and get a little double-fisting action going. Boy, am I glad I had this drink handy because it was necessary to get the flavor of the Rita out of my mouth. I have to admit, this Mulemosa was not half bad. It comes in a typical copper container filled with Regatta Ginger Beer, sparkling wine, a splash of orange juice all poured over ice, and garnished with mint. According to the menu, it's also garnished with lime, but as you can clearly see in the photo, that is an orange slice. I honestly couldn't tell you if it was good, or just a relief to taste something close to normal after the previous drink, but I downed this one pretty quickly. It was well carbonated and had plenty of flavor.
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Finally, I had to try one of the coffee cocktails on the menu. After all this is aimed for breakfast folk, and IHOP's coffee is not terrible. So my options were the Frozen IHOPachino, "a rich decadent blend of espresso, liqueur, and vanilla vodka topped with whipped cream" or the IHOP Irish, their "famous coffee swirled with smooth Irish Cream and Irish Whiskey." I chose option B. I couldn't handle another frozen drink, and I was cringing over how they opted to spell it with an "H." It's cappuccino, not cappuchino.
This Irish coffee was easily the best drink of the four I had sampled. Granted, the bar was very low, so this doesn't say much. But at least I could leave the IHOP bar not on a low note. I knew going in this wasn't going to taste like my favorite Irish coffee at The Buena Vista in San Fransisco, but I was at least surprised to find out they did not completely butcher this drink. With this being my final drink of the night, I got to the point where if I didn't gag while taking a sip, it was a win.
1743 East Camelback Road
Hours: Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Drink menu from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.