At Lylo Swim Club, a Phoenix Cocktail Master Takes a Tropical Turn

Opposable Rums, one of the more complex cocktails at Ross Simon's new Lylo Swim Bar.
Opposable Rums, one of the more complex cocktails at Ross Simon's new Lylo Swim Bar. Chris Malloy
When testing cocktails for Lylo Swim Club, an outdoor bar that opened in September in the new boutique hotel Arrive Phoenix, celebrated bartender Ross Simon met a familiar but new obstacle: heat.

Phoenix can be hot as hell. Most cocktails need to be very cold. Simon, known for his martini’s polar chill, can blast the air conditioning at his downtown bars — Bitter & Twisted and Little Rituals — but not at a pool bar under the sun.

And so Simon adjusted, editing recipes to account for the heat. At Lylo, cocktails come in chilled glasses. And a few even have cooling elements, like ice cream or sorbet.

click to enlarge Lylo's bar area, just across from Arrive Phoenix. - CHRIS MALLOY
Lylo's bar area, just across from Arrive Phoenix.
Chris Malloy
Lylo Swim Club (400 West Camelback Road) feels like a new album in Simon’s catalog, one with riffs and choruses echoing what came earlier while reaching new territory. Cocktails here don’t have the intense, erudite, unlikely-mad-scientist spirit that they do at Bitter & Twisted. They’re even further from Little Rituals, a deeply progressive cocktail bar built for students and attentive lovers of the cocktail.

This, of course, is all by design. Though some commonalities run through all three — fresh juices, house-made cordials, high-end ice, whimsy, etc. — Simon has cruised Lylo down a different road.

That road? You’ll need suntan lotion and a towel to see. Simon dove into the pool theme.

“I jumped at the opportunity because it was out of my box,” he says, recalling his response when approached by Arrive. “I really wanted to just have a bar that focused a little more toward rum, not just go around the tiki experiment, but have an outdoor oasis.”

At Lylo, Simon simplifies his style but keeps his rigor.

His target: “approachable, balanced cocktails” for people who dig resort bars, aren’t necessarily craft cocktail wonks, and love “tasty drinks.” Pool bar drinks tend to underwhelm, Simon says, and with Lylo he, “Really just wanted to make sure that you’re getting a bang-up cocktail.”

click to enlarge Lylo Swim Bar's pool. - CHRIS MALLOY
Lylo Swim Bar's pool.
Chris Malloy
Some are simple and close to their classic versions, like a mojito and caipirinha. Others are steps removed from the original versions, like a Bellini crowned with a scoop of sorbet. A few are recycled Bitter & Twisted greatest hits, like Mr. Hendricks, a gin and tonic relative, and Simon’s take on the passion-fruit-laced porn star martini.

That said, unlike its pool, Lylo’s menu, graced by the familiar illustrations of artist Matt Andrews, has a deep end.

There's the Dole Whipped, a giant twirl of pineapple ice cream spiked with Demerara rum — enough to feed two or three people. “Dole whipped is just a childhood memory with an alcohol fuel in it,” Simon says.

There is the Opposable Rums, uniting cachaca (a spirit distilled from sugarcane juice, similar to rum, which is distilled from molasses) and a white rum blend. Simon lops off any bite or abrasiveness these spirits might have with touches like amaro and cinnamon-grapefruit syrup, leaving the charms of the cachaca and rum open to explore against a backdrop of refreshing pineapple.

click to enlarge The Lazy Daze cocktail, tropical juices jolted with Del Maguey mezcal. - CHRIS MALLOY
The Lazy Daze cocktail, tropical juices jolted with Del Maguey mezcal.
Chris Malloy
There is the Lazy Daze. On paper, this cocktail looks like a simple blend of tropical juices and mezcal. But the nuances of mezcal smoke are present, and you experience them in a rising and falling way, almost like you would a singer warming up, voice soaring up and down the octaves.

Lylo also serves food. Not much. Most items are light and made for eating in the sun: rice bowls, tataki, spam musubi, spiced fruit. But there’s also mochiko-style fried chicken, served in bunned and bucketed configurations. The food program is helmed by Alex Resnick, who recently moved to town after having a similar gig at the Arrive Hotel in Palm Springs.

If you want to get out to drink in the COVID age, Lylo makes sense. It’s outdoors and wide open, its tables amply spaced. The drinks are well-considered, especially for a pool bar.

Here. Simon sums up his balmy third album well.

“We’re not trying to confuse the guests with anything,” he says, “but we can still get complex.”
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Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy