When the Jade Bar at Santuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa reopens next week the bar is poised to become yet another power player in the Valley cocktail scene. In addition to a pretty extensive -- ok, a complete physical make over, the new Jade Bar will offer impressive craft cocktails from Oregon-based mixologist Ryan Magarian. They'll be complemented with a new food menu from Iron Chef America winner Beau MacMillan that more than lives up to expectations. Here's a rundown of what you can expect.
As far as the physical changes go, guests can look forward to significantly expanded seating options. Between the patio, bar, lounge area and a beautiful jade onyx drink rail, Jade Bar will now accommodate more than 100 people, up from 60 in the past. And thanks to a removable curved glass wall, the views will be as impressive as ever.
On the al fresco side, expect a spacious patio fitted with a fireplace, retractable shade system, misters and heaters.
But as pretty as that all might sound, the most exciting part about the expanded Jade Bar will be the introduction of Magarian's "cocktail culture."
"We don't like to use the word program," Magarian says.
Either way, in this case, the wording isn't just a schtick. Magarian, who has his own restaurant called Oven and Shaker in Portland, is the kind of cocktail geek who puts his passion to good use. He tells us he's into "pre-Prohibtion execution" and put all of Jade Bar's bartenders through 30 hours of "Navy Seal cocktail training." He can explain the importance of ice (the bar will have both large and small format ice machines), cadence (shaking v. stirring) and selecting the right base liquors, all of which he refers to as "functional flair" in cocktail-making.
The drink menu -- at least the official one -- will consist of 12 cocktails, including two non-alcoholic options. Magaria says he's "into" the idea of dry, non-alcoholic drinks for people who want something to sip during a meal but aren't looking to get a buzz. Choices will include the Pepper Smash No. 2, a concoction of Aquavit, maple syrup, yellow bell pepper juice and mint that's fragrant and dangerously good. Magarian describes it as a sort of mojito by way of the Mad Hatter.
And though he says his drink menu will feature a lot of the savory, bright and chile flavors that make up a "quintessential Arizona cocktail," if you're looking for something simpler, you'll find that too. Take as an example his version of an Old Fashioned. Made with Buffalo Trace bourbon (instead of the traditional whiskey) and two large citrus discs (instead of slices), this drink is a game-changer.
Another highlight: Jade Bar will reportedly become the first bar in Arizona to serve every drink in a frozen glass, which Magarian calls a "life changing thing."
If none of that tickles your fancy, you'll have to ask for the not-so-secret Secret Menu when you get there. This leather-bound encyclopedia will feature 200 cocktails the bartenders can shake up -- and their recipes. In fact all the drink recipes for Jade Bar cocktails will be printed on the menus, right down to brand names and ounces. Magarian is a proponent of complete transparency. It's a pretty cool concept.
But "food needs drink like drink needs food," in the words of chef MacMillan and you can be sure the menu at Jade Bar is impressive too.
You'll see a lot of trendy dishes here (think roasted cauliflower, pate and even doughnuts) but there's no room for throwaway options on this tightly-written menu. Even the chicken wings are something special: they're smoked, confit-ed, deep-fried and then tossed in red dragon sauce, green onion and red chili. There are oysters on the half shell, if you're into that, as well as a burger, mac and cheese, clam "chowdah" and a steak.
The slow roasted cauliflower might not sound like an appealing bar snack but is some of the best we've ever had. And the roasted eggplant and black bean hummus, served with a "veggie bento box," delivers on a lot more flavor than you might expect. Even the cheese plate offers a surprisingly good array of cheeses, nuts and sides. Oh and those crème brulee doughnuts with custard filling and a delicate sugar crust with housemade Nutella? Yeah, you don't want to miss those either.
The new Jade Bar will reopen on Friday, October 11.
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