Sometimes it's nice to get out of town, even if only for a day. Tucson, our progressive little sister city to the south, is known for quality thrift stores, thriving local businesses and a healthy dose of historic Old West nostalgia. Amidst all of that, you can find Pasco Kitchen & Lounge nestled between a pizza joint and a hookah lounge off University Boulevard and Euclid Avenue near the University of Arizona campus. The urban farm concept specializes in a mix of Italian, Mexican and modern American cuisines, but the cocktails are what keeps us coming back time and time again when we're in town.
Like any mixology-based bar, you can expect a solid five or so minute wait time per drink, depending on how busy it is. Also like (most) mixology-based bars, the drink you'll get is well worth the wait. Clever use of fresh produce, housemade syrups and small batch spirits make each cocktail sing in its own unique way, with a heavy, but admirable, bias toward gin in the menu's selection.
Shortly after Pasco opened, head mixologist Andrew Record was recognized as Arizona's "Most Inspired" Bartender in 2011, beating out the Valley's Richie Moe (of Citizen Public House) and Kris Korf (of The Parlor). Since then, the drinks at Pasco have kept a perfect balance between creative, consistent and drinkable.
Drinks like the Roasted Ricky and New Fashioned have obvious ties to classic cocktails, but with a culinary twist. The Roasted Ricky, for instance, combines New Amsterdam gin infused with roasted green chiles, muddled cilantro and in-house made sweet and sour for an herby, smoky, tangy and tart flavor. Pasco's gin ricky is great on its own or accompanied with a big, juicy burger topped with pork belly, Oaxaca cheese and a fried egg or an order of fries and crispy battered and fried dill pickles
However, our absolute favorite Pasco creation is the Father Kino. The tequila-based drink is so deliciously different and infused with classic Southwestern flavors we think it could easily be made the official cocktail of Arizona, if there was such a thing. The El Jimador silver tequila is mellowed out with muddled cucumber, cilantro and fresh-squeezed lime juice. Then the whole concoction is kicked back up with jalapeno-spiced agave nectar and a tamarind rim you can't help but lick on between sips. The end product is essentially perfect and comparable to a craft margarita on the rocks with a spicy and bright flavor blast.
The best part of the Father Kino, Roasted Ricky and a few other drinks on the regular cocktail menu is that they go from $8 or $9 to $4 or $5 during happy hour Monday through Friday from 3 until 6 p.m. This deal alone earns the spot the dubious honor of our most-frequented post-thrifting spot in Tucson, but the quality, focus on freshness and refreshing creativity makes Pasco a must-go the next time you're in the Old Pueblo.