The newest cocktail bar from Barter & Shake, founded by Jason Asher and Rich Furnari, comes from an old one. Craft cocktail wonks may recall an old theme at Counter Intuitive, the Barter & Shake staple in Old Town, called Pablo Picasso's Secret Trip to Cuba. From the ashes of this theme, Pobrecito has risen.
The theme cycled out years ago. Since then, Counter Intuitive has stopped running themes. Some of the drinks at Pobrecito recall those from the old theme; some are new.
Pobrecito opened last weekend in The Churchill. The Churchill is the innovative hub of food and drink vendors newly opened and operating out of repurposed shipping containers. Pobrecito, like the other tenants, prepares what it sells inside a shipping container. The cocktail bar has a Latin vibe: Cuban music, frozen drinks, a focus on spirits made from agave and sugarcane. There are stools along a long bar, and room for some 500 people in the shared courtyard of the lofty central Phoenix project.
This means that Pobrecito, potentially, could have to serve 500 people drinks at a time.
"It's totally different from anything we've ever done," says Barter & Shake co-founder Jason Asher. "The biggest paradigm shift for us was we're used to having an environment in which we can fully engage our guests. Here, we just have a shipping container and a huge courtyard."
The challenge has led Asher and his team to approach cocktails a little differently. The general approach is the same in that drinks are ambitious, thoughtful, and made from fresh ingredients. But in order to best serve the thirsty masses, Asher has taken some new angles.
One is that Pobrecito has frozen-drink machines. These mix two drinks: a pina colada made from pineapple juice, coconut milk, cream of coconut, and a 4-year-old Puerto Rican rum; and a frozen sparkling Cava rose blended with Pamplemousse, Campari, and grapefruit.
Another way Asher streamlines things to meet demand is by keeping cocktails on tap. Right now, his taps pour a cocktail of passion fruit-tea-infused rye, brandy, East India Sherry, peach, and orange oil (for something of an Old Fashioned vibe). They pour Havana Cooler, a sangria-related drink built from Arizona Distilling Co. Mission Vodka, a Page Springs Cellars white, Amaro Montenegro, peach, lemon, and tonic.
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There are, of course, other cocktails.
Many don't come through a spigot or in slushie form. An early favorite is The Prado, which begins as Fernet Branca infused with strawberries for 36 hours. This enigmatic blend is united with overproof white Jamaican rum, mezcal, strawberry liqueur, lime, and bitters.
Pobrecito, already drawing crowds, is one of the year's most intriguing cocktail openings.
Pobrecito. 901 North First Street.
Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to midnight; Friday 11 to 2 a.m.; Saturday 10 to 2 a.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.