5:35p -- Drinking spirits neat has the unique effect of making you feel more intoxicated than you are, even if you've only had 3/4 of an ounce in half an hour. A taste of Tombstone Distillery's pretty pleasant brandy had been my last sipper, and at that point I felt my journalistic duty to local distilleries and their neat, unadulterated spirits 75% fulfilled.
I need to walk to the North side of the festival, past the DJ booth, to brave the masses.
5:45p -- Strolling past six-or-so of Chandler's finest boys-in-blue doubles down on the feeling of inebriation. I've never been in trouble with the law, but they still make me nervous. The Chandler Police Department has their own booth, and it's not quite apparent what they're here for (aside from the obvious prolific drinking) or what requires so much man-power. Maybe it's a sign of things to come. I stop and ask them what they're expecting, to which I'm met with equal optimism.
5:50p -- An hour in, Deep Eddy Vodka's line is the deepest. Comes with the name, I guess. The line stays that way all night long. The solo bartender, with sweat pooling up under his spiked hair and around the collar of his navy polo, is the busiest man here. The brand is going all in on their 'Ruby Red Grapefruit' product just in time for summer.
"It's low in calories," he says, never breaking motion. "I drink it before my jazzercise class." The Chandlerites are eating this stuff up. That's his line for the middle-aged women. For the middle-aged men: "Come party at Sonny's afterwards." Sonny's is a nearby strip club that's, apparently, sponsored-or-something by Deep Eddy Vodka.
6:00p -- The show goes on. I pass a booth moonlighting as a triumvirate of three concepts sharing the same ownership: The Living Room, Chop, and Rock Lobster. One serves a cucumber-vodka mule with Gosling's ginger beer, which is a big hit from the the few attendees I witnessed come through the line. Another cocktail features Veev, a surfer-brand acai berry voda.
The male bartender, also sporting the collared shirt/spiked hair combo, asks me who I'm working for. "New Times," I tell him.
"Well I'm standing here with two pretty ladies," he pauses and they pose. "So," he smiles, which must mean, "C'mon, man, take our photo." I oblige. I feel that I have to. I'm three-quarters of an ounce deep and, much to my chagrin, having fun with the people-watching.
6:10p -- The next booth is none other than Jim Beam, sporting their "boutique" Maker's Mark and Knob Creek products. I've had Maker's Mark on several occasions -- everyone has -- but I don't recall ever tackling Knob Creek neat. Now I have to: the overlooked, not-so-sexy Knob Creek has just won "Best Small Batch Bourbon" in the 6-10 years category at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
I hand a ticket over to the girl behind the counter, and photograph the pour -- she tried to do it slowly for the photograph, but user error resulted in, like, three ounces of Knob Creek.
I walked away sniffing the bourbon, which alone made me stumble. First swish: Bourbon. Second swish: Not-bad bourbon. Third swish: I'm getting some floral, fruity notes here. Fourth swish: I appreciate bourbon and fancy awards, but I still don't really like it that much.
I toss the cup -- the other 2.5 ounces of "one man's treasure is" -- and move on.
6:20p -- I pass booths of heavily tattooed men slinging mixers, a cigar tent, and something called "Headbangers," which after tasting "Best Bourbon" I had very little interest in.