This year, I visited some of Metro Phoenix’s newest, best, and most interesting cocktail bars, from a long-running Scottsdale martini destination to a brand new West Valley gem; from an underground cocktail hole to stunning rooftops.
I enjoyed jammy shoemakers and refreshing spritzes, martinis and highballs. Some drinks sparkled and others were more subtle, but they were all good enough to make me come back for more.
With a number of exciting bars opening soon, I can not wait to see where the new year will take us, but so far it is these cocktail bars that should be at the top of your list of places to drink in metro Phoenix.
Elevated old school vibes on Rough Rider
A ride down the elevator on Rough Rider is like a journey back in time. The bar and restaurant are located in the basement of a modern office building in downtown Phoenix, but the bar below the building is inspired by the 19th century. Portraits of Teddy Roosevelt, old leather-bound books and a long marble pole decorate the dimly lit room. The cocktail menu is designed to inspire. One section features shoemakers mixed with homemade jam, another section highlights different varieties of tea punches.
What to order: Montezuma’s Castle ($ 13) is made with Los Vecinos Mezcal, coco oolong tea, rich and caramel-like Demerara syrup and lemon. The smoked mezcal mixes with the earthy tea and is lightened by a touch of lemon.
Details: 1001 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. 602-675-0439, roughrideraz.com.
Guide:Here’s your guide to Rough Rider, Roosevelt Row’s new 19th – century underground cocktail bar
Inspired Southeast Asian martinis in the SK Lounge
For central Phoenix residents like myself, the SK Lounge is a bit of a hike. But the sparkling cocktail lounge is a welcome addition to the West Valley. Located in Surprise next to its namesake Saigon Kitchen restaurant, this small lounge took over a former coffee shop. Now sparkling chandeliers, noble velvet cabinets and a wall of wine bottles are the name of the game. Cocktails, made with Asian pear and Japanese whiskey, shine.
What to order: If you only try one drink in the SK Lounge, be sure to order the lychee martini ($ 13). This soft, subtly sweet drink made with vodka with strawberries and lychee flavor is a satisfying treat.
Details: 14071 W. Bell Road, Surprise. 623-544-6400, saigonkitchenaz.com.
Guide:In the West Valley, where chain restaurants are king, this cocktail lounge is a hidden gem
Refreshing sip on the roof of Don Woods’ Say When
When cocktail expert Ross Simon opens a new bar, drink fans are paying attention. He is the mastermind behind the best Valley destinations, including Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlor and Little Rituals in downtown Phoenix along with Lylo, a pool bar at the Rise Uptown Hotel. Just a few floors up, Simon Don Woods’ Say When opened, a rooftop bar with both indoor and patio seating overlooking the surrounding town and Camelback Mountain. Here, Simon makes up for his book-length menus, popular at the bars in the center, for a simpler approach that keeps the focus on spritzes and highballs. The refreshing cocktail styles are perfect for warm evenings on the terrace.
What to order: If you’re visiting for an evening of chills, Ghost of Mamie Taylor ($ 13) is the perfect way to warm up. This drink, made with Harleston Green Blended Scotch, Laphroaig Scotch, St. George spicy pear, yuzu citrus and ginger beer perfectly balance the bite of ginger and Scotch with the softness of the spicy pear.
Details: Located at the Rise Uptown Hotel, 400 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix. 480-536-8998, saywhenphx.com.
Guide:This rooftop bar is a new Phoenix classic. Here’s your guide to Don Woods’ Say When
Theatrical cocktails and views of the Sotol Modern Cocktail Kitchen
In the winter months, rooftop bars are the place to be. And in Gilbert there is only one. Overlooking the Da’Bayou Creole Kitchen, Sotol offers cocktails that compete with stunning sunsets for attention. A square bar in the middle of the indoor and outdoor space provides drinks in all colors, shapes and sizes. Theaters at the table, such as an absinthe float that catches fire and cinnamon sprinkles turned into sparks, are hard to see away from.
What to order: While there are many fun and flashy drinks on the menu at Sotol, a much more subtle sipper stole the show. Try Forbidden Dance with Mango ($ 17) a drink made with tequila, yellow chartreuse, luxardo maraschino liqueur, lime, mango sour bush and egg white.
Details: 313 N. Gilbert Road # 301, Gilbert. 480-550-6300, sotolmck.com.
Guide:Sotol has a sneaky entrance and great views. Here is your guide to the metro Phoenix bar
Glitter and martinis from the 1980s on the AZ88
The AZ88 is far from new when it opened in Old Town Scottsdale in 1988. But the bar is an absolute must-visit classic. Come see people, and stay for the martinis in this chic place. The bar attracts everyone from Instagram influencers to Scottsdale socialites who have been regulars since the bar opened. The bar serves a full food menu, which is reasonably priced considering its location, but the martinis are in focus.
What to order: It’s hard to go wrong with a passion fruit Pornstar Martini, but Fleurtini ($ 14) is perfect for the holidays. This dry but balanced sipper is made with Smirnoff raspberries, framboise liqueur, lime, cranberries and Champagne.
Details: 7353 E. Scottsdale Mall, Scottsdale. 480-994-5576, az88.com.
Guide:Since 1988, martinis, art and glitter have drawn audiences to this classic Scottsdale bar
Reach the reporter at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @tirionmorris, on Facebook at Tirion Rose and on Instagram at tirionrose.
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