Bar Design: Little Rituals

Nikki BuchananJune 20, 2019
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Photography by Angelina Aragon
Photography by Angelina Aragon

What happens when two hotshot, award-winning mixologists, both famous on a national level, combine their superpowers to create a sleek fourth-floor cocktail bar decked out with state-of-the-art equipment? Amazing drinks, naturally. As major players in the Arizona cocktail world, Ross Simon (co-founder of Arizona Cocktail Weekend and owner of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour) and Aaron DeFeo (president of the U.S. Bartender Guild and former mixologist at Casino Del Sol Resort in Tucson) had always admired each other’s work – and with the February opening of Little Rituals in Downtown Phoenix, local drink fans got their first taste of the liquid magic conjured by these two talented alchemists. Prior to mixing their first drink, however, Simon and DeFeo spent months equipping and perfecting their laboratory.

1. Arizona mural

It was important for Simon and DeFeo to “own” their Arizona-ness. They hired artists Hector Raul Primero and Matt Adams to create this conversation piece celebrating Arizona’s past and present: Havasupai Falls, the Mr. Lucky’s sign, a Ferris wheel alluding to Legend City, Emma Stone and Alfred Hitchcock, who filmed parts of Psycho here.

2. espresso martini machine

Tapping into the nitro coffee trend, DeFeo and Simon bought the prototype for a German beverage gizmo that cranks out ice-cold, nitro-infused espresso martinis – classic cocktails on tap that deliver a smooth coffee jolt sans the sharp liquor bite. And if the one-of-a-kind device breaks? “We fix it!” Simon says.

3. back bar

The shelves of the back bar are jampacked with 350-plus premium spirits, including regional brands, international aperitifs, European liqueurs and 50-60 whiskeys. The custom-designed underbar is stocked with another 60-70 bottles of spirits, liqueurs, infusions, tinctures and house-made syrups.

4. memorabilia

LR is no two-man operation. To showcase the bar’s many personalities, the owners filled the top shelf with a menagerie of keepsakes supplied by the bar crew, including a bobblehead of cocktail luminary Gaz Regan and a vintage punch bowl. The star of the lot: barkeep Chanel Godwin-McMaken’s Centennial Cup, won at last year’s Last Slinger Standing competition.

5. Ice shavers

Two WYZworks ice shaver machines (“workhorses” DeFeo calls them) crank out snow for various juleps and the bar’s frothy Amalfi frappé, while the carbon dioxide glass chiller stationed between them chills glasses à la minute. These are the lovely toys that distinguish a bona fide cocktail studio from a mere bar.

Little Rituals

132 S. Central Ave., Phoenix