Is “soft industrial” a design aesthetic? It definitely describes the vibe at Blue Clover Distillery, Old Town Scottsdale’s first distillery. The walls are a soft, bluish gray that felt like a balm for my sun-assaulted eyes as I stumbled into the building on a blazing August afternoon. There are lots of exposed beams, industrial light fixtures and dark metal chairs. But the light itself is cozy and inviting, and long wooden tables and chair tops lend even more warmth and roughhewn comfort. Big windows let in a welcome flood of natural light. Transparent walls let you peek into the small distillery area, where owner and distiller Weston Holm crafts modern dry gin and vodka, both eminently sippable on their own but absolutely magical when mixed into a craft cocktail. I got there right when they opened at 3 p.m., so I had the place to myself for a while. Holm said it picks up around 5, when people start getting off of work.
I expect great drinks at places like this, but my food bar is usually pretty low. Imagine my surprise, then, when Holm told me everything is scratch-made, including the green chile topping the green chile cheese fries ($5 during happy hour). Albuquerque native Holm is proud of his New Mexican roots and roasts pounds and pounds of chiles every year after the fall harvest, squirreling his treasures away in the freezer to use throughout the year. His chile hoarding is our gain: The fries are smoky and slightly spicy, draped with queso as well as green chile, and I found myself returning for “one more bite” several times. The green chile can also be found in a breakfast burrito ($10) on the brunch menu and on the Blue Clover Kicker (a pita sandwich loaded with turkey, bacon, pastrami, Havarti, avocado, tomato, red onions, green chile and garlic aioli, $15) and green chile cheeseburger on the dinner menu ($15). Homesick New Mexicans, I have found your new hangout.
The Buffalo chicken tacos ($7 for two) also had a slight kick, balanced by creamy dressing and crisp lettuce and tomato. And I was truly surprised by how much I liked the panko-covered fried pickles with creamy sriracha sauce ($5), since I don’t even like pickles. Instead of being fried globs of sour mush, these spears were firm and crisp, with the refreshing bite of homemade pickles. “We pickle everything in-house,” Holm said. The flatbread of the week is another popular happy hour dish, he said, and rotates based on what looks good from local farms.
Blue Clover’s gin and vodka are both distilled from corn, so they’re naturally gluten-free, if that’s your thing. The gin is “modern, dry and citrus-forward,” Holm says, and he drew inspiration from the Southwest for the botanicals he uses in it: blood orange, rose, peach, prickly pear. It’s fresh and floral, but not juniper-forward. Gin is one of my favorite spirits, and I loved sipping BC’s. They also do infusions (blood orange and pineapple gins; strawberry, lemon, grapefruit, blood orange and spicy vodkas), which are fun to try in a flight or solo ($5 during happy hour).
Sweet bartender Taylor recommended I try the Lucky Lady, a pretty, purplish-gray cocktail of BC gin, lemon, crème de violette, elderflower liqueur and house-made wildflower honey syrup served in a coupe glass with a striking blood orange garnish. It made me feel like a mysterious dame in a noir spy novel, and I loved it.
I’m not usually a vodka gal, but Holm persuaded me to give his favorite vodka drink, the Glad Eye, a try. I’m so glad he did. BC lemon and spicy vodkas mingle with pineapple, lemon, agave liqueur, Angostura bitters and an Amarena cherry (it sinks to the bottom of the snifter glass, where it dramatically peeps out as the “glad eye” of the cocktail’s title) for a smoky, fruity and nuanced tiki drink that I did not expect from a gin and vodka distillery. I will be back for more of these, and to try the BC Basil (gin, lemon, agave, basil, elderflower), which sounds light and lovely.
Craft cocktails are $7 during happy hour, which is an absolute steal for this quality.
THE INSIDER SECRET
Snow cones! You can get boozy craft snow cones, a godsend as we melt through the last blast of summer. The Thumper is a 123-ounce Moscow mule snow cone served in a massive copper cup (four people required to share) that screams “Instagram this!” Blue Clover also serves brunch on weekends and a full dinner menu every night.
Mostly, Holm just wants people to realize that Blue Clover is a distillery, not a brew pub. He has a few draft beers ($4 during happy hour) and a handful of wines and other spirits, but if you’re visiting a distillery, why not try its signature spirits? It’ll be gin – and vodka, in the form of the Glad Eye – for me on subsequent visits.
Happy hour runs Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. Additional daily specials:
- Saturday & Sunday: Enjoy $10 bottomless mimosas from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. along with the brunch menu.
- Monday: Mule Monday means $5 Moscow mules and $5 Buffalo chicken tacos (two per order)
- Tuesday: Buy a Bottle Day: If you purchase a bottle of Blue Clover vodka or gin, you pay only $3 for a craft cocktail.
- Wednesday: “Gin”s Day: All gin cocktails and flights are $5.
- Thursday: Boozy Snow Cone Day: Enjoy hand-crafted snow cone cocktails for $5 each.
- Friday: Flight Night: Gin and vodka flights are $5 each.