First Dish: Don Woods’ Say When

Kristy DurkinJune 21, 2021
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Photo courtesy Studio Alcott


For fans of creative cocktails with sweeping Valley views, the highly anticipated Don Woods’ Say When rooftop lounge is finally open in Uptown Phoenix.

Cocktailian Ross Simon (of Bitter & Twisted and Little Rituals fame) heads up the beverage program at this vibrant retro rooftop bar. If you live in the Uptown area, you have probably driven by the enticing dark neon sign for more than a year, anticipating its launch. Well, wait no more! The doors have opened, and the sign is glowing. This past week, I was lucky enough to get invited in for sips and scenery at the top.

Housed atop the Rise Uptown hotel, Don Woods’ Say When is perfectly situated in a burgeoning area of Phoenix. It allows easy access to the light rail, is within walking distance of Uptown Plaza and is right across the street from acclaimed eatery Belly.

The elevator mimics a time machine – when the door opens, it feels like you’re walking into a different era. The vintage vibe draws you in, showcasing masculine midcentury modern décor. I was half expecting Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack to be seated at the bar as side-stream smoke circled in the air. But I was quickly snapped back to 2021 as my iWatch buzzed and I was guided to a table outside, where a sprawling 360-degree view of the Valley awaits. Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain seem to glow in the distance on the east side of the patio, as a faint view of GCU vaguely comes into view on the west. The covered patio is filled with minimalist furniture and new foliage surrounds the entire area, which will give a luxurious oasis feeling once mature.


Photo by Shelby Moore 


The colorful menu screams Ross Simon – it’s replete with reference pictures of each cocktail, helping newcomers navigate the decision-making process. There are four cocktail sections: Spritzers, Highballs, Remixes and Classics, which my waitress explains go from light and easily drinkable to strong and sippable. For my first drink, I choose the Alameda, a lovely pear brandy- and cucumber-based spritz. The waitress wasn’t wrong when she said these were easy to drink. This refreshing cocktail is ideal on a hot summer evening. My second choice: the Whiskey Tart. The combination of bourbon and blood orange liqueur results in a stunning drink with a perfectly sweet and tart finish. The food menu is brief with only four items, keeping the focus on what patrons are there for – the creative cocktails. But, if you are in the mood for some light fare, options include a garlic dip, cheese board, mixed olives and sardine crostini. Nibbling on the garlic dip was a throwback, reminding me of a vintage recipe my grandmother would serve during “cocktail hour,” fitting perfectly with Say When’s theme.

Be warned: you will not get filled up on food, so I suggest making dinner plans elsewhere. Head downstairs to Lylo Swim Club or head over to the aforementioned Belly.

If you are planning a visit to Don Wood’s Say When, my recommendation would be to make a reservation for the outside patio around dusk (if you can tolerate the summer heat). Trust me, you will not be disappointed winding down with imaginative cocktails while watching Arizona’s famous sunset. You won’t want to leave, and the waitress will have to… Say When.

400 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 480-536-8998,