Best of the Valley Drinks, Beers, Cocktails and Bars

Editorial StaffJuly 7, 2021
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Best Mezcal
Mezcal Carreño (pictured above)

Ivan Carreño is a mezcal evangelist, effusively spreading the good word of the agave-based spirit his family has been making in Oaxaca since 1904. He and best friend and business partner Abel Arriaga took the Arizona spirits market by storm and have set their sights on expansion in 2021. With a 2020 win for best mezcal at the San Francisco World Spirits competition, they’re on their way.

Best Brewery Upgrade
Wren House Brewing Co.

Everybody’s favorite beer bungalow has spread its wings – to Prescott. With its northern outpost, Wren House has quintupled production, meaning more Valley Beer and Jomax in kegs and cans well beyond the Valley. Let’s just hope they can keep cranking out the barrel-aged pastry stouts and other next-level one-offs, as promised. 2125 N. 24th St., Phoenix, 602-244-9184,

Best Beer Menu at a Music Venue
Yucca Tap Room

After 18 months of forced musical abstinence, we’d go see your dad’s Kansas cover band at the local junior high gym, truth be known. So getting us down to Rodney Hu’s venerable Tempe live-music haunt will be no problem at all – particularly given how adroitly he’s amped up the craft beer program in recent years. About 40 taps total, and good high-gravity stuff, too – not the watery concert swill you usually find. 29 W. Southern Ave., Tempe, 480-967-4777,

Best Non-Sports-Bar Sports Bar
The Vig McDowell Mountain

How many cruddy chicken wings and dim, musty bars have you suffered just to catch “the game”? Suffer no more. At the northernmost Vig, you can watch your teams al fresco in the shadow of the McDowell Mountains while throwing cornhole and sipping a Manhattan made with black walnut bitters. And the pozole, fritto misto and other food? Thanks to chef Jeremy Pacheco, they’re all winners. 10199 E. Bell Rd., Scottsdale, 480-935-2949,

Best New-ish Brewery
Simple Machine Brewing Company

This Deer Valley brewery has been pulling uncommonly loyal crowds since opening a year and a half ago. Head brewer Marshall Norris nails a wide range of difficult styles, including saisons and black IPAs. Helical Haze, a New England IPA, might be his best: a juicy, nimbly bitter house staple. 701 W. Deer Valley Rd., Phoenix, 623-469-9199,

Best Nouveau Dive Bar
Luckys Indoor Outdoor

With its neon signs, pool table and picnic table-freckled patio, this eclectic watering hole has a decidedly dive-y feel, but the red corduroy banquettes, low tables flickering with vintage candles and thoughtful beverage menu give it an elevated skew. We’d expect nothing less from restaurateur Julian Wright of Pedal Haus fame, who designed the bar after his favorite quirky drinking destinations in Portland and Austin. Each drink at Luckys is a twist on a classic cocktail, like the whiskey-based Irish Bird (a riff on the famous rum-centric tiki tipple). The drinks are strong, the staff is knowledgeable and the patio is dog-friendly. Need we say more? 817 N. Second St., Phoenix, 602-975-8156,

Best New Cocktail Bar

It’s not every day that you come across a cocktail sprinkled with Fruity Pebbles or mixed with matcha. The unpredictable ingredients (we could sing paeans to mixology masterminds Libby Lingua and Mitch Lyons all day) are just one of many pleasant surprises served up at Highball, the speakeasy-style bar that replaced the SideBar space in the Willlo District last fall. Another remarkable revelation: an eclectic, locally sourced food menu courtesy of Sacha Levine. 1514 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix, 602-675-4244,

Best Cross-Cultural Cocktails
Belly Kitchen & Bar

The four-man team behind Belly often pulls single cocktails through three or four parts of the world. Most have Southeast Asian influences (lemongrass, mint, Thai basil, ginger). There are also tiki and Mexican influences, as well as Caribbean and South American spirits. Try the Saigon Heat, a rum-cachaça libation kicking with chile pepper and botanical notes. 4971 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix, 602-296-4452,

Cocktail at Belly Kitchen & Bar. Photo courtesy Beltworks

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