The Mix Up Bar interior | Photo by Nikki Buchanan
The Mix Up Bar, tucked away to the left of T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms Resort & Spa, is one of my favorite places to hang out over a cocktail. Like the lovely old resort in which it’s nestled, the room is gracious, intimate and — if you time it right — blessedly quiet, the kind of place where you might strike up a desultory conversation with the bartender or your fellow drinkers at the bar, socially distanced, of course. It’s also a good place to make an early dinner of the happy hour selections, which are never the cheap, filling fodder served elsewhere.
As it happens, the Mix Up has a new-ish cocktail menu in place (all cocktails, $15), and a friend and I decided we’d check it out. We started with the Royal 44, named, I presume, for the South Korean rapper who goes by that moniker. I’m not sure I understand the connection, given that this is a basically a Mai Tai, but as Shakespeare’s Juliet famously queried, “What’s in a name?” Served in a rocks glass, not some tiki, Trader Vic’s-looking thing, Mix Up’s version is pale yellow-colored and low-key, garnished simply with a lime wedge and sprig of mint. The drink’s underpinning is Bacardi Superior (white rum with floral, fruity notes) and Zaya Gran Reserva (dark rum with vanilla, caramel notes), coaxed into tiki-dom by orgeat (almond liqueur), Cointreau (orange liqueur) and fresh lime juice. It’s refreshing, elegant, even a little austere compared to the fruit-bombs you sometimes find in the tiki world. We pretty much guzzle it.
The Royal 44 | Photo by Nikki Buchanan
Looking back, I wish I hadn’t overruled my buddy, who suggested the gorgeous Verao Sangria, but I’m not much of a Sangria fan, so we settled on the Marie Antoinette instead. It’s essentially a French 75, a pre-Prohibition cocktail invented at The New York Bar in Paris during WWI. So here again, the Marie Antoinette allusion is a little beyond me, but whatever. I have always liked the combo of gin and bubbly Champagne in the French 75, but alas, the prosecco (carelessly spelled “presecco” on the online menu) lacks any noticeable carbonation, which is sort of the point of this bubbly little tipple. In fact, this particular prosecco (it’s unclear who produced it, maybe Mionetto?), which isn’t remotely spectacular in any way, overpowers both the gin and the honeysuckle liqueur, which is the part I was really looking forward to. The drink tastes like so-so Prosecco and lemon, making in unbalanced and completely average.
We split a third cocktail called The Ten, presumably named for the cocktail’s base liquor: botanical-heavy Tanqueray #10. Composed of Tanqueray, lime and simple syrup, served in a coupe with a tiny sage leaf for garnish, it’s an herbaceous gin sour, heavy on the sour. One tiny sage leaf can’t really evoke the earthy herbal notes I was hoping for.
The Ten | Photo by Nikki Buchanan
I’m disappointed but not deterred. If nothing else, I plan to come back for the eats, which include Salt Spring mussels with spicy sausage, spinach and Pernod, grilled Noble bread with T. Cook’s signature pesto (smart idea, that one), harissa chicken wings, and cumin and coriander grilled lamb ribs — all surely a damn sight better than the usual happy hour swill.
I’m not sure what’s going on in the cocktail department, however. Maybe the Mix Up wants to stick to classics, which is fine, as long as they’re executed properly. But honestly, there’s a great big creative cocktail world out there, and the Mix Up isn’t really mixing it up, you know?
The Mix Up Bar, 5200 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-283-1234, royalpalmshotel.com