The Drinks Must Go On

Craig OuthierNovember 4, 2021
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Sheldon Wiley, a three-time Guinness World Record-holder for fastest mixologist, does his thing at 36 Below; photo by Blake Bonillas; Models: Derek Eligio/Ford Robert Black Agengy; Lori Young
Sheldon Wiley, a three-time Guinness World Record-holder for fastest mixologist, does his thing at 36 Below; photo by Blake Bonillas; Models: Derek Eligio/Ford Robert Black Agengy; Lori Young

Bars had it rougher than most during the pandemic. Yet a surprising number of them debuted in the Valley over the last 18 months, creating an exciting new landscape for local tipplers, from daily-driver sports bars to subterranean cocktail lounges. Brave purveyors of beer, wine and cocktails, we salut you.

Next-Level Cocktails

Escapade cocktail at Don Woods’ Say When; Photo by Alcott Creative
Escapade cocktail at Don Woods’ Say When; Photo by Alcott Creative

Don Woods’ Say When

Opened: June 2021
What you’ll find: Exalting sunsets, weird machines that make foam, scads of vermouth- and aperitivo-forward cocktails 

The latest mixology jam from Bitter & Twisted maestro Ross Simon has landed him on the roof of the refurbished Rise Uptown hotel. With 270-degree views of the city and clean sightlines to the west, the indoor-outdoor Mid-Century cocktail lounge is possibly the most perfect place to be in Phoenix during sundown, contemplating the vastness of it all while pleasantly disassociating with one of Simon’s wonderful cocktails. For example, the Whiskey Tart – bourbon with Solerno liqueur, lemon juice, red orange curd and a light, lacy foam that Simon’s operatives conjure out of a strange machine behind the bar. What a world. 400 W. Camelback Rd. Phoenix, 480-536-8998, riseuptownhotel.com

chips and dip and cheese platter with Polish cocktail, below, at Don Woods’ Say When; Photo by Alcott Creative
chips and dip and cheese platter with Polish cocktail, below, at Don Woods’ Say When; Photo by Alcott Creative

Grey Hen RX

Re-Opened: January 2021
What you’ll find: Big Easy mystique, a crocodile corpse, cocktails so complex you’ll need a Pfizer chemist to sort them out

The least showy but possibly best – mixology-wise – of the three drinking concepts at Century Grand, this New Orleans apothecary-inspired cocktail lab has changed its focus somewhat since owners Jason Asher and Rich Furnari opened it in late 2019. Once a straight-up whiskey tasting room, it now functions as the Grand’s cocktail Skunk Works, churning out experimental, labor-intensive libations like the Elixir of Aphrodite, combining vodka with, among other things, strawberry-infused amaro, house-made coca wine, rhubarb juice and Egyptian black rose petal. Does it also cure COVID? Could be! 3626 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, centurygrandphx.com

The ornate, New Orleans-inpired backsplash at Grey Hen Rx; Photo by by Tj Perez
The ornate, New Orleans-inpired backsplash at Grey Hen Rx; Photo by by Tj Perez
Dr. Cottley’s Experimental “Gin No. 7”, a non-alcoholic house-made “gin” cocktail; Photo by Grace Stufkosky
Dr. Cottley’s Experimental “Gin No. 7”, a non-alcoholic house-made “gin” cocktail; Photo by Grace Stufkosky

Sidecar Social Club

Opened: December 2018
What you’ll find: Six taps, black booths, pretty lights in the Ocotillo courtyard outside

The latest addition to the Ocotillo eating-drinking campus on Third Street, Sidecar is half cocktail lounge, half dive, with a temptingly naughty list of boilermakers (beer with a shot of booze) on the menu. But it also has a serious side, expressed in cocktail concoctions like the Thruxton, a French 75-ish number in which pineapple-infused vodka and lemon are hit with a splash of sparkling Moscato. 3243 N. Third St., Phoenix, 602-842-7181, ocotillophx.com

Signature Sidecar at Sidecar Social Club; Photo courtesy Sidecar Social Club
Signature Sidecar at Sidecar Social Club; Photo courtesy Sidecar Social Club
BlackBerry Cog at Sidecar Social Club; Photo courtesy Sidecar Social Club
BlackBerry Cog at Sidecar Social Club; Photo courtesy Sidecar Social Club
Sipping a How Ya Like Them Apples at Pigtails Downtown; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Sipping a How Ya Like Them Apples at Pigtails Downtown; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

Pigtails Downtown 

Opened: February 2020
What you’ll find: Hanging gardens, taxidermied javelinas, oysters

Unleashed right as the pandemic was really starting to make a name for itself, this fun-to-find cocktail haven at CityScape (it’s located through a kitchen door with a small neon sign reading “Cocktails”) is the handiwork of the same folks who brought The Whining Pig wine-and-beer franchise to the Valley. With Pigtails, the owners go a bit more high-concept. Instead of old Trivia Pursuit sets, amusements include a seafood raw bar and baroque libations like the Black Hog Down, made with sotol (a tequila-like spirit), Montenegro, crème de cacao and mole bitters. As for the tucked-away location… that’s part of why it survived the pandemic. COVID couldn’t find it. 1 E. Washington St., Phoenix, pigtailscocktails.com

Wine Rooms

Socialing with noshes and cocktails at Chez Gregory; Photo by Blake Bonillas; models: Cisco Fernandez; Dominique Taylor/Ford Robert Black Agency
Socialing with noshes and cocktails at Chez Gregory; Photo by Blake Bonillas; models: Cisco Fernandez; Dominique Taylor/Ford Robert Black Agency

Chez Gregory

Opened: July 2021
What you’ll find: The bruschetta of your dreams, childless Gen Xers

Mark our words: Come January, this converted Hoover-era bungalow in the Garfield Historical District (hello? adorbs!) will be the hottest wine spot in the Valley – not just because of the nifty, down-to Earth vino list and noshes, but because co-owners Steven Schmidt and Gregory Thielen had the foresight to install a ridiculously charming patio in the backyard, complete with plenty of seating overlooking the bustle of Downtown. Back in July, when Chez Gregory opened, imbibing outdoors didn’t hold much appeal. But now? Try to stop us. 719 E. Roosevelt St. Phoenix, chezgregoryphx.com

the Seventh St. Sour cocktail; Photo by Blake Bonillas
the Seventh St. Sour cocktail; Photo by Blake Bonillas

Rewined Beer and Wine Bar

Opened: October 2018
What you’ll find: Board games, blackboard wine menus, people jonesing for pad Thai

With an infectiously laid-back atmosphere and a rotating selection of more than 130 beers, wines and ciders, this Whining Pig-ish watering hole in Midtown Phoenix is more than just a place to tie one on while you wait for your table at Glai Baan… though it is supremely suited to that task, as well. 3308 N. 24th St. Phoenix, 602-429-9660, rewinedbeerandwinebar.com

Cool Cocktail Lounges

Pouring a Trap King at the Boom Boom Room; Photo by Angelina Aragon
Pouring a Trap King at the Boom Boom Room; Photo by Angelina Aragon

The Boom Boom Room

Opened: January 2021
What you’ll find: That Jay-Z and Beyoncé mural you’ve heard about, chillaxing vibe, a mean Sidecar

Not to be confused with the old Boom Boom La Rue’s drag boutique up the street, this Boom Boom is the brainchild of owner Rasheda Worthy, who – besides the pandemic – had to contend with an extended closure in May after an SUV plowed into her Miracle Mile cocktail lounge. She resumed pouring Champagne and mixing classic cocktails for a diverse Midtown crowd this summer, with old-school hip hop inside and Truck Panda mobile eats outside. If you’re looking for a sleek, chic drinking spot, this is it. 1544 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix, facebook.com/boomboomroomphx

The White Rabbit

Opened: October 2018
What you’ll find: Throwback cocktails, bemused soccer moms

Complete with a “secret password” and “hidden entrance,” this downtown Gilbert lounge plainly has speakeasy written all over it. Expect tufted furniture, classy small-plate nibbles and complex cocktails like The Aviation-like Not My Cup of Tea, with gin, honey, Crème de Violette and blue cornflower. And don’t forget the password! They seriously will not let your suburban butt inside. 207 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, twr.bar

Pour Les Femmes

36 Below

Opened: June 2021
What you’ll find: YSL clutches, videos of Yoshino trees, cocktails that taste of pea flower, the fun kind of 12 steps

Though the website somewhat wishfully identifies the bar’s location as “Scottsdale” – what, Arcadia Lite isn’t bougie enough for you? – you have to hand it to owners Josh Katz, Sheldon Wiley and Moe Murillo for their vision. Taking over the old UnderTow space below Sip Coffee & Beer in East Phoenix, the trio has remade the subterranean speakeasy into an unapologetically feminine drinks refuge, with garden-themed cocktails and bright, floral themes throughout. It’s sort of like cocktailing in a bridal shop, and there’s nothing else quite like it in the Valley. 3620 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 480-336-8812, 36belowaz.com

social scene at 36 Below; Photo by Blake Bonillas; Models: Derek Eligio/Ford Robert Black Agengy; Lori Young
social scene at 36 Below; Photo by Blake Bonillas; Models: Derek Eligio/Ford Robert Black Agengy; Lori Young

Greenwood Brewing

Opened: July 2020
What you’ll find: Mid-gravity ales, solid arts district people-watching, empowerment

“Confidence, Empowerment, Inclusivity” are the stated goals of this woman-owned Roosevelt taproom… well, all that and getting you pleasantly buzzed, hopefully. Get the job done with Herstory white ale and other audience-friendly selections from owner Megan Greenwood’s liquid portfolio. Great outdoor beer patio, too. 425 E. Roosevelt St. Phoenix, 602-875-8577, greenwoodbrews.com

Purity and Grace cocktail; Photo by Blake Bonillas
Purity and Grace cocktail; Photo by Blake Bonillas

Titillating Taprooms

Hair of the Dog

Opened: April 2021
What you’ll find: Beer geeks, dog fanciers, half-eated rawhides, Wren House Brewing Co. Big Spill Pils

Gilbert’s hot new artisan pet groomer? Eh, not quite. It’s actually a 24-tap beer bar and wine lounge with ancillary coffee, cider, mead (supplied by Prescott’s Superstition Meadery) and light snacks, set in a pleasant strip mall (oxymoron, anyone?) with a spacious patio. All that said, yes, your canine friend is welcome to join you. Owners Randy and Marleen Duren wouldn’t have it any other way. 3133 S. Lindsay Rd., Gilbert, 480-219-5489, hairofthedoggilbert.com

Pouring Chateau Tumbleweed and beer at Hair of the Dog; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Pouring Chateau Tumbleweed and beer at Hair of the Dog; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Pouring beer at Hair of the Dog; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Pouring beer at Hair of the Dog; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

Cactus Taproom

Opened: May 2019
What you’ll find: Sunburnt weekenders from Lake Pleasant, an utterly stacked grab-and-go fridge

For deep West Valley beer fans, this 14-handle taproom and beer shop should be in the regular rotation, with admired out-of-state labels like Toppling Goliath and El Segundo represented, along with rotating Arizona beers.  20429 N. Lake Pleasant Rd., Peoria, 623-440-9316, cactustaproom.com

Trevor’s Liquors

Opened: December 2020
What you’ll find: A local alternative to Total Wine & More, solid cigar selection, people who probably drink a tad too much

Arguably the biggest thing to happen to the Valley’s retail beer scene when it opened last winter, this 15,000-square foot booze emporium and shop features 24 taps to go along with spirit and wine tastings, tobacco and booth seating overlooking Scottsdale Road. 7340 E. McDowell Rd., Scottsdale, 480- 581-8923, trevors.com

Latin Libations

Barcoa co-owner and mixologist Nick Fiorini serves mezcal and bites; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield; models: Christina Lopez and Chase McNary/Ford Robert Black Agency
Barcoa co-owner and mixologist Nick Fiorini serves mezcal and bites; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield; models: Christina Lopez and Chase McNary/Ford Robert Black Agency

Barcoa

Opened: October 2021
What you’ll find: Raicillas, mezcals, bacanoras… anything you get by distilling agave, basically; taco philosophers

Just off Roosevelt Row, find this latest jam from Phoenix Pizza Festival impresario and all-around media mensch David Tyda. From daily-driver reposado tequilas to the most unicorn-y mezcals, it’s a two-story temple to all things agave. Upstairs: a casual cantina with a good cerveza selection and classic Mexican tipples like the Batanga (tequila, lime juice and cola). Downstairs: a sultry, vibe-y craft cocktail lounge with a drink list authored by Nick Fiorini of Sidecar Social Club and a 100-percent Mexican wine list. Ay, caramba… we’ll never leave this place. 829 N. First Ave., Phoenix, barcoaphx.com

El Charro Hipster Bar & Café

Opened: August 2018
What you’ll find: Curated agave spirits, a small but engrossing beer selection, Bacanora spillover

“I’m a mezcalera,” a masked GG Peralta stipulates playfully, while pouring a flight of mezcals at the Grand Avenue bar, cafe and multi-purpose hangout space she owns and operates with her parents. Part of Grand Avenue’s recent hospitality revival, El Charro is a fantastic place to grab weekend brunch, have a drink while waiting for your table at nearby Bacanora or learn about Mexico’s second best-known agave spirit. 1325 Grand Ave., Phoenix, 602-730-3247, elcharrohipster.com

The Golden Pineapple

Opened: May 2020
What you’ll find: Old-school “gramma’s tacos,” high-ABV drafts

Yes, we’re using the term “Latin” loosely here, but the selection of Italian amaros amassed at this Tempe gastropub – a PHOENIX Best New Restaurant honorable mention (see page 138) – needs to be seen (and tasted) to be believed. 2700 S. Mill Ave. Tempe,480- 590-5703, thegoldenpineappleaz.com

Hey, Sport

Burger, nachos and beer at Venue; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Burger, nachos and beer at Venue; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

Venue

Opened: September 2020
What you’ll find: NFL Sunday Ticket, people in Kyler jerseys, $5 sangria on Saturdays, bulgogi banh mi

How do you know when you’re in a sports bar that’s not just a sports bar? When you see a “Bourdain burger” on the menu. So this sportsy Surprise gastropub has culinary aspirations. That just makes it – along with the umpteen hi-def flatscreens – an even more appealing place to catch the A.M. games on Sunday. If everything goes well, you could stay for the early afternoon games and take advantage of the half-off Sunday sandwich special. And then the Sunday night game. And so on. 13699 N. Litchfield Rd., Surprise, 623-584-0255, venuetaproom.com

The Woodshed

Opened: It’s always been open
What you’ll find: Real alcoholics, pretend alcoholics, inexpensive drafts and solid bar grub

Snapped up a couple years ago by award-winning mixologist and “friend of the magazine” Brandon Casey (Citizen Public House, The Ostrich), this old warhorse of a dive bar has retained its essential, lovable grubbiness while enjoying an overall spike in quality. Great place to catch whatever frothy contest of sporting prowess you happen to enjoy on the telly. 19 W Baseline Rd Tempe, 480-831-9663

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