Food & Drink

The Best Damn Cocktail Bars in Phoenix

Published On 08/02/2016 Published On 08/02/2016
Citizen Public House
Iamchanelle Photography/Courtesy of Citizen Public House
Okra

Okra Cookhouse & Cocktails

Phoenix

The Southern concept offers a wide selection of both classic and modern craft drinks, including a variety of mint julep cocktails -- what else would you expect from a Southern-style eatery and cocktail joint? Okra’s daily happy hours boast half-priced bites at the bar, including smoked focaccia and fried chicken skins as well as $3 cocktails. Try like the standby Old Fashioned or a bubbly French 75 -- made with gin, Champagne, fresh lemon juice, and sugar. If you’re lucky, you might just find sommelier and award-winning mixologist Micah Olson working his magic behind the bar.

The Ostrich

Downtown Chandler

This Prohibition era-style cocktail lounge really takes you back in time. It sits in the basement of a pizza joint, in a building that dates back to 1912, and was once a watering hole for secret traveling drinkers and well-to-do locals alike. Its basement tunnels here provided the perfect escape if Phoenix’s finest were to wander in. Today, the bar is led by the nationally recognized mixologist Brandon Casey and thirsty patrons don’t have to be quite so secret about enjoying The Ostrich’s long list of libations, including the award-winning AZ sunshine shandy made with Arizona Distilling Co. moonshine, a couple syrups, fresh lime, Angostura orange bitters, and topped with a sweet raspberry cider.

Christopher Galli/Courtesy of Counter Intuitive

Counter Intuitive

Old Town Scottsdale

This Scottsdale cocktail bar has earned a whirlwind of local and national buzz for its innovative rotating theme and menu concept called “episodes,” which changes three times each year to include themes such as Shanghai Social, 19th-Century New Orleans, and Picasso’s travels to Cuba (semi-obscure boozy historical references are right up our alley). Counter Intuitive loves their agave spirits, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good Negroni or Old Fashioned.

The Clever Koi

Phoenix

Since its 2013 opening, this Asian-inspired kitchen and cocktail bar has quickly become a Phoenix favorite -- not just for the steamed buns and house-made dumplings, but their wide spectrum of fine craft cocktails. Co-owner and Bar Manager Joshua James (formerly of The Parlor Pizzeria) ensures that food and drink co-exist nicely -- have any drink on the rocks, on a cube or tall, shaken, stirred, or even tiki-style. Try the enabler, with 12-year-old whiskey, grilled lemon juice (don’t ask us how), grade B maple, hibiscus bitters, and smoked sea salt. If you’d prefer your cocktail on the rocks consider riding the pine -- a fruit-forward cocktail formulated with St. George Terroir gin, Lillet Rouge, and lime. If tall drinks get you going, try the crisp Fill Collins, with Austrian dry gin, elderflower tonic, a little lime and lemon, grenadine, and celery. Clever Koi has plans to open up a new spot in Downtown Gilbert this fall.

Lauren Topor/Thrillist

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

Downtown Phoenix

We can’t get enough of Downtown Phoenix’s Bitter & Twisted. Located in the historic Luhrs building (which, ironically, was once the Prohibition headquarters of Arizona!), the space here has just as much charm and character as the drinks. From the carefully purveyed ingredients -- which range from edible flowers to fresh fruits and juices, and even ice -- everything that goes into a single cocktail is treated like an art. The bar recently launched its third Book o’ Cocktails, which lists 60 unique cocktails including the B&T flawless martini, the ridiculous Duck Punch, and a section dedicated to cocktails done right from B&T’s friends around the world. The book also features a page of the Top 10 drinks at B&T if you need a little help choosing just one.

The Brickyard Downtown

Downtown Chandler

This Chandler bar specializes in small plates and craft cocktails. Bobby Kramer, head mixologist here, offers a long-list of his very own original recipe craft drinks like the crisp Boston 85, the velvety and citrusy Sonoran Sour or the tangy Desert Rose.  And of course we can’t forget the toasty Some Mores libation. It’s made with 12-year-old rum and light rum, a splash of coffee liqueur, and cocoa bitters to finish. The cocktail is clearly a play on words and the sweet-tasting cocktail even delivered to right to you with a graham cracker crust and a toasted marshmallow.

MILK BAR

Milk Bar

Downtown Phoenix

This ultra-modern, heavily Polish-influenced Downtown Phoenix spot serves up cleverly crafted drinks and a variety of Slavic fare and European comfort food. You can choose from a selection of vodka flights, European beer, and a long list of wines. Signature drinks such as the Napoleon complex, comprised of old barrel vodka, absinthe, Riga Black Balsam, sweet vermouth, and some tangy orange zest, and the dirty commi martini top the cocktail menu.

The Little Woody

Phoenix

If you fancy yourself some sort of whiskey aficionado, chances are the mixologists here can give you exactly what you want. This Arcadia neighborhood lounge offers 90 varieties of whiskey (we counted, of course), but also serves plenty of other spirits. You can fill your daily serving of veggies with the alcoholic salad, a cocktail made with Effen cucumber vodka, or forget the food pyramid and try the Hiso. This cocktail with a kick is contrived from serrano-infused tequila, sweet pineapple syrup, some fresh lime, hellfire habanero shrub, vida mezcal, and fresh thyme. Stop by for happy hour, which happens every single day (hallelujah!) from 4pm to 7pm.  

Lauren Topor/Thrillist

Honor Amongst Thieves

Phoenix

Honor Amongst Thieves is the newest cocktail bar in The Colony’s buzzworthy Seventh St dining district. This windowless, semi-secret cocktail spot is hidden just above the gastropub Stock & Stable and has a swanky old-timey feel without being too pretentious. The Rutte of the Problem, a libation procured with gin, honeydew matcha, wasabi, yellow chartreuse, a splash of lime, and garnished with a melon sphere is a refreshing respite from the Phoenix heat. There’s also no shortage of the classics on this menu, but we suggest that you be adventurous and try something new. You’ve got good reason to -- the new cocktail program is led by Bar Manager Lyndsi Hastings-Mundy and wine expert/General Manager Corbin James.

Citizen Public House

Downtown Scottsdale

Contemporary craft cocktails and award-winning gastropub fare earn this Old Town drinkery two thumbs up. Stop by for the Good Citizen’s Social, a half-priced drink event happening each day from 3 to 6pm, and sip on something delicious. Favorites are the unusual society, a mix of Hendrick's gin, Giffard apricot, chamomile syrup, Cardamaro, orange bitters, and a dose of bitter lemon soda, and the the import, which blends Jameson Irish whiskey, tawny port, tobacco bitters, Four Peaks oatmeal stout, foam finished with a smoked sugar rim, served on the rocks.

The Parlor

The Parlor Pizzeria

Phoenix

Bar Manager Michael Allmandinger and the ever-talented barmaster Libby Longlott use premium ingredients and artisanal products to construct craft cocktails just as The Parlor chefs do their beloved wood-fired pies. Standouts include the smoky and herbal chupacabra, made with mezcal, green chartreuse, lemon and cinnamon honey simple, and the camelback collins, a refreshing seasonal drink using local mission vodka or commerce gin, seasonal fruit, herbs, and citrus. Catch happy hour daily from 3 until 6pm for deep discounts on pies, draft beer, wine, and well liquor.

MercBar

Phoenix

Phoenix’s MercBar is an outpost of the original New York-located MercBar. Unfortunately, the Soho cocktail lounge shuttered in 2014 but lucky for you, the Phoenix spot is still slinging drinks. MercBar was a leader of The Valley’s cocktail renaissance, effortlessly capturing the posh, sexy speakeasy vibe with delicious drinks to boot. Try the Double A, built from agave spirits, grapefruit and lemon juices, a touch of raspberry simple, bitters, and grapefruit peel for garnish. Or stick to the classics, like a spirit-forward Moscow mule, classic Bellini, or Mercer sour. This summer the cocktail lounge celebrates its 20th year in business.

Courtesy of Linger Longer Lounge

Linger Longer Lounge

Phoenix

This vintage-style Phoenix lounge is the place to be if you like vinyl records and old-school arcade games with your craft cocktails. Every Wednesday, all day, you can get your favorite drinks, like an Arizona mule or Mexican peach on the rocks, for just five bills. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, order a beer or wine cocktail like the peach melba straight up with Brut rose, or the be fashioned with Four Peaks Kiltlifter -- a rather tasty Scottish-style ale. You can even get a “roadie” (a drink to go for those not hip to the lingo).

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1. Okra 5813 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85014

The stylish, brick-lined Okra brings Southern cooking with an Italian twist to Phoenix with eats such as fried chicken skins & honey hot sauce, catfish al forno, a pimento cheeseburger, and fried chicken served three different ways: buttermilk-brined, Tennessee hot, and Umbrian-style. From the team behind Crudo and Bar Crudo, Okra slings an expansive list of wines, craft beers, and cocktails, too, including a seasonal collection of Mint Juleps with high-quality small-batch bourbons.

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2. Counter Intuitive 7133 E Stetson Dr # D, Scottsdale, AZ 85251 (Old Town Scottsdale)

You could walk into Counter Intuitive one night and it'll be decked out like a Shanghai social club. Another night, it's Picasso's visit to Cuba. A third, it's Bourbon Street in New Orleans. You'll never get bored with this intimate cocktail lounge in Scottsdale, considering its theme changes several times a year -- from the decor to the food to the drinks. The menu elevates your typical bar bites with snacks like bacon beignets, and the cocktails are expertly crafted, with past concoctions including a classic pisco sour with snap pea-infused pisco and watermelon syrup, and the "Sippin Tea in the LBC," made with apricot, thyme, jasmine tea, yuzu, orange bitters, and Del Maguey Vida Mezcal.

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3. The Clever Koi 4236 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85012 (North Phoenix)

Presentation is everything at this sleek little Turney eatery and bar. Asian-fusion fare comes in dainty servings, but what they lack in heft they make up for in beauty with colorful, centered, and garnished dishes like short rib dumplings, pork ramen, and seared hamachi. Hand crafted cocktails in gold-rimmed glasses only up the ante, along with a small selection of sake, wines, and southwestern craft beer.

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4. Bitter & Twisted 1 W Jefferson St, Phoenix, AZ 85003 (Downtown Phoenix)

Located inside the historic Luhrs building -- the same building that housed Arizona’s Prohibition headquarters years ago -- is one of Phoenix’s most unpretentious cocktail bars, Bitter & Twisted. And in addition to slinging a number of incredible libations (such as Born Tequila, crafted with fresh sage, pineapple, lime, and mango), an out-of-this-world ramen burger, B&T is also one of the city's most beautiful bars.

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5. The Brickyard Downtown 85 W Boston St, Chandler, AZ 85225 (Chandler)

What's refreshing about The Brickyard Downtown (appropriately named given its industrial bare brick interior) is that doesn't try to be any one thing, and in doing that it's utterly itself. The laid-back eatery and cocktail bar had a menu so diverse it's hard to pin down to one genre or location -- Asian, Italian, and Mediterranean (among other) influences come together across the menu with dishes like ahi tuna, prawn carbonara, and street tacos along with a few American favorites like burgers and fries thrown in there. The bartender, who's got a penchant for showmanship, also writes his own craft cocktail menu.

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6. 800M Milk Bar 801 N 3rd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004 (Downtown Phoenix)

Before the space on the corner of McKinley and 3rd St became Milk Bar, it was occupied by a hair salon, law office, art space, and even a private residence. Now, after an unrecognizable redesign led by Darek Pasieka, the historic cream-colored house is serving up delicious European eats such as pierogies and kielbasa sausages.

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7. The Little Woody 4228 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018 (North Phoenix)

With 90 varieties of whiskey, this neighborhood dive will please just about any whiskey lover. They're also mixing plenty of other spirits for you to try, including Effen cucumber vodka, which just might fill your daily serving of vegetables. Or, throw all caution (your health) to the wind and order the Hiso: serrano-infused tequila, sweet pineapple syrup, hellfire habanero shrub, and vida mezcal. Be sure to play a round of darts or skee-ball while you sip on your drink and take in the sounds of local musicians. Most important: happy hour is every day from 4-7pm!

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8. Honor Amongst Thieves 5538 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85014 (North Phoenix)

If you can keep a secret, Honor Amongst Thieves is the place to go for a cocktail beyond the average well drink. The top level of Uptown Phoenix's Stock & Stable restaurants serves as a bar mysterious enough to earn the speakeasy title. Helmed by top-notch mixologist, Stephanie Tesler, this dark, moody space hosts seemingly simple cocktails that experiment with liquors and play with rarely seen drink flavors like roobios tea, dill bitters, and sweet potato.

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9. Citizen Public House 7111 E 5th Ave, Scottsdale, AZ 85251 (Old Town Scottsdale)

Citizen Public House is exactly as the name suggests -- a wide open, dark-wooded, democratic space for craft beers, house cocktails, and, of course, socializing. Full of expansive tables with plenty of seating for large groups, the place truly feels something like a traditional public house. The bar, topped with stainless steel, serves a full list of drinks prepared by the resident mixologists (several of which are set on fire), in addition to exhaustive wine and beer lists. And while the beverages alone are reason enough to stop by, the public house has a full menu of modern American fare as well -- everything from bacon brittle and pub pork cheeks to filet mignon asada tacos.

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10. The Parlor Pizzeria 1916 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016 (Biltmore)

This Biltmore spot may specialize in tasty 'za (obviously), but if you want to go the non-Italian route for lunch or dinner here, grab a delicious Parlor Burger made with arugula, tomato, roasted garlic aioli, on a brioche bun with your choice of aged white cheddar or caramelized onions & provolone. And don't be misguided by the "Pizzeria" moniker; designed with a modern aesthetic and intimate booths, this restaurant will work for your first date as well as your family dinner.

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11. MercBar PHX 2525 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016 (North Phoenix)

The original MercBar -- in New York's SoHo -- is no longer slinging drinks, but fortunately, the Phoenix location is still up and running and serving craft cocktails that embody this bar's smooth speakeasy feel. You'll want to check out the double a, made with agave spirits, grapefruit and lemon juices, a touch of raspberry simple, bitters, and a grapefruit peel. Feeling something more classic? Considering ordering a Moscow mule, bellini, or Mercer sour.

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12. Linger Longer Lounge 6522 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016 (North Phoenix)

For a vintage vibe, head to this Phoenix lounge that boasts a solid collection of vinyl records and old-school arcade games. Linger Longer serves up craft cocktails that are always sure to please (especially on Wednesdays when they have some great specials), like an Arizona mule or Mexican peach on the rocks, plus inventive beer and wine cocktail options, such as the peach melba straight up with Brut rose.

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13. The Ostrich 10 N San Marcos Pl, Chandler, AZ 85225 (Chandler)

Tunneling underneath Downtown Chandler in the basement below Crust is craft cocktail lounge The Ostrich, which embodies its storied history as a once-popular clandestine watering hole for thirsty travelers and Arizona’s elite. This dimly lit speakeasy is outfitted with cozy, vintage banquettes and Prohibition-era cocktails like Aviation and Negroni, plus new creations like The Baker, a modern take on a whiskey sour.