Arizona Cocktail Week 2014 Ups the Ante for Culinary Events in Metro Phoenix
If you chose to devote your time to Beer Week events this past weekend rather than taking advantage of the impressive lineup of seminars and mixers put on by Cocktail Week, you messed up and we're sorry.
Heather Hoch This sample-size homage to a scorpion bowl showcases Smuggler's Cove's tiki cocktails.
There are several days left before Cocktail Week comes to a close, so you still have time to right your wrongs, but last weekend's events, mostly held at Hotel Valley Ho, were an exciting mix of informative, passionate, historical, fun, and delicious that pretty much knocked our socks off.
Dale Degroff talked bitters, nine different mezcals were sampled, the tiki bar made its comeback, and then the nation's top bars put out some great cocktails -- although our two favorites actually came from Phoenix-area mixologists.
So we'll be honest. Before Sunday, mezcal wasn't high on our list of cocktail obsessions. After one sip of La Vida Buena cocktail, handed out upon entering the mezcal seminar, that all changed. The Negroni-like cocktail of mezcal, Campari, Aperol, and bitters had unique smoked and herbal flavors that were immediately addicting.
Sip after sip of different mezcal samples soon revealed the agave-based spirit to be something we never really thought we'd call liquor -- sexy. One standout mezcal (it's actually a sotol, but we won't get into the difference right now) that we recommend you try immediately is the Ocho Cientos Sotol Blanco. The name alludes to the fact that mezcal distillates have been discovered dating back to 800 AD, though recent excavations may prove that mezcal variations distilled by Native Americans were the first spirit.
The roasted flavor, rich history, and labor-intensive handmade distillation in Mexico makes mezcal a fascinating topic, especially when explored by experts like Steve Olson and Charles Simmons. That's exactly where Arizona Cocktail Week succeeds. Every seminar is an in-depth look into up-and-coming trends in the cocktail world, as discussed by industry veterans and trailblazers. It's almost like school -- but with way more drinking.
One seminar-goer said that he learned more in Dale Degroff's bitters seminar earlier that day than he had in his decades of bartending. We certainly found a new love in mezcal to say the least, and we expect the spirit will blow up in mixology bars soon.