Brandon Casey Debuts New Barrel-Aged Cocktails at Citizen Public House

Categories: Hooch

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Shelby Moore
Beverage Director Brandon Casey presents the Fernet-chu Picchu.
Hands on the clock, as measured by those in the mixology world, move quickly. By now the barrel-aged negroni is the stuff of legend, and for me, the stuff of habit. At Citizen Public House in Old Town Scottsdale, I haven't not ordered a barrel-aged negroni in years. Not, at least, between three and six every day, when the barrel spouts flow quicker, and do so for five dollars a pop.

But old habits die hard, and aged habits must become fluid. So I was pleased to see that after some considerable time, Citizen Public House Beverage Director Brandon Casey was making some moves on a barrel-aged menu that had seen very little change (a julep, I think, was added a couple season ago). Such is the nature of aged things, I suppose -- they tend to stick around for a while.

New creations -- not one, but three -- were announced over Instagram about a week ago, so I headed on in to chat with Casey and, hopefully, to change my ways.

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5 Best Places for Absinthe Service in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Hooch

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Shelby Moore
Absinthe at Little Cleo's served traditionally. Ice cold water from a fountain drips over sugar to dilute.
A question for the ages: Just how many abandoned absinthe fountains are out there? Disenchanted by the apparatus (tragically, just picture those heavy fountains metal-plated Lady Absinthe lifts tirelessly above her head), some barkeeps may have even banished her to the highest shelf, by the 40-year-old scotch, as I've seen her, to accumulate dust like a hockey trophy.

But unlike hockey trophies, absinthe is cool. Some would argue it's been cool. Online stores even hawk vintage four-dripper fountains to the living-room entertainer by virtue of their group-friendly design to gather 'round. Like fondue sets that come with four fondue forks, no one except an unlucky fifth gets left out of the fun.

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Travis Nass of The Last Drop Bar in Paradise Valley: Spring Cocktail Guide, Continued

Categories: Hooch

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Shelby Moore
Order the 'El Ultimo' at The Last Drop -- headlining sotol, tequila's Chihuahua cousin.
Welcome to the indecisive mind of a reporter: it's never a matter of how would I introduce a guy like Travis Nass -- a sort of fabled mixologist, tucked away in a cabin-in-the-woods-like setting, a couple turns on a dirt road wandering from Paradise Valley's, let's say, "lustre," manning the cowboy-ish Last Drop Bar at the Hermosa Inn. It's anything but rugged, but far from an expected place to find some of the better -- and stiffer - cocktails in town.

It's more of a question of how should I introduce Travis Nass. I suppose I'll skip the mustache, the history of bars tended, his induction to The 2015 Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame -- because you'd expect all of that.

I should introduce Nass, then, by telling you that from a man that consistently reframes my perspective on what a strong cocktail is -- what he calls a "glass full of booze" -- I asked for a spring cocktail, something that could be floral or fruity, and got his version of 'The Last Word' called 'El Ultimo.' It's equal parts sotol (an Chihuahuan agave distillate made from the Desert Spoon plant), cooling Chareau (an aloe and cucumber liquor), herbaceous green chartreuse and lime juice, a combination that knocks your out of your boots and into some sandals. Rest your Spring Training cap here, weary traveler; you're both a side-street and a world away from Paradise Valley.

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Andrew Calisterio and Micah Olson of Crudo in Arcadia: Spring Cocktail Guide, Continued

Categories: Hooch

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Shelby Moore
'The Wishing Well' is comprised of stirred cucumber syrup, mezcal, rum, celery bitters and creme de menthe.

One of the questions I like to ask bartenders is what they throw on the stereo while they're opening or closing -- when no one, save for their co-workers, are listening. Because what really speaks more to the essence of a bar: the curated playlist for paying customers -- you know, that paints a pretty picture, or the stuff that knocks out prep, rounds out brainstorming, and un-zombifies those who sleep by day and work by night?

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Libby Longlott and Michael Allmandinger of The Parlor in Phoenix: Spring Cocktail Guide, Continued

Categories: Hooch

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Shelby Moore
The Parlor's Libby Longlott and her finished cocktail creation, 'The Roosevelt.'

Want firm proof that Phoenix's cocktail scene is growing? The hot new openings are cool, sure, but if you read last week's Spring Cocktail Guide with The Clever Koi's Joshua James, I'm going to connect some dots.


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Spring Cocktail Guide: The 'Little Sheba' with Joshua James of The Clever Koi

Categories: Hooch

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Shelby Moore
The 'Little Sheba' is the right kind of spring cocktail: festive and refreshing.

Like many restaurant teams in town, the guys at The Clever Koi may not have slept much recently, with a weekend of Devoured under their belts and media types knocking on their doors to ask about Spring menus. All the same, Joshua James, co-owner and Beverage Director, was dressed for a successful interview -- and dinner service, likely, too -- about the upcoming changes to his bar's cocktail menu.

We'd asked him to pick one drink, and one drink only, to share with us before its release. We got the 'Little Sheba' in return. It's mostly Fortaleza's Reposado Tequila, for an earthy and oak-aged backbone, some St. George Raspberry Brandy, some Giffard-brand Orgeat, lime juice, and more than a few dashes of 50/50 bitters to "help dry it out." James mashes strawberry at the bottom of a collins glass and stacks tinted, zested ice above it. Then he shakes the rest and fills. The end result? A delectably festive, delightedly not-too-fruity, decidedly un-sweet and balanced cocktail. A straw is your pipeline to drink a bit too quickly from the bottom up -- so, bottoms up. There will be a couple more like it when the 'Little Sheba' hits the menu in a couple weeks.

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Searching for Orange Wine in Phoenix? We Found It.

Categories: Hooch, Wine

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Shelby Moore
An unexpected glass of orange wine at Hillside Spot for only $7.
I'll have to begin by saying that I was completely oblivious to orange wine -- yes, I'll explain myself here in a moment -- until nearly a season ago while surfing Instagram, a wonderful place where I learn new things from my favorite tastemakers (I like the personal and off-the-cuff pulse for the culinary world that no wikipedia page or google search can offer: it's just more honest, and often slightly more inebriated).

The foodie in this instance is Oliver Strand, a foremost coffee journalist. He was dining at the Builders Arms Hotel in Fitzroy, Australia where among the list of vinos sprawling from Barossa Valley syrahs to natural proseccos and the stuff of Australian co-operative wineries, he pointed out quite literally the first very thing he saw: "Orange gets top billing."


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Counter Intuitive in Scottsdale: Painkillers and Bacon Beignets at Peter Kasperski's Latest (Rotating) Concept

Categories: First Taste, Hooch

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Lauren Saria
Micah Olson makes a New Orleans-inspiried cocktail at Counter Intuitive in Scottsdale.
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

This one, by the way, is more of a First Sip.

Day-drinking be damned. Weekday drinking, too -- or so the story goes for the highly-anticipated cocktail concept from Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz World Wine Bar owner Peter Kasperski, which is now open to the public as Counter Intuitive. Only awake from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., the menu features cocktails from top-shelf Valley talents Micah Olsen and Jason Asher and will change themes every few months. First up: Infused bourbons and a Bourbon Street-infused menu with a back story: a New Orleans estate sale for the deceased, sadly fictitious Bartholomew Chesterfield Ignatius Sugarman.

We went to pay our condolences.

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A Cocktail Vocabulary Lesson for the Novice

Categories: Hooch

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Chow Bella
Resolve to figure out that whole cocktail thing.
We've been reading up on lists of new trends that are predicted to become popular in the coming year, and there was one in particular that seemed to come up again and again. No, not the one that suggests that bartenders begin garnishing their drinks with literal pine and juniper branches -- the one about being nice.

It seems that this year, the cocktail and mixology community at large wants to try to bring back kindness to their customers, and change from that caricature of the stuck-up jerk with a handlebar mustache who just can't believe that you can't recite all 43 ingredients in Licor 43.

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Sochu House in Metro Phoenix Offers Hundreds of Sake Choices. Here's a Little Background to Get You Ready

Categories: Hooch

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Chow Bella
The bar at Sochu House.
The average American experience with sake begins and ends at a Benihana or similar teppanyaki-style Japanese restaurant. It's usually served warm, in little ceramic carafe with matching shot glasses or it's set on top of chopsticks over a glass of some nameless Asian lager and shaken by an earthquake of drunken hands until it falls into the glass below to be quickly guzzled down as a quirky dinner game for college students having a "nice dinner out."

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