10 Best Metro Phoenix Cocktails of 2014 -- So Far

Categories: Hooch

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Heather Hoch
Just try to guess by looking at The Darkness what's in it.
It's been a great year thus far for craft cocktails in Phoenix, making it pretty difficult to pin down just 10 drinks to mention. While original tiki drinks have made their way back into the scene in a big way, simplicity, with a focus on high-quality craft spirits, seems to be king. Other trends include the use of amaros, apertifs, and fortified wines to give cocktails flavor without added juices or syrups. However, uncommon produce, like passion fruit, and homemade bitters, syrups, sodas, and more still rule the cocktail world in town-- and that's definitely not a bad thing.

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Judging Cocktails: 9 Lessons Learned After Drinking 18 Mai Tais in a Row

Categories: Hooch

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Heather Hoch
Holy Mai Tai, Batman! Where do you even start?
Last night, 18 of Phoenix and Tucson's best bartenders took to the stage at Sandbar in Chandler to compete in the Mai Tai Competition. The two winning drinks were chosen, along with their bartenders, to go to Kona, Hawaii to represent Arizona in the national Don's Mai Tai Competition, named after iconic tiki bartender Don the Beachcomber. Since the winner of the national event gets $10,000 and the title of world's best Mai Tai, on top of already getting to go to Hawaii, stakes were high. That means judging all 18 of the drinks was no easy task and I definitely learned a thing or two about drinking cocktails.

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10 Herbal Liqueurs and Wines You Should Try (That Aren't Fernet)

Categories: Hooch

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veganbaking.net/Flickr
Spice up your drinking routine with a different herbal liqueur.
If you're stuck in the no man's land between being completely sick of shots of Fernet Branca and going for the gusto and switching to shots of bitters, you aren't alone. Luckily, the wide world of digestifs, aperitifs, and whatever else you want to classify them as have something bitter, sweet, floral, and herbaceous out there for pretty much anyone. Finding one you like-- I mean really, really like-- is like making a new best friend, and I can think of ten you might want to add to the short list of potential drinking buddies.

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Magnum Cigar Bar Serves Up Craft Cocktails That Pair Well With Stogies

Categories: Hooch

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Heather Hoch
This Sazerac can and should be paired with a cigar at Magnum.
If nostalgia is what you're searching for in a bar, Magnum Cigar Bar pretty much feels like a step back in time. With a clientele of mostly old dudes puffing on cigars bought at the store next door, the vibe can certainly verge on boy's club. The whiskey-centric back bar is lined with backlit bottles from all over the world. To pair with it, there's a leather-bound book that lists every spirit in the house. To focus your efforts a little, before diving into the spirit book, sample a couple of drinks from the small, newly revamped cocktail menu.

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The State of the Cocktail: Is Mixology's Hold on the Culinary World Nearing an End?

Categories: Hooch

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Heather Hoch
Are you in love with wild spirituous creations or are you ready for it to go away?
On its own, the word mixology just feels pretentious. I get it. The image it evokes is of some bearded, bow-tied hipster bartender turning his nose up while shaking your $15 drink that's basically an Old Fashioned with some berries and a weird savory component. In fact, I don't think I've met one mixologist in town who wouldn't more readily describe him or herself as a bartender. People who insist on the title generally don't deserve it.

So let's just drop the word for now and focus on the craft cocktail movement as a whole, which hopefully merits a few less eye rolls in your book.

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Sloe Gin: A Tart, Historical Liqueur That's Making a Comeback

Categories: Hooch

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poppet with a camera/Flickr
First off: it's sloe gin, not slow gin.
So you might have recently seen a cocktail on a menu featuring sloe gin. Maybe you've seen a bottle of it at your favorite liquor store. If that's the case, you were likely intrigued by the liqueur's deep red color. Sloe gin is a gin-based liqueur (or it should be), kind of like Pimm's No. 1's fruity cousin. The reason you might be seeing it more at local bars is likely because its tart but still sweet tang adds a unique twist to cocktails that you have to try.

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10 Places for Pimm's Cups in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Hooch

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Heather Hoch
Tuck Shop's Pimm's Cup is simple, with handmade syrup and soda.
Sure, World Cup mania is hitting a fever pitch right now and cacha├ža and caipirinhas are taking center stage, but for tennis folk, it's almost time for Wimbledon and that means plenty of Pimm's Cups. Using the original gin-based Pimm's No. 1, the drink commonly includes citrus, cucumber, and mint and either lemonade or ginger ale. However, there are many unique takes on the super-refreshing Pimm's Cup served up fresh in town that you can sample during Wimbledon from June 23 until July 6.

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Clever Koi's Joshua James Mixes Up Modern Summer Cocktails with an Asian Flair

Categories: Hooch

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Heather Hoch
Joshua James puts the finishing touches on his Deadbeat Summer cocktail at Clever Koi.
It might be time to re-examine the kinds of drinks you drink this summer. While you can't go wrong with a light, refreshing, icy cold local brew, when it comes to cocktails, you might just be ready for something new. Put away those heavy syrups and sugary juices and take the lead from Clever Koi's Joshua James, whose clean take on craft cocktails will leave you refreshed and ready for another.

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What's the Big Deal Over Ross Simon's Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour?

Categories: Hooch

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Heather Hoch
Ross Simon's Bitter & Twisted is finally open -- and he couldn't be happier.
It seems the past week in Phoenix craft cocktailing has been consumed with word of Ross Simon's new bar, Bitter & Twisted. We don't see that changing anytime soon, either. The venture, largely a labor of love and determination, is about 10 years in the making. The cocktail menu is literally a book that is available for purchase. It can be overwhelming at first, but maybe this place is exactly what Phoenix needs.

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Welcome Diner's Mike Pantoja Makes Ginger Beer and More from Scratch

Categories: Hooch

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Heather Hoch
The Kentucky Thoroughbred is topped off with housemade ginger beer.
Back in the old days of Welcome Diner, if you were looking for a drink, you had your choice of two beers on draft and the ubiquitous hurricane, accompanied by shouting and banging when ordered. Now with Mike Pantoja on board, the Phoenix spot has become as much about its attention to quality and creativity on the drink menu as it has the food menu. Also like the food menu, Pantoja is taking care to concoct each drink the right way by experimenting constantly and making his own tonic, ginger beer, grenadine, and bitters.

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