Mix It UpAt Cocktail Hour, it’s all about the ingredients
Photo: The Gladly
It’s five on a Friday and the glug-glug sound of liquid into glass is on the brain and pulling you to the nearest superb place to escape for a cocktail.
Waiting there will be a bartender, or mixologist, or drink artist, or whatever you want to call the person charged with doing the important work of assembling flavorings and spirits in combinations we like to call cocktails. You needn’t look far to find this person. The thriving restaurant scene that has enlivened Arcadia, Biltmore, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley over the last decade has also birthed a busy cocktail bar landscape.
Within this growing cocktail world, patterns emerge. Shifts can occur in preferences for sweet or sour, dirty or straight or bitter. Or maybe atmosphere is more valued than before. In looking at some of the trends dominating cocktail bars right now, answers largely depend on whom you ask. It’s fluid …
But some indisputable commonalities exist. Whether you seek a balm for your sorrows, a release from work stress, or a place with a comforting glow in which to commune with your smartphone, one thing is for sure: the Happy Hour crowd has gone back to the basics with a taste for the simple components of tried-and-true cocktails that date back decades. Newfangled showoff drinks get consumed, for sure, but the classics still reign, according to those who would know.
Photo: Jade Bar
Lead mixologist Eddie Garcia at Jade Bar, the cozy Paradise Valley retreat at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort, says although Jade offers new and exciting cocktails, “the classics never go out of style.”
“There are still plenty of Old Fashioned and Manhattan drinkers,” he says. “Even our own classics such as the Fiery Mandarin and Grapefruit Basil are common. Simple is often the order of the day, although our newest, classic Tiki selection has been received well. In the end, fashions may go out of style but style never goes out of fashion.”
Photo: Second Story
John Christie, the head barman at Second Story Liquor Bar in Scottsdale who’s been behind the stick for more than 20 years, says he has seen a shift in the local drinking patterns in recent years toward “more classic-style cocktails.” He says, “People seem to enjoy the style we provide here at Second Story. The focus is kind of a ‘Mad Men’ style of drinking and lounging in a classy cool environment. I think this comes from a return to the basic components of great well-balanced cocktails without lots of frills.”
“The Moscow mule, the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan are some examples of what we like to call jumping-off points,” says Jason Asher, who heads up Counter Intuitive’s menu development and implementation, and mentors its bartenders. He also consults on 150 restaurants and bars a year in Arizona as director of craft spirits and mixology for Young’s Market Company of Arizona. “Those cocktails help the consumer to feel comfortable and allow the bar to capture their audience.”
Trends aren’t confined to whatever mixologists are putting together in a glass at the moment. Take attitudes, for example. Asher says there has been a big shift. “Bartenders have finally realized that it is not necessarily the liquid in the glass that means the most … it is the overall guest experience,” he says. “The idea of a warm welcome, sincere service and a gracious goodbye was a thing of the past several years ago. This trend of pretentiousness has finally subsided and the cocktail community is truly embracing the idea of customer service.”
No doubt you can’t have a good cocktail experience without the top-flight customer service. Fellowship, whether with friends, bar strangers or restaurant staff, does have its place in cocktail culture. A visit to the bar can serve to soothe the anxiety of the day, but the human contact that takes place in that setting is what brings customers back.
Whisky also helps. Brian Goodwin, beverage director at The Gladly in Phoenix and Citizen Public House in downtown Scottsdale, says the whisky explosion, which was just getting started when The Gladly opened in 2013, is still going strong.
“We’re a huge whisky bar here,” Goodwin says. “There doesn’t really seem to be much of a burst in the bubble on the whisky side coming up anytime soon … The trend just keeps going,” he says. “Younger people are taking part in it, women are taking part in it — so that in itself is huge; it’s awesome.”
The Gladly trains bartenders to learn 50 classic cocktails in 90 days. “It’s a good broad scope for them to build on,” Goodwin says. After the bartenders have a firm grasp of the classics, they can start getting creative.
As for the future, it will be besotted with mezcal (“I think it’s going to surge here,” says Goodwin), and tiki cocktails and rum are making a cool resurgence, he says (a view echoed by some of the other mixologists). Fading fast from the bright lights behind the bar are flavored vodkas, or, as Goodwin calls them, “one-trick ponies.”
2201 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
4166 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
5700 E. McDonald Dr., Paradise Valley
Citizen Public House
7111 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale
(via Eddie Garcia of Jade Bar)
(strong) 2 oz. Elijah Craig 12 year
(sweet) ¾ oz. simple syrup
(sour) ¾ oz. lemon juice
iced bucket glass cherry garnish
Simple Syrup is made by combining equal parts by volume of sugar and hot water.
(via John Christie of Second Story)
2 oz. rye or cognac
¾ oz. simple syrup
7 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Absinthe-rinsed Old Fashioned glass
orange peel garnish
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass with hard, large cube ice; stir until cold; pour into Absinthe-rinsed glass; rub orange peel around rim before dropping into drink.
(via Brian Goodwin of The Gladly)
1.5 oz. Woodford Reserve bourbon
¾ oz. Sibona amaro
1 bar spoon of Luxardo Sangue Morlaco
2 dashes Fee’s Barrel-Aged Bitters
Expressed orange peel
Build all ingredients over ice, stir and garnish with an expressed orange peel. This is also a great cocktail to barrel age! Just multiply for the volume desired and age for at least a month.
Best Places to Stock Up
4430 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
7141 E. Lincoln Dr., Paradise Valley
3205 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
1670 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
10320 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
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