I’ve never met a cocktail I didn’t like, and as a new-ish Phoenix resident, I’m making it my mission to check out the many bars and restaurants known for their spirited creations. First up, a roundup of my favorite spots to enjoy whiskey in Phoenix.
First things first, a lesson in whisky vs. whiskey vs. bourbon vs. scotch. The Scots spell it whisky and the Irish and Americans spell it whiskey, with an 'e'. The main difference between scotch and whiskey is geographic. Scotch is whisky made in Scotland, while bourbon is whiskey made in the U.S.A, generally Kentucky. Scotch is made mostly from malted barley, while bourbon is distilled from corn.
Now for the good part…. My five favorite places to throw back a refreshing glass of whiskey. Whether you prefer it on the rocks or as the main ingredient of a strong cocktail, these spots have you covered.
The Scotch Library at the Westin Kierland provides aficionados and those new to Scotch the opportunity to select from over 200 different labels. Among their rarest whiskies are the lost labels, which come from distilleries that are no longer standing. Three noteworthy offerings from their collection are the vintage single malts: Glenfiddich 50, Balvenie 50 and Macallan 62. Assisting guests with selections are Scotch Library Ambassadors, who are experts in the area of single malt and blend whiskies from Scotland. Sláinte!
The Gladly, a light-filled restaurant and bar with a contemporary feel in the Camelback Corridor, offers more than 230 whiskeys. Their list of spirits covers everything from Scotch and Irish whiskeys to the familiar American-made bourbons. Newer additions to the list are Japanese selections including the Nikka Coffee grain and malt whiskeys, which are stylistically most like scotch. I recommend their classic boulevardier (on draft) or the Holy Water, featuring Basil Hayden's bourbon, Mandarin Napoleon, Marasca cherry, demerara and bitters.
Buck & Rider describes their décor as “inspired by a house located in a swanky beach town on the coast of Australia.” Call it what you’d like, when can I move in?
While they do offer a respectable list of whiskeys, the cocktails are where it’s at. The signature Buck & Rider (Rittenhouse rye, China China, Aperol, lemon, served up) has earned its namesake status and Your Money or Your Life (Old Forester Bourbon, Bénédictine, Combier, orange bitters) is worth trying as well. During their popular happy hour, all signature cocktails are just $6.
This well-hidden “classy dive bar” is popular amongst locals for good reason. A cozy spot with games (such as darts, skee ball and foosball), the log-cabin wallpaper and zigzag wood paneling create a casual and appropriately dark vibe for sipping on a flight of whiskey.
Try out one of their suggested samplings—the Kentucky Flight and High West Flight are great—or create your own off of their more than 100 whiskeys which are all available as one-ounce pours. If you’re in the mood for a cocktail, their Rhubarb Rye Old Fashioned is my pick: Templeton Rye, rhubarb bitters, muddled orange and cherry served “on the big rock”, as they say.
Honor Amongst Thieves is the newest bar on the list. With a swanky but comfortable look, this vintage-inspired hotspot is a great addition to Central Phoenix.
The bar is accessed through the back stairwell behind Stock & Stable. The words “ What else is possible” are scrawled on the side of the building, an appropriate welcome to a bar that makes it easy to enjoy more than a couple high-proof cocktails.
With a page of the cocktail menu dedicated to bourbon, rye and whiskey cocktails, you can experiment with creatively crafted combinations. Church on Time combines Rye Whiskey with Allspice Dram, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice and blackberries. If classic is your preference, give their Thieves Old Fashioned a try.