Sample the spirits of local distilleries and get a taste of Phoenix along the way.
I remember the day I realized small batch distilleries were a thing. Between lunch and yet another gift shop, my husband and I happened on Montanya Rum in Silverton, Colorado, where we sampled rums, ordered a cocktail and bought a bottle to bring home. I was hooked on the experience.
Eagerly, I began to seek out distilleries in other communities. I sampled gin at a distillery in Santa Fe, vodka in Wisconsin and whiskey in Nashville. Some of the samples were amazing, others OK, but it really wasn’t about the contents of my glass. For me, it was about connecting with the local culture.
Which is why I was excited the first time I saw a bottle of Copper City Bourbon at a Scottsdale resort. Unlike the other occupants of the back bar, it was distinctly Phoenix — its name recalling the days when copper was king throughout much of the state.
Since then, small batch distilleries have popped up throughout Greater Phoenix, and each time I see a new local vodka, gin, rum, bourbon or other spirit on a menu, I make a point to try it. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:
Arizona Distilling Company
This is the distillery that started it all. Arizona Distilling Company became the first distillery since Prohibition to legally produce a spirit in the Phoenix area when it released Copper City Bourbon in 2013. Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey, the state’s first grain-to-bottle whiskey, soon followed.
Today, the distillery also makes Humphrey’s Arizona Malt Whiskey, Park Rye Whiskey, Mission Vodka, and Commerce Gin, which pays tribute to Arizona’s five C’s with five of its own: cardamom, coriander, cumin, cinnamon and citrus.
You can find the distillery’s spirits throughout Greater Phoenix, including its Copper City Bourbon at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass.
601 W. University Drive, Tempe
O.H.S.O. Brewery + Distillery
While the Outrageous Homebrewer’s Social Outpost (O.H.S.O) remains dedicated to craft beer, the brewery expanded into spirits in 2016 with its Hashtag lineup of vodka, gin and rum, followed by its Arcadia collection of flavored vodkas. It recently added two more options: Notary Bourbon Whiskey (regular and cask strength) and the piney and peppery Thesis Hop Liqueur.
For a behind-the-scenes look at the distillery in Scottsdale, book a tour, which includes a tasting plus a bottle to take home. Or, you can sample O.H.S.O.’s spirited options at its breweries and local spots such as Doc’s Watering Hole at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa.
15681 N. Hayden Road, # 112, Scottsdale
Produced “by hand” takes on a new meaning at Adventurous Stills, which uses all-copper stills hand-built by the three partners and mills its own natural grains. The lineup includes Papago Rum, Camelback Gin, Fossil Creek Whiskey, Mesquite-Smoked Fossil Creek Whiskey, Peralta Moonshine and Peralta Bourbon.
Adventurous Stills offers tours and tastings—not only of their own spirits but those from distilleries around the state—on the weekends. Their spirits are also available at several local restaurants such as Hula's Modern Tiki in Scottsdale and Glai Baan in Phoenix.
2125 E. Fifth St., #102, Tempe
Distilled with our custom-built artisan pot still in small batches, our handcrafted whiskey and vodkas use only 100% malted American barley. Learn more + find a bottle near you, Arizona: SanTanBrewing.com/distilling⠀ •⠀ •⠀ •⠀ •⠀ •⠀ #SanTanDistilling #SacredStave #SingleMaltWhiskey #SanTanVodka #DrinkLocal #Distillery #Vodka #Whiskey #ArizonaOwned #Local #Spirits #CraftSpirits
Like O.H.S.O., SanTan Brewing Company recently launched its own line of spirits: a vodka, kaffir lime vodka and American single malt whiskey. Both vodkas are distilled 16 times, and both won bronze medals at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The whiskey, which is aged in Arizona red wine barrels, won a silver medal in the same competition.
SanTan Distilling’s spirits can be sipped on their own or mixed in cocktails at the brewery’s original Chandler or new Phoenix locations or purchased at Fry’s Food Stores throughout Arizona. Check the brewery’s online Beer Finder map for up-to-date information on other retail outlets and restaurants serving the award-winning spirits.
495 E. Warner Road, Suite 102, Chandler
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Mike Mazzarotto considered opening a brewery but felt the market was saturated. So, instead, he partnered with fellow homebrewer John Racer to open one of Phoenix’s first post-Prohibition distilleries, Paradox Distillery. The grain-to-bottle Paradox produces a 100-percent wheat vodka, white rum and botanical-forward gin.
You can sample Paradox spirits at the distillery’s tasting room, open Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., or following the 45-minute distillery tours ($20), offered Sunday between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
The rest of the week, head to Bonus Round and Linger Longer Lounge to enjoy Paradox products or make a trip to Total Wine & More, located throughout the Valley, to bring a bottle home.
1725 W. Williams Drive, #65, Phoenix
Blue Clover Distillery
Old Town Scottsdale newcomer Blue Clover Distillery just tapped its first batch of vodka in January 2018, but Weston Holm, brother of mixed martial arts fighter Holly Holm, and his partners, Duane and Scott Koch, are already planning to add gin, rum and tequila to the lineup.
In the meantime, you can enjoy Blue Clover Vodka in mixed drinks at the distillery’s restaurant or infused with flavors like lime, blood orange and strawberry. While there, ask for a free tour to see the 100- and 30-gallon copper stills where the spirits are made.
Blue Clover Vodka is also available at several local restaurants including Good Wood Tavern, Craft 64, Fat Ox in Scottsdale and Cactus Jack’s in Ahwatukee.
7042 E. Indian School Road, Scottsdale
Black Mountain Tavern & Distillery
You don’t need a tour to see how Black Mountain Tavern & Distillery produces its vodka and ages its whiskey; just look through the glass window behind the tavern’s bar. In addition to the its signature vodka, Black Mountain produces a prickly pear vodka made from prickly pear fruit harvested in Tucson and is working on a rum and moonshine.
To enjoy Black Mountain Vodka, order one of the tavern’s specialty drinks like the Vodka Press, a mix of vodka and Sprite, topped with a splash of club soda and twist of lime, or purchase a bottle to take home. You can also pick a bottle at Total Wine & More stores throughout the metro area.
30855 N. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek
Carefree Spirits Distillery
In 2021, Renea McQuiggan announced that her company (then) Elysian Desert Distilleries, Inc. would be changing its name to Carefree Spirits Distillery and moving to a 1-acre parcel of land "where Carefree Bourbon and Chakra Vodka came to life.” And she has done just that.
This family owned and operated craft distillery turns our nationally awarded craft vodka and bourbon that you can experience in its tasting room. Carefree Bourbon is derived from a masterful blend of 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malt — which is aged over two years, so it is straight bourbon whiskey. The new American Oak barrels provide a rich character with hints of spice on the finish. But wait, there's more: McQuiggan also has plans for a 20,000 square-foot distillery bottling plant by 2023. And. We. Can't. Wait.
6201 E. Cave Creek Road, Suite C, Cave Creek