In honor of Arizona Cocktail Week -- happening now through Saturday the 21st -- we decided to round up a list of downtown spots with the best drinks and atmosphere Phoenix has to offer.
Phoenix doesn’t have one main street packed with rowdy bars like some other cities do -- but it doesn’t need one either. The drinking holes scattered through downtown offer everything from craft cocktails, creative late night food menus, and hip vibes… all minus the pretension.
If you’re in town during cocktail week and want to score the best deals, make your first stop at The Vig Fillmore to buy a cocktail week wristband for $10. Wearing this red bracelet at bars will get you half priced cocktails at several participating businesses. And it ends up paying for itself after only a couple drinks.
If you come after the week wraps up, don’t worry. You can still get good deals on drinks and food during happy hour! You can reach all these bars easily on public transportation from the hostel or take a little more time to walk to them with some fellow guests to explore Phoenix on your way.
The Vig Fillmore - (606 North 4th Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85003)
Walking down the flagstone path into The Vig’s secluded patio feels like walking around a friend’s house to their backyard garden party. Totally fenced in by warm-colored wood paneling and strings of incandescent light bulbs, the outdoor lounge area has all the comforts of someone’s yard with a touch of urban sophistication -- and, of course, a fully stocked bar.
A square-shaped bar in the center of the outdoor area has TVs to catch a sports game, but the best seats in the house are the cushioned adirondack chairs clustered about coffee tables at the edges of the patio. There is also an area to play garden games like cornhole or bocce.
Enjoy the warm night air and chilled out electro-indie music as you sip on cocktails named after streets and neighborhoods in Phoenix and munch on late night favorites like sweet potato fries or nachos. The Moreland Marg is an especially good option: Your standard margarita jazzed up with habanero-infused tequila for an extra kick of spice. Only for those who enjoy hot and spicy flavors though, the first few sips will definitely make your eyes water.
Cocktails are normally $10 each, with a different one being featured for half off each night of cocktail week. If you’re curious about any new drinks, just ask the friendly, down-to-earth bartenders. Beers are all $5 or less and glasses of wine range from $7-13 each. Bottles of wine are always half off on Sundays, a great time to round up some new friends from the hostel and sip away a warm Phoenix evening!
The Arrogant Butcher - (2 East Jefferson Street #150 Phoenix, AZ 85004)
For a slightly more upscale option, hit up The Arrogant Butcher for drinks and small plates of fine cheeses and cured meats. Located just across the street from U.S. Airways Center, home of basketball’s Phoenix Suns, and Chase Field, home of baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, this bar makes for a perfect pre- or post-game spot. Or even a nice place to watch the game if you couldn’t get tickets.
Try to grab a few seats at the bar, otherwise you could be in for a 20-30 minute wait for a table at this popular dinner destination. But even a moderate wait would be worth taking in the Victorian meets modern vibe of the space. Sleek, simple furniture is accented with touches of leather and lace while mixologists in bow-ties shake up quality libations.
Feel like a connoisseur of fine provisions by asking the bartender about the various cheese and meat platter appetizer options. Be warned though, when they say ‘small plates’ they mean very small. If there’s more than two of you or you’re feeling hungry, order a few different plates to snack off of. At $5-8 each, it’s fun to mix and match a few, call it a light dinner and share with a friend.
Cocktails are all about $10, with one being featured for half off every night of cocktail week. Go during happy hour any week of the year (Monday through Saturday from 3-6pm) and you can get select cocktails for only $4! Same goes for happy hour beers, wines, and a few small plates.
Phoenix Public Market Cafe - (14 East Pierce Street Phoenix, AZ 85004)
Okay, saved my favorite spot for last, and although it’s not technically a part of cocktail week this year, they have affordable drinks every night of the year during their 3pm to 10pm happy hour. The cafe is located right next door to the public market that rolls in on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, so many of the foods served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are sourced from the local sellers at the market.
Feel instantly a part of the community as you feast on healthy-yet-tasty fresh food at wooden cafe tables with mini cactus centerpieces. The half open air bar has part indoor seating and part outdoor seating, so no matter where you sit you can catch the gentle desert breeze as you snack and sip your time away. Besides the endless local food options, this is also a good place to try locally roasted coffee, a few Arizona wines, and some beers from Arizona breweries.
While there is a definite hipster vibe with many tattooed and pierced servers and customers, everyone is genuinely friendly with none of the typical hipster pretension or snobbery. And there is still a diversity of customers that come in to complete the community feel, from older couples relaxing with mid-morning espresso to children and families having lunch and bakery treats. There is also community night on Sundays and Mondays from 5pm to 10pm where you can get a three course dinner for only $13 -- a total steal for the quality here.
Cocktails are normally $8, beers are $4, and all glasses of wine are under $9. During happy hour, you can get a pitcher of beer for $5 (yes, you read that right), some wines for $5 or $6, and select cocktails for only $5. The entire wait staff is really friendly and loves to chat about local Phoenix happenings with customers.