In between our NYC dates, we checked out Tucson (and a bit of Phoenix)- it’s been years since we did a serious tour of Tucson so Lorri & I weren’t sure what to expect (when we lived in Tucson over a dozen years ago ago the cocktail renaissance hadn’t quite landed yet). We were really pleased to find a healthy number of distinctive and memorable cocktail joints, many of them within a few blocks of each other!

We’ll do some in-depth reports on many of these places, but here’s a quick round up:

Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails : Our one targeted spot in Phoenix (and the featured image for this post!) did not disappoint. While the drinks were sharply tilted to the overly sweet, once we requested our drinks on the much less sweet  side, the imaginative menu revealed some real winners.

Guadalajara : Tucson is jacked with great Mexican food and Guadalajara is one of those uber-popular stalwarts that has solid grub and fun margaritas of serious size. My margarita was a little more interesting than most, using tequila infused with cilantro and Jalapeno (and an intimidating jalapeno garnish)!

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FIRST NIGHT:

Obon :  On our last trip to TucsonLorri and I snagged a seat at a sushi bar on a jam packed night. The Asian cocktail list was fun but not exactly “craft” and I more or less dismissed it from my memory. Now years later, I came across several cocktail recommendations for this sushi & ramen joint called “Obon”, so we made this our first stop on our first night. At 5’ish o’clock it was pretty empty so we got great seats at the bar … and Lorri said “Hey, we’ve been here before”.  And so we did, except this time we saw their HUGE and wonderfully constructed cocktail menu. Throw in a friendly and talented bartender and an impressive array of Japanese whisky and you’ve got my favorite cocktail place in Tucson.

47 Scott : This was our favorite bar from a previous visit and we were happy to go back to its large array of classic cocktails crafted with precision and respect for tradition. Definitely my recommendation for the FIRST bar to go to in Tucson.

Good Oak Bar: Solid whiskey bar with good prices for the usual suspects but not super memorable. Good place to go with a group when you’re looking for a great time more than great whisky or cocktails.

SECOND NIGHT:

We were accompanied on much of the tour by Lorri’s daughter Mackensie and her buds Chris, Jared and Tom (who had heard a lot about our drinking expeditions and wanted in!)

Agustin Kitchen – I’m always a little suspicious of places known for really good food and a nice  building, but in this case there was no reason to worry. Wonderful drinks, including a Jasmine so good that I immediately put it on my list for the next company cocktail hour.

Owl’s Club – It took a bit of a hike to get to this place, which was housed in a former funeral home that still looked like a funeral home. The place was dark with several rooms and even with the packed bar it was pretty creepy (as Mackensie had warned us). In the end, it was COMPLETELY worth it, thanks to some rarer whiskeys at killer prices. It’s called an “aspirational Western bar” and it lives up to its aspirations.

Tough Luck Club – This bar is housed in the basement of the Reilly Craft Pizza, which is itself in a very old building that was … I shit you not … ANOTHER FUNERAL HOME. If you do the math, you realize that the Tough Luck Club is located in THE MORGUE. Definitely all grit and concrete and stiff drinks made with creativity but not a lot of fussy precision.  Case in point : I had a cocktail with Banane Bresil (banana liqueur) called the “Manhammock” and at this point in the night I was NOT man enough to handle it!

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No false advertising here!
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The Man-Hammock … some dares aren’t worth accepting!
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Great cocktail names
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A place like this doesn’t bother redoing their menus!

Batch Cafe and Bar – Sealing Tucson’s reputation as a city full of surprising bars, this joint features killer whiskey and killer DONUTS. Do these two things really go together? Who gives a shit?!?  This place was deafening and a total blast!

Bonus Round: I should have been stuffed at this point but couldn’t resist grabbing 3 slices from Empire Pizza, the traditional late night pizza joint. Every city has a place that makes semi-decent pizza that somehow tastes incredible after midnight – once Lorri and I got back to the hotel I ate two of the BIG-ASS slices, fell asleep and then woke up and ate the last one. Perfect ending to a great, memorable night of drinking!

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