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Jun 21, 2011 03:30 PM

Professional bartenders?

My wife and I just finished our last weekend in New Orleans. Amongst the many food and non-food reasons to miss this city, we are probably going to miss the number of bars with GREAT bartenders. I'm not talking about the tourist-trap places where the bartenders know only how to make that place's 3-5 signature drinks (I'm looking at you Napoleon House bartender who made my sidecar with whiskey, triple sec, and lemonade).

I'm talking about the places with bartenders who pride themselves on their craft and take time to make quality drinks. Bartenders to whom you can say, "I want something spirit-forward with gin", and get a different, fantastic drink each time. Preferably in bars that have multiple types of bitters and/or make their own syrups. Extra points for hole-in-the-wall type places. I searched the board for this and didn't pull much up from prior topics. Any help would be appreciated.

ps. We're moving to the Litchfield Park area, but we're willing to drive for good hooch.

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  1. New Orleans has a long-standing tradition of the cocktail. Several are credited with being invented there. It is much more of a hard-liquor and mixers city, than it's known for wine. It is a geo-centric tradition.

    Now, I have to admit that I am much more of a wino, than I am, a cocktail fan, so I can talk about wine lists elsewhere, but not really batenders.

    Maybe others can offer some names and places, but unless you are heading back to my "old stomping grounds," I am at a bit of a loss in the PHX-Metro area. Others will have some good pointers for you though.

    Good luck, and enjoy,


    1. I'll list some of my favorites bartenders who really know what they're doing, with links to the places so you can look up details on what really appeals to you.

      Rich at BLT Steak. Trudy Thomas (co-founder and vice-chairman of the Arizona chapter of the US Bartenders Guild) has done a fantastic job with the beverage program at the Camelback Inn and Rich is the guy to mix them up. Speaking of gin, I have to try that Nolet he's been raving about recently.

      Sample cocktail list

      Julie at J&G Steakhouse

      Richie at Citizen Public House

      Kris at The Parlor and Citizen Public House

      Jason at T. Cook's

      JK at Trader Vic's

      Troy - used to be at Cafe Bink. I've heard he's at the Spotted Donkey now. He's really into Prohibition-era cocktails (my favorite). He has a wonderful collection of vintage barware.

      Looking forward to checking out Mabel's on Main tomorrow. I know I may be forgetting a few. I haven't had a chance to visit many hole in the walls yet. I also really want to get to Rancho Pinot and check out Travis' cocktails. BTW, if you want to explore the world of rum, the RumBar at the Breadfruit is the place to do it. Huge selection with knowledgeable bartenders, great cocktails such as the Kingston Punch or a classic Hemingway Daiquiri, and rum flights.

      Rancho Pinot
      6208 N Scottsdale Rd, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

      Trader Vic's - Scottsdale
      6850 E. Main Street, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

      The Breadfruit
      108 E Pierce St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

      J&G Steakhouse
      6000 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

      The Parlor Pizzeria
      1916 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

      BLT Steak
      5402 East Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85253

      Citizen Public House
      7111 E. 5th Avenue, Suite E, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

      2 Replies
      1. re: Rubee

        Since I think of you as the expert in this department, may I suggest a Twitter list of local bartenders?

        1. re: exit2lef

          I think you pretty much covered the ones I know of on Twitter below, though Trudy's is @INNtoxic8ting (with an 8).

          I'll add Travis, Southern Wine and Spirits, and Jason Girard (Director of Mixology for SWS and Phoenix chairman of the US Bartenders Guild).


      2. Until recently, I skipped cocktails entirely in favor of beer and wine. The recent trends toward more usage of fresh ingredients muddled on site has me exploring the cocktail world a little more. Rubee definitely has a good list. I'll echo her endorsement of Rum Bar, the new bar adjacent to the Breadfruit Jamaican restaurant on Pierce Street Downtown. The bartenders there can explain their various cocktails or even pour a flight of rums for you.

        A few blocks away, Cycle is operating as a pop-up on many weekends pending the renovation of the Lexington Hotel in which it is located. Two well-known bartenders, Jason Asher and Micah Olson, have been concocting original drinks to go with the menus created by guest chefs. Go to and sign up for the mailing list to know what events may be planned on future weekends. I think those two bartenders have also done guest gigs over at Mabel's in Scottsdale, and Olson can be found at the Merc Bar in the Camelback Esplanade.

        It might be worthwhile to follow some of these bartenders on Twitter for updates on where they're working at any time:


        Finally, I'll add that a regular on this board, JK Grence the Cosmic Jester, has been known to tend bar at Trader Vic's in Scottsdale. He can't promote his restaurant on this board, but I'll tell you it's a good place to get a classic Mai Tai or any number of tropical cocktails.

        2 Replies
        1. re: exit2lef

          All the bartenders at Mabel's on Main are top notch. Go there in the early evening, before it turns into a zoo, sit at the bar, and they will amaze you. They really get into their craft and seek to understand what you like to drink. There's a great cocktail menu, but the best stuff is what they whip up off menu after you have a talk with them about the sorts of tastes you're looking for in a cocktail. It is one of my favorite bars in the world.

          1. re: cactuschowdah

            Thanks for the tip, hoping to get there on the early side tonight to meet a friend in from Boston. My husband won a generous gift certificate for Mabel's from a Fiji Water//Eater AZ promotion - bonus! I think I'll start off with a nice Sazerac, looking forward to exploring their cocktails.

            Mabel's on Main
            7018 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

        2. I guess I'll have to finally break down and get a twitter account to follow bartenders around - a good enough reason in my book. I wish there were a few more of these quality places west of town, but the theme I've been picking up here on Chow is that there are higher concentrations of higher-end food/bars in the east valley. Cheers.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Handbot

            I think I contributed to this high-end slant here. Only because I love to cook and my husband is the cocktail slinger in our house so I don't tend to go out to casual spots to eat/drink because we do it at home. My Twitter example - cocktails and food at home, that should explain it ; )

            So if we go out, it's a night out for me where I like to relax at a bar for a couple of hours, check out a resort, hang out at a spot with a view, go to a place off hours that's not packed with people so I get to know the bartenders/mixologists. I love the casual spots too - I just don't get to them as much and hope this doesn't read that I don't prefer them. I also live in the west valley. Really liked the cocktails and Spanish tapas at Sabor (Glendale). Unfortunately, now closed. Loved the cocktail list at the new Betty's Nosh (Glendale) including Moscow Mules served in the traditional copper mugs, but found out they changed it within the past two weeks. Nice wine by the glass list for our side of the valley though.

            BTW. Had a great time tonight at Mabel's. Fabulous service from Neil. I started with a Moscow Mule to cool down from the heat, then a Sazerac, and finished with Neil's special involving a Laphroaig rinse. That's the only clue I'm going to say. ; ) I had two. Foodwise - my favorite was the oysters Rockefeller (the best rendition I've had in AZ), while my girlfriend loved the chicken lollipops and my husband's favorite was the burger and fries ($8 at Happy Hour). Deviled eggs were a hit too.

            Nightcap on the stroll to the car was The Herb Box (love this place). A stop to wind down the night for my friend who was flying back to Boston tomorrow. Coffee for E, a glass of chenin blanc for me, and a Strawberry Darling for Barbara. "Dessert" was my savory order - SeaHive honey and sea salt cheese with sopressata and other "fixins" including crispy capers at the suggestion of another great bartender. Thanks Brooks!

            The Herb Box Southbridge
            7134 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

          2. christian at Trader Vics
            anyone at Mabels on Main every time great bartenders and great service

            Had a splash of the Nolet's Reserve last time i was there


            3 Replies
            1. re: Dapuma

              I agree - Christian is great!

              Have you had a chance to do any of Mabel's Vintage & Vinyl on Sundays? We missed so many good ones, including Julie above earlier this month, and Ross Simon (one of my faves we met when Prado opened; right now he's still in the industry but not behind a bar). We definitely plan on making our first one with Rich as guest bartender - July 10th. Jason Asher, Casey Wallin, and Rich with the Jim Beam Global Spirits portfolio.

              1. re: Rubee

                Had a great time at Vintage & Vinyl this past weekend. Again I ordered their oysters Rockefeller and E the burger (ground sirloin and Kobe). One of the highlights was Rich's cocktail made with (ri)1 and his wonderful homemade shrub with cherries and orange muscat vinegar (the "Saza-What"). Also loved Jason's "Toast to Jade" with sugarsnap pea-infused vodka and egg white, and Casey's bramble with lingonberry grenadine. Ended the night with one of my favorite classics - an Aviation with crème de violette. E also had a fantastic Old-Fashioned that Rich made with his cherries from the shrub and apricot instead of orange. Being from Boston, I'm a big fan of the Ward 8, wish I had tried Mabel's 9th Ward. Next time!

                Mabel's on Main
                7018 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                1. re: Rubee

                  (second part of Sunday's cocktail list, oysters)