A pear-flavored martini under twinkling lights, a sparkling pink-rosé cocktail with a festive basil garnish, or a cinnamon-rimmed apple-infused margarita: When it comes to creatively festive cocktails, the Valley of the Sun in the Phoenix, Arizona, metro area has the holiday-cheer scene covered.
Indeed, if ever there was a season to be jolly, Arizona’s winter days of blue skies, warm breezes, and brightly lit palm trees fit the bill. Add in a few festive cocktails like “Grey Goose in a Pear Tree,” or “Yule Log Grog,” and you have the perfect setting for a merry holiday.
Whether it stems from the balmy December weather or the scenic desert terrain, the bars and bistros in Phoenix and Scottsdale apparently have plenty of inspiration for playing up the holidays with delicious and refreshing cocktails. And the plentiful café patios, outdoor fireplaces, and quirky neighborhood bars serve as the perfect backdrops for a desert-Christmas happy hour.
Here are seven festive cocktails to try in the Valley of the Sun.
1. Yes Way Rosé
Humble Bistro, Scottsdale
A bit of old-world charm is in store at Humble Bistro, a cool spot that was created by the owners of the Valley of the Sun’s famous Humble Pie pizzerias. Located in Scottsdale’s High Street area, Humble Bistro is billed as a cultural fusion pizzeria and wine bar that features a mix of Italian and Latin influences.
Along with dinner and lunch, Humble Bistro also offers a weekend brunch with a variety of classic cocktails such as mimosas, sangrias, and the Not So Humble Mary, a variation on the Bloody Mary, garnished with a mini Caprese skewer.
Perhaps the prettiest of all is the Yes Way Rosé, a pink-hued cocktail made of a crisp rosé wine topped with Italian prosecco and a basil leaf. The cocktail pairs nicely with brunch favorites like the kosher pizza featuring smoked salmon, jalapeno cream cheese, red onion, and crispy capote capers, or the “Humble Bennys” — eggs Benedict specialties such as the carne that features scrambled eggs, capicola ham, candied bacon, white cheddar, and chipotle hollandaise.
Pro Tip: For an alfresco dining option, ask to be seated beside the outdoor fireplace in Humble Bistro’s charming patio.
2. Azul Navidad
Sippin’ Santa, Bitter & Twisted, Phoenix
A tiki scene with a festive holiday twist awaits in downtown Phoenix at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour, a stylish spot that gets dressed up for Christmas with a Sippin’ Santa takeover.
The award-winning cocktail lounge temporarily becomes a festive tiki hideaway with a range of tropical beverages and collectible barware and tiki mugs. Continuing through Christmas Eve, Bitter & Twisted is transformed into a holiday spectacular “filled with tiki flair, rum, snowflakes, more rum, holiday palm trees, and ten thousand lights,” says the lounge’s website.
Among the most picturesque of the Sippin’ Santa cocktails is the Azul Navidad, a vivid-blue beverage featuring tequila, mezcal, and blue Curaçao, and all served up in a sleek holiday glass.
3. Yule Log Grog
Sippin’ Santa, Bitter & Twisted, Phoenix
If a hot gingery drink served in a woodsy mug sounds like the perfect pick-me-up on a cool desert night, Bitter & Twisted is the place to go. The lounge’s Yule Log Grog mixes up gin, Caribbean-inspired ginger/lime/almond-infused Falernum liqueur, cranberry syrup, and ginger liqueur in a log-like mug.
The cocktail is served hot and garnished with a red-and-green combo of lime peel and cranberries.
Pro Tip: Bitter & Twisted, a long-time local favorite, is located in the heart of downtown Phoenix in the historic Luhrs building, a 1924-era Art Deco brick structure that was once known as the tallest building in Phoenix.
4. A Grey Goose In A Pear Tree
Plaza Bar, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
For a whimsical cocktail that evokes both the first day of Christmas (a partridge in a pear tree) and the sixth day of Christmas (six geese a-laying) portrayed in the famous Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, check out A Grey Goose in a Pear Tree at the Plaza Bar at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.
Combining the essence of Anjou pears from Grey Goose’s La Poire vodka with peach liqueur, yellow chartreuse liqueur, sparkling rosé, and lemon, the sweet/citrusy drink is served chilled in a pretty martini glass.
The cocktail is especially wonderful because it is served amid the 6 million lights of the Fairmont Princess’s Christmas at the Princess, a Christmas extravaganza that takes place each holiday season at the luxurious Scottsdale resort.
The Grey Goose in a Pear Tree cocktail is one of about a dozen specialty cocktails served at the Plaza Bar, an outdoor lounge that is located next to the event’s Enchanted Plaza, which is the site of the signature Christmas tree that features 70,000 LED lights that twinkle and dance to 17 classic holiday songs.
Pro Tip: The Plaza Bar is also a great place to take in the Enchanted Plaza’s performance of a high-definition video show that features animations projected against the resort’s façade.
5. Keepin’ Up With The John’s
Plaza Bar, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Scottsdale
For another opportunity to take in the glitzy Christmas scene at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, the Keepin’ Up with the John’s puts a delightfully tangy twist on the southwestern-classic margarita cocktail.
Containing a mix of Don Julio Blanco Tequila, apple spice syrup, agave nectar, and lime, the cocktail packs a nice holiday punch amidst the holiday revelry. Making it even more festive, the drink comes in a sugar-and-spice-rimmed glass with a cute dried-apple garnish.
Pro Tip: Many of the seating areas at the Plaza Bar come equipped with in-table fire pits, which offer a nice blast of warm air when the December nights turn crisp and cool in Scottsdale.
6. Dirty Martini Under Twinkly Lights
Swizzle Inn, Phoenix
While you won’t find fancy holiday cocktails at the Swizzle Inn in central Phoenix, what you can expect is a dazzling display of colorful Christmas lights covering everything from the ceiling to the bar to the jukebox to the pool table — and even in the women’s restroom.
The little neighborhood bar located at the corner of Phoenix’s 16th Street and Bethany Home Road is famous for its holiday lights, some of which stay up year round. Even though the Swizzle is more a draft-beer-and-whiskey-sour sort of establishment, the friendly bartenders will create a holiday creation upon request.
For a vintage cocktail experience, ask for a vodka martini, served dirty and heavy on the olives, and sip your cocktail in the neon blue glow of thousands of twinkling holiday lights.
7. You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out Kid
Hula’s Modern Tiki, Phoenix And Scottsdale
For the granddaddy of holiday drinks, consider the hip tiki offerings at Hula’s Modern Tiki in one of three locations — Uptown Phoenix, Old Town Scottsdale, and High Street, Scottsdale.
Described as a modern, urban twist on the classic tiki bars and restaurants of the 1950s and 1960s, Hula’s offers an indoor-outdoor vibe with a palm-tree-topped Tiki Room.
The three locations offer a number of cocktails named after classic holiday movie lines like “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out Kid” — a cocktail that makes an impact with Ron Zacapa Rum, orange-hued Aperol, Grand Marnier, vanilla, and lemon.
Other fun offerings at Hula’s include the Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer (Bacardi-spiced rum, Fireball, cinnamon syrup, and cranberry), and the Merry Christmas You Filthy Animal (bourbon, Campari, Averna Amaro, sherry, and spiced bitters).
Pro Tip: With an average high temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit in December and January, and 72 in February, the Valley of the Sun communities of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Mesa offer nearly ideal winter conditions for the indoor/outdoor cocktail scene.
Some other interesting libations to try during the holidays: