Tag Archives: arizona cocktail week

Stephanie Teslar, Photo by Shavon Rose

Blue Hound mixologist Stephanie Teslar is a spirit animal

Stephanie Teslar serves as head mixologist at downtown Phoenix’s Blue Hound Kitchen & Bar, where classic drinks are among the favorites, for Teslar and the guests. Teslar, who’s been at the Kimpton-owned hotel bar for almost three years, says she appreciates simple drinks, “the less ingredients, the better.”

“I like a drink that really enhances and magnifies the quality of the spirit, rather than masking it and compliments and plays on that flavor profile,” Teslar said.

A stirred whiskey drink, The Lawless, is Blue Hound’s most popular, a fact that impresses Teslar.

Aside from drinks, people are her favorite part of her job. Traveling and working events with different companies, with the opportunities to meet and learn from different people, to simply interacting with customers at the bar are some of her favorite aspects.

“I think it’s a really ritualistic sort of experience and it’s very inherent to human nature to want to imbibe and share laughs with your friends and people that are close to you,” Teslar says.

Teslar started working in a bar at age 15 as a bar back, and has since taken exams to become a certified specialist in wine and earned her Introductory Sommelier title. Now, in addition to running the bar program at Blue Hound and LUSTRE, Hotel Palomar’s rooftop bar, she volunteers her time and knowledge with Arizona Cocktail Week. This year she will serve as a liaison between the kitchens and those attending seminars, as she believes her service is best spent volunteering instead of hosting her own event downtown.

The sheer size of Phoenix is a hindrance to Arizona’s cocktail scene, which Arizona Cocktail Week is trying to promote, Teslar says. Instead of larger cities where establishments are close enough to allow people to go out to multiple bars in a night, people in Phoenix are almost forced geographically to pick one bar for the night.

Arizona Cocktail Week is made up of competitions, seminars, parties and other cocktail events. The Last Slinger Standing, a bartending competition is the week’s largest event, held Monday, February 16 at Bitter & Twisted in downtown Phoenix. Anchored at Scottsdale’s Valley Ho, the event will take place February 14-21, with events all around the Valley.

Fall fashion trends

Get your sips at Arizona Cocktail Week

Seven days a year, people from around the country come to Phoenix to celebrate and appreciate cocktails at Arizona Cocktail Week. When half of the country is freezing or hidden under snow, parties and events are being held outdoors and at venues all over the Valley. Arizona Cocktail Week is more than just drinking, though. It’s about the community, education and exposing the public to a profession that hasn’t always received its fair share of respect.

In its fourth year, Arizona Cocktail Week continues to foster the community that it saw at with its inception. With participants coming from all over the country to take part, Arizona Cocktail Week serves as a meeting ground for many people who see each other only once a year. The founders get a chance to get back together and see where their work has taken them.

Damon Scott and Ross Simon, both co-founders, recognize the sense of community the event has. Unlike cities with bigger markets, attendees at the event will be rubbing shoulders and squeezing lemons with the big names in cocktails, Simon says. When participants see the intimacy that Arizona Cocktail Week is able to offer, they go back to their own cities and to try to replicate it, Scott says.

But the event doesn’t cater to only those already in the cocktail community and looks to educate those who might not know much about the bartending career. “I think it shines a light on what we’re doing here,” Simon says. “The most important thing is getting people’s awareness up and having a vessel where we can teach that there’s more to alcohol than getting drunk.”

Despite many people’s stereotypes, bartending is looking to get a better reputation. “It’s been a respectable career for years but now we’re finally getting some of that respect back” says Micah Olson, part-owner of Crudo in Phoenix. Olson has participated in the event every year and won last year’s Last Slinger Standing, Arizona Cocktail Week’s biggest event. In charge of menu development, Olson sees seasonality playing into many drinks here, with lighter drinks doing better, though Phoenix is still a young city and developing its identity as a cocktail market.

Last Slinger Standing, held this year at Bitter & Twisted in downtown Phoenix, was the idea of Jason Asher. Asher started out in the industry trying to merge culinary arts and the bar. Several years later, he came up with competition that’s part Iron Chef, part March Madness. Similar to bartending, “it’s about listening, and it’s about understanding ingredients,” he says.

With participants from Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tucson, 2015 is the first year the entire state of Arizona will be represented at Arizona Cocktail Week. Throughout the week, many local bars and restaurants will hold more than 50 events, looking to expose people to what their bars and kitchens have to offer.

“I think this is one of the best, must-go events for anyone in the Southwest to eat, drink and learn,” Simon says.

Arizona Cocktail Week will be held from February 14-21. Main events will be held at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, the Cocktail Carnival on Saturday, February 14. The Last Slinger Standing Competition will be held Monday, February 16 at Bitter & Twisted in Phoenix. Wristbands can be purchased online or at any Bevmo store.

The not-so-secret ingredient in Bitter & Twisted's house punch is tequila!

Thirsty Thursday: Bitter & Twisted

photo 1The Luhrs Tower, aka the majestic old geezer nestled behind CityScape, aka downtown Phoenix’s first high-rise, just got a double dose of dapperdom with the grand opening of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour on its ground floor. For those who enjoy a bit of trivia and irony, it’s said the Luhrs Tower was the nerve center of Arizona’s prohibition headquarters. Bitter & Twisted, indeed!


Phoenix has a lot of great mixologists. But Bitter & Twisted is perhaps the city’s first bar solely dedicated to craft cocktails. And rightly so — the brains behind the bar is Ross Simon, a co-founder of Arizona Cocktail Week and former winner of the Finlandia Vodka Cup and Don Julio Tequila cocktail contest.


The parlor has a loft-bar feel with high ceilings, exposed ductwork, brick walls, a large mural of a martini-clutching ladyzilla crouched over Phoenix and large windows with a street view obscured by the high-back booths within.




Seating was incredibly limited on its media preview night and the pedestrian channel between the bar and parallel high-top seating had a lot of congestion issues. The seating issue is a problem for a first-timer because of there’s no logical space of repose in which to thumb through the extensive, impressive and exciting “Book o’ Cocktails.” This is not a drink menu — it’s a pamphlet you can buy for $5 of concoctions with chapters, an index and stories behind most drinks. It’s something you want to sit down with and thumb through, then pass to the next person in your group. Each drink has a detailed description and personality. It’s quite a remarkable menu, featuring every drink you never knew you wanted conceited with house made infused spirits, tonics, syrups and other ingredients. The bar is tapped with wine and bottle beer is also served.


Disregarding libations, Bitter & Twisted is situated in an enchanting space where even designated drivers will enjoy grabbing a light snack. It has a bit of an alternative personality without being uncool and cluttered about it.


Vibe: Alternative loft with craft cocktails

Dress code: You can probably get away with wearing what the patrons of the original Luhrs Tower would have worn.

Crowd: Hipsters, young professionals, people who work nearby

Price: The average drink will cost you more than $10

Hashtag: #drinkbetter

Led by the Scottish-born Principal Barmen & Proprietor, Ross Simon, Bitter & Twisted’s expert bar staff will be performing cocktail theatre nightly while whipping up a selection of globally inspired concoctions.

Bitter & Twisted moves into Luhrs Building

Tucked into a corner space inside the city’s first-ever high-rise, the new Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour (1 W. Jefferson St.) is set to help make downtown Phoenix once again the epicenter of the Valley’s dining and drinking scene when it opens on May 30. Housed in a soaring, window-lined space inside the historic Luhrs Building – an elegant 10-story brick and stone early 20th century engineering feat that was completed in 1924 – Bitter & Twisted combines a world-class cocktail lounge with a neighborhood bar’s sensibilities.

Lime and the Coconut, courtesy Bitter & Twisted

Lime and the Coconut, courtesy Bitter & Twisted

Led by the Scottish-born Principal Barmen & Proprietor, Ross Simon, Bitter & Twisted’s expert bar staff will be performing cocktail theatre nightly while whipping up a selection of globally inspired concoctions. As the past winner of the Finlandia Vodka Cup (USA) and Don Julio Tequila (AZ) cocktail contests and a co-founder of Arizona Cocktail Week, Simon says Bitter & Twisted will be a “fantastically welcoming cocktail bar where you can leave your pretentions at the door. It will be a great start and end to any evening.” Here, guests can flip through a prolific Book o’ Cocktails featuring a globe-straddling collection of new and classic drinks, all expertly-crafted using many house made infused spirits, tonics, syrups and other ingredients. “We’ll still have a nice selection of craft beer and wines, but we want to inspire the uninspired into finding his or her new favorite tipple (drink of choice),” Simon explains. “We’re lucky enough to be living in a second golden age of the cocktail, and we want to bring a great sense of excitement and exploration in the form of a great night out any night of the week.”

While Bitter & Twisted will firmly plant itself in the lexicon of the modern cocktail establishment, the space itself carries a rich history in the city of Phoenix, serving as the former nerve center of Arizona’s prohibition headquarters back when the residents of this desert metropolis (all 30,000 of them) dressed in top hats and risqué ankle-baring dresses and commuted to downtown via electric streetcars and Ford Model Ts. In a natural, progressive nod to today, guests can sip and dine while savoring the sights and sounds of Phoenix’s downtown rebound, even arriving just outside the door on the Valley Metro Light Rail.

Step inside the stylishly redesigned space and guests can slip into a mix of cozy banquettes and high-top table seating overlooking the exhibition-style central bar, as well as nosh on a worldly collection of bar bites and other great tasting dishes led by executive chef Bob Tam, including a late-night menu served until 1:30 a.m. On the weekends, the good vibes will be turned up a notch with live DJs spinning the night into the perfect twist, bringing yet another late night layer to downtown Phoenix’s diverse entertainment offerings.

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour will be open Tuesday to Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., and will be closed Sunday and Monday.


Thirsty Thursday: The Unique Taste of Crudo

Micah Olsen’s award-winning cocktails are nothing short of unique for his new spring menu at Crudo. Olsen works relentlessly on each of his drinks, buying the best and freshest ingredients. Inspired by his win at the 2014 Arizona Cocktail Week’s Last Slinger Standing bartending competition, Olsen created six new cocktails that can be tried every Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 7 pm for $5.

I tried four very different cocktails that did not remind me of anything else – they are simply unique. The Bali Brew mixes spice, fruit, and coffee to create a tasty mixture. The Big Brother is much fruitier and a different take on the traditional daiquiri. Raising Arizona is an old-school Italian drink that relies on bitters for those non-sweet drinkers out there. Finally, the Fuzzy Fix is a fresh kiwi-inspired drink and my favorite.

Bali Brew


  • 1 jalapeño

  • 3 passes on a microplane of orange zest

  • 1 oz Sailor Jerry rum

  • 1 oz Monkey Shoulder scotch

  • ½ oz demerara syrup

  • ½ oz lemon juice

  • ¾ Morning Moonshine (cold-brewed coffee)

Big Brother


  • 12-year-old El Dorado rum

  • 1 oz Caña Brava rum

  • 1 oz lime juice

  • ½ oz demerara sugar

  • 4 dashes of Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters

Raising Arizona


  • 1 mulled cucumber slice

  • 2 drops saline solution

  • Pink Himalayan salt

  • 1 ½ oz Arizona Distilling Co. gin

  • ½ oz Cointreau

  • ¾ oz Lillet Rose

  • ¾ oz Campari

  • 2 dashes AZ Bitters Labs Sunshine Bitters

Fuzzy Fix


  • 1 ½ oz Pisco Portón

  • 1 slice muddled kiwi

  • ¾ oz kiwi gomme syrup

  • 1 oz lemon juice

  • ½ oz Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot liqueur

  • Topped off with grapefruit soda

Cocktail Woman

Thirsty Thursday: Toast to Charity at Arizona Cocktail Week — Wristbands on Sale Now

Any regular reader knows we at Scottsdale Living love our cocktails — shaken, stirred, through a straw, out of a fish bowl; we’ll try anything once.

Our patronage of local mixologists can really add up after a drink or two, which is why we are literally counting down to the third annual Arizona Cocktail Week. (29 days!)

Once a year, Valley lushes and cocktail lovers get a smokin’ deal on their favorite poisons at the state’s finest bars and restaurants. All you need is an AZCW wristband, which are now on sale for $10.

Purchasing a wristband entitles wearers to a week (Feb. 14 to 21) of exclusive discounts (we’re talking a few bucks a drink at some establishments) at dozens of participating bars, lounges and restaurants — including The House Brasserie, St. Francis, Mabel’s on Main, Recovery Room, Hotel Valley Ho and others yet to be announced.

The perks don’t stop at the bar, either. A portion of the wristband proceeds are donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and come loaded with a $20 promotional credit for UBER (an on-demand car request service) as well as a 20-percent discount on your first ride.

Get your wristband here.

Arizona Cocktail Week logo

Arizona Cocktail Week To Kick Off February 16 At Hotel Valley Ho

Charlotte Voisey

Save money. Help out a nonprofit.

This is exactly what participants of Arizona Cocktail Week will have the chance to do for one week in February (February 16-22, 2013) — and it’s a statewide event.

For those interested in sampling cocktails, learning from nationally renowned mixologists and helping the community, purchase an Arizona Cocktail Week Tony Abou-Ganimwristband for $10, and take part it in all. Proceeds from the wristbands will benefit the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) Arizona, a nonprofit organization that works with public schools across the country to provide career opportunities in the foodservice industry for underserved youth through culinary arts education and employment.

Wearing the wristband guarantees half off drinks at participating restaurants and bars throughout the state, for the entire week. The wristband will also give Yelpers Steve Olsonaccess to dining specials and exclusive taxi deals to ensure everyone gets home safely.

But that’s not all. Wristband wearers will also receive RACK alerts (Random Acts of Cocktail Kindness), sent out via social media and email, informing attendees of special giveaways and pop-up events/bars, which will spring up around town headed by mixologists from Los Angeles, New York City and St. Louis.Angus Winchester

Arizona Cocktail Week will kick off with the Cocktail Carnival at the Hotel Valley Ho. Here, you’ll find the latest innovations from the nation’s top mixologists and bartenders, including booze-infused cotton candy.

Other notable events happening during AZCW:

  • Tony Abou-Ganim, author of “The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails” and “Iron Chef: America” contestant will host a ladies-only cocktail seminar.
  • Steve Olson, Wine & Spirits writer for Bon Appétit Magazine and cocktail consultant to the top restaurants in the country (Grammercy Tavern, Mayflower Inn) will host a cognac seminar and pub crawl.
  • Two other confirmed mixologists include Charlotte Voisey, company mixologist with William Grant & Sons USA and recognized by the James Beard Foundation in 2009 for contribution to mixology; and Angus Winchester, Wine Enthusiast’s 2012 Brand Ambassador/Mixologist of the Year.
  • This year will launch a Light Rail Pub Crawl in Phoenix.

Schedule for the week:

Saturday, Feb. 16

  • Cocktail Carnival

Sunday, Feb. 17

  • Bloody Bar
  • Seminars
  • Pool Party Fiesta
  • Imbibe n’ Dine

Monday, Feb. 18

  • Bloody Bar
  • Seminars
  • Artisanal Happy Hour
  • Last Slinger Standing
    Cocktail Competition

Tuesday, Feb. 19

  • Imbibe n’ Dine
  • To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion Event

Wed., Feb. 20

  • Light Rail Safari

Thursday, Feb. 21

  • Imbibe n’ Dine

Friday, Feb. 22

  • Last Call Closing Party

For more information about Arizona Cocktail Week, including the schedule of events for the week, visit arizonacocktailweek.com.

Arizona Cocktail Week
When: February 16-22, 2013
Where: View a list of participating restaurants/bars
Cost: $10 wristbands