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.