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Arizona Cocktail Weekend: Why You Need to Go!

No surprise Phoenix—one of the country’s most innovative cocktail scenes—is home to the ultimate cocktail festival.

Photos courtesy of Arizona Cocktail Weekend

Like the World Fair for cocktail enthusiasts, Arizona Cocktail Weekend will take your knowledge to the next level as the globe’s best bar and drinks industry professionals descend upon Phoenix, Arizona. The five-day festival features tastings, seminars, brand-driven happy hours, and three signature events: the Cocktail Carnival, Top Bars, and Last Slinger Standing.

Where most cocktail festivals celebrate local talent and bars, Arizona Cocktail Weekend champions both local and international bartenders with the Top Bars event, held on Sunday. This event is what really sets Arizona Cocktail Weekend—founded by celebrated bartender Ross Simon— apart from others. More than 40 bars from all over the world showcase their best cocktails at a historic warehouse in downtown Phoenix.

Like Vanity Fair’s post-Oscar party, Top Bars is a star-studded, who’s who of the bar industry. As follows were just a few of the award-winning bars that attended in 2023: San Francisco’s Trick Dog; Albuquerque’s Happy Accidents; Hong Kong’s Penicillin; London’s Amaro; Las Vegas’ Herbs & Rye; New Orleans’ Jewel of the South; Singapore’s Analogue; as well as plenty of local representation, like Phoenix’s UnderTow and Little Rituals.

And Phoenix’s high caliber of bars—annually scooping up nominations and awards at Tales of the Cocktail, World’s Top 50 Bars and others— is what draws many bartenders and bars to attend.

“I am literally blown away with the cocktail scene in Phoenix. Full stop,” says first-time Top Bar attendee Ryan Lilola of Clover Club in Brooklyn. “Everyone’s very serious about craft here.”

At the Top Bar event, each bar has a dedicated booth to express their creativity. Most bars pair the theme of the booth to the cocktail they serve, like Highball Cocktail bar’s alien-themed booth served a Close Encounters cocktail (apple tea-infused Wheatley, Pomp and Whimsy liqueur, sherry, yuzu, orgeat, ginger and Amargo Chuncho bitters). Pontiac—the Hong Kong bar with an all-female bar staff—stayed on-brand with rock-and-roll art, serving up their monster popular cocktail: the Hobnail (whiskey, ginger, lemon, Amaro, and bitters). Trick Bar’s theme was a kid birthday party, complete with pinatas and bartenders with party hats. Others kept it simple, focusing on the spinning out drinks to the thousands of thirsty attendees with wicked speed and precision.

“We’ve been coming here for five years. Top Bar is our favorite to work. It’s well organized and there’s so many talented bartenders here,” says Sadie Canada from Denver, Colorado’s Williams and Graham, a World’s 50 Best Bars winner.

The Cocktail Carnival is yet another Dionysian affair. Taking place on Saturday, the Cocktail Carnival at Walter WhereHouse features over 30 spirit brands, each doing their best to dazzle the crowds both in elaborately themed booths and performative cocktails. The Tito’s vodka booth delivered one of the best cocktail-making spectacles with a billowing smoke as they made liquid nitrogen mojitos. There is plenty of interactive art, live music and Cirque du Soleil-style acts as well.

Arizona Cocktail Weekend’s final public-facing event, the Last Slinger Standing is a good old fashioned cocktail competition between a select number of Arizona barkeeps. Mixologists are judged on speed, originality, presentation and of course, taste. Sin Muerte’s bartender Delena Humble took home the Last Slinger Standing trophy in 2023.

Get your tickets now. Over 5000 people attend. Both Cocktail Carnival and Top Bars—with over 1300 people showing up for a good time and great cocktails—sell out annually.

Here are details for Arizona Cocktail Weekend 2024:

Arizona Cocktail Weekend, Feb. 16-20, 2024
Tickets start at $50.

Bar application to attend here.

February 17:

The Cocktail Carnival

Walter Where? House, downtown Phoenix

February 18:

Top Bars

Warehouse 215, downtown Phoenix

February 19:

Last Slinger Standing

Republic National Distributing Company, east Phoenix

Where to Stay, Eat and Sip: Arizona Cocktail Weekend’s Phoenix Guide


Rise Uptown Hotel

With a party pool scene and a booming rooftop bar, Rise Uptown is, simply put, where the cool kids stay. Rooms have an Arizona-inspired mid-century vibe, complete with your own turntable and records. Don’t miss the ceviche and a spritz at Lylo Swim Club, the outdoor restaurant adjacent to the pool. This is a great option to stay at for the Arizona Cocktail Weekend for three reasons: it’s close to downtown, it’s affordable, and it’s fun, guaranteed to keep your spirits high (pun attended) during the festival. I mean, who doesn’t love a popsicle at check in?

Arizona Biltmore

If a swanky resort is what you seek, look no further than Waldorf Astoria’s Arizona Biltmore, the recently refurbished nearly century-old beauty inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. Although fabulous in every way, from the lush grounds to the elegant rooms, the resort is roughly a 20-minute drive to Arizona Cocktail Weekend events.


Hula’s Modern Tiki

A fun Hawaiian-meets-Tiki theme, Hula’s is great to stop for lunch or dinner for some Baja fish tacos, shrimp coconut rolls, Hawaiian BBQ ribs and of course, the stellar Mai Tais. The Loco Moco, a local Hawaiian favorite of white rice, burger patty, and egg smothered in gravy, is a great pre-game feast before either cocktail event. If you go in the evening, do not miss a stop at the next-door bar, Captain’s Cabin. It’s dark, sexy and nautical-themed with a serious tiki cocktail menu and Dave Muhlstein aka Captain Dave, a one-man-marvel behind the bar.

Anhelo Restaurant

Near both weekend events in the heart of downtown Phoenix, Anhelo sets a celebratory tone to the beginning of your night at Arizona Cocktail Weekend. Treat yourself to indulgent favorites by the extremely gifted chef Ivan Jacobo, like the Hirame crudo, charred octopus (It was probably the best octopus I’ve ever had, and I order octopus a lot!), U10 scallops in a divine sweet potato puree and Beef Wellington. Although the menu is elevated, Anhelo’s staff are warm and friendly, helping to navigate the dazzling food options and 35-page wine menu, a Wine Spectator “Best of Excellence” award winner in 2022.

Pizzeria Bianco

The downtown Phoenix pizza hotspot, nearby Cocktail Carnival and Top Bar events, helped chef Chris Bianco earn a James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southwest in 2023. Now in 2022, Bianco scooped up another James Beard award. All that said, his pizza is that good, plus the mozzarella is that good. Don’t miss it.

Matt’s Big Breakfast

The perfect solution if you tried too many drinks at one of the events, Matt’s Big Breakfast is everything you want in a diner: comfortable and quick with giant plates of greasy-in-a-good-way food. The only twist here to the usual diner is that Matt’s ingredients are top-notch quality.


Although you’ll have plenty to imbibe during Arizona Cocktail Weekend, here are some of the must-visit bars for either boundary-pushing cocktail menus or a bar theater experience… or both: Little Rituals (in downtown Phoenix), Across the Pond, UnderTow (two locations), Platform 18, Bar 1912, Bitter & Twisted (in downtown Phoenix) and one of the newest bars to scene: Quartz.

The post Arizona Cocktail Weekend: Why You Need to Go! appeared first on Chilled Magazine.

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