by Alyssa Tidwell
Best Comedy Club: Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy
Located at Phoenix’s High Street, Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy is among a family of some of the country’s top comedy clubs, all owned and operated by Bronson. This spring, House of Comedy brings the LOLs as it welcomes the likes of Fortune Feimster in April and TJ Miller in May. And don’t miss out on the cheese curds, short rib poutine and selection of mules, martinis and more to really savor the show. az.houseofcomedy.net. Also a 2017 winner!
Best Dance Floor: Wasted Grain
Wasted Grain in Scottsdale is a lounge and nightclub full of life and energy. We’re talking 27 plasma TV’s, a DJ booth, roll-up garage doors and a full-service indoor/outdoor bar. It also has a 20-foot stage for live concerts and an outdoor patio with games like giant Jenga and giant Connect Four. The 100 Proof Lounge is an exclusive nightclub on the second floor, featuring guest DJ’s Friday through Sunday and table service for guests looking to have that VIP experience. Happy hour runs Wednesday through Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. wastedgrain.com.
Best Day-Drinking Spot and Best Happy Hour: Sandbar Mexican Grill
If a high-octane sports bar fused with a relaxing, breezy beach cabana, you’d end up with Sandbar. With locations in Chandler and at Desert Ridge, Sandbar features a sand-lined beach deck and offers fresh Mexican cuisine as well as wines, draft beers and cocktails. Kick back and relax while sipping a chipotle pineapple or spicy mango frozen margarita (or try the Bringing Sexy Back, a mix of JT’s Sauza 901 Tequila, pineapple juice, lime, agave nectar and Sprite). Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m., with food and drink specials. sandbaraz.com.
Best Bar To Feed Your Inner Child, Best Dance Music Scene And Best Nightclub: Hi Fi Kitchen & Cocktails
This indoor/outdoor music-centric space features a square island bar, elevated lounge-style seating and resort-style furniture. Perhaps one of the biggest draws to Hi Fi Kitchen & Cocktails is the high-energy, retro vibes: Hi Fi has a throwback wall of vintage, wood-framed speakers, as well as black-and-white TV’s, heightening the excitement of the digital graffiti wall, which displays rotating 3D images throughout the night. Hi Fi doesn’t disappoint on the food and drink scene either. Snag brunch, a delish dinner and late-night snacks. And with three 15-foot projectors and 35 HDTV’s,sports fans can rest-assured they’re covered as well. hifiscottsdale.com. Also a 2017 winner!
Best Country Bar: Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row
Hailing from the Valley himself, country singer Dierks Bentley’s namesake bar (with three Arizona locations) is a vibrant and energetic space, always packed with patrons clad in cowboy hats and leather boots. Serving award-winning food and beverages with a rockin’ state-of-mind and country vibes, Whiskey Row keeps the music going and the volume loud so bar-goers can two-step and line dance all evening. dierkswhiskeyrow.com. Also a 2017 winner!
Best Cougar Bar: The Beverly
This hot spot is the embodiment of class and sophistication. With expansive, deep brown leather booths, chandeliers above the bar and sconces on the walls illuminating shelves of old library books, The Beverly feels like you’ve stepped into the estate of a countess. Both a bar and a gastropub, it offers a variety of signature cocktails and “craft shots.” Oh, and The Beverly isn’t afraid to crack a joke as well—if you go, take a closer look at your drink coasters. beverlyonmain.com.
Best Craft Cocktails: Bourbon & Bones
This Old Town Scottsdale haunt is rugged, rustic and a handsome Valley hot spot. True to its name, Bourbon & Bones serves top-quality steak and chops—alongside stellar cocktails. The B N B House Manhattan is made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Carpano Antica, grade-A maple syrup, black bone bitters, toasted orange peel and marasca cherry, chilled. Or try the Bucking Buffalo (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Fevertree ginger beer, grapefruit juice and grapefruit peel on the rocks). bourbonandbonesaz.com.
Best Bartender/Mixologist: Liza Loewenhagen
Liza Loewenhagen has been shaking things up as a bartender since 2007, working everywhere from lounges, upscale joints and martini bars, to sports bars and sushi bars. It was in 2015 that Loewenhagen took her passion for bartending to the next level, transforming it into an art form and a source of creativity. Since then, she has participated in numerous bartender battles like Devour, Bar Brawl and Sips & Sweets. She recently transitioned to the new Bevvy Uptown that just opened this spring. facebook.com/lizaloewenhagen.
Best Arizona Brewery: North Mountain Brewing Company
Locally owned and family operated, North Mountain Brewing Company is a gastropub and microbrewery in Phoenix with a massive passion for serving top-quality craft beers, brewed in house. From traditional pale ales to solid porters and hefeweizens, North Mountain Brewing Company definitely delivers when it comes to the artisanal brew experience. (Psst! Be sure not to miss out on Sunday brunch.) northmountainbrewing.com.
Best Craft Beer Bar: TIE between Bottled Blonde Pizzeria & Beer Garden and Wasted Grain
Bottled Blonde Pizzeria and Beer Garden is an ultra-loungey space serving craft beers like Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA, Kona Longboard Island Lager and Sierra Nevada Nooner. Clad with large displays of classic pin-up girls, this bar has a rustic, relaxed atmosphere and contemporary Italian-inspired cuisine. Wasted Grain is a Prohibition era-style bar with live music, premium brews and an array of shared plates, flatbreads, salads and other tasty eats. bottledblondeaz.com, wastedgrain.com.
Best Margarita: CRUjiente Tacos
An Arcadia-neighborhood taqueria with contemporary vibes, CRUjiente Tacos serves up re- imagined renditions of the traditional Mexican street taco and a chef-driven menu including guacamoles, aguachiles, ceviche, salads and more. And the bartenders at CRU are truly cocktail connoisseurs, whipping up the most stellar margaritas in the Valley—we’re talking margs like the Premier CRU margarita (100 percent Blue Agave tequila, house agave, fresh lime juice, muddled orange) and the Arcadia (100 percent Blue Agave tequila, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeño, house agave, fresh lime juice). crutacos.com.
Best Dive Bar: Boondocks Patio and Grill
Scottsdale’s Boondocks Patio and Grill is the go-to spot to let loose with friends. It has the longest happy hour (Mondays through Thursdays, 3 to 8 p.m. and noon to 8 p.m. on Fridays) and the biggest patio in town (picture expansive sections of plushy white cushions on a large wooden deck with string lights hung from roof to roof). Enjoy nightly food and drink specials, and rock out every Friday night to live music, as well as Sunday afternoons after NFL season. boondocksaz.com.
Best Rooftop Bar: LUSTRE Rooftop Bar at Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix
Hotel Palomar’s LUSTRE Rooftop Bar on the third- floor pool deck elicits the feeling of a VIP celebrity experience, complete with craft cocktails, seasonal food items and cabanas offering panoramic views of the city skyline. Lounge around listening to live music during LUSTRE’s summer pool parties while enjoying expertly crafted cocktails and eats prepared with locally sourced ingredients. lustrerooftopbar.com. Also a 2017 winner!
Best Party Bar, Best Trivia Night and Best Place To Spend a 21st Birthday: The Bevvy
This Old Town Scottsdale hot spot combines the aesthetic of a classic pub with a wooden bar top, pillars and paneling, mixed with flashy nightlife vibes, luminescent gold ceilings and glowy chandeliers. The Bevvy patrons can grab craft cocktails, mules or shots on tap at the 360-degree bar or catch the week’s top games on dozens of HDTV’s. The bar also features a customized built-in DJ booth and off-track horse race betting. Some other fun perks include games like skeeball, shuffleboard, darts, ring-on-a-string and more. bevvyaz.com. Also a 2017 winner!
Best Nightlife Photographer: Tony Cottrell
Freelance photographer Tony Cottrell shoots photos for an expansive list of music artists including The Chainsmokers, Benny Benassi and DJ Snake.Most nightclubs in Old Town have seen the flash of Cottrell’s camera, where he got his start as a nightlife photographer at club Axis-Radius in 2012. He also works with EDM promoter Relentless Beats shooting all of their large-scale festivals and a handful of smaller shows. tonycottrell.net.
Best Wine Bar: SORSO Wine Room
From the Italian word “sorso” meaning “sip,” SORSO Wine Room was dreamt up after owners Mark and Lauren Teahen took a trip to Italy. During the trip, they discovered the Wine Emotion dispensing system, where wine bottles are attached to a tap, delivering the quality equivalent to a newly opened bottle for up to four weeks. SORSO Wine Room in Scottsdale offers a wide selection of wines from around the world, 32 wines offered through Wine Emotion dispensers, as well as 15 by-the- glass options. Open seven days a week, SORSO also serves gourmet delights like bruschetta, meats, cheeses, desserts and more. sorsowineroom.com.
Strongest Drink: Long Island Iced Tea, Mill Cue Club
Mill Cue Club on Mill Avenue, which has been in operation for 23 years, serves up some seriously legendary teas and its Long Island Iced Tea is one for the ages. Try out different flavors like LA Water (black raspberry and blue curacao), Long Beach (cranberry), and Tokyo Tea (with melon liqueur). millcueclub.com.
Best Bloody Mary and Best Mimosa: Hash Kitchen
Hash Kitchen knows cocktails. We’re talking about some of the most gloriously over-the-top, in- your-face libations that never disappoint when it comes to taste, style and quality. At the full-service DIY Bloody Mary bar, customers can create their own drinks from the ground up, using house- infused vodka flavors and garnishes like oysters, Italian meatball sliders and fried ravioli. Hash’s craft mimosas are also well worth a taste, available in flavors like guava, ruby red grapefruit, strawberry and classic orange. Fun fact: on weekends, Hash Kitchen has turntables and a DJ. hashkitchen.com. Also a 2017 winner!
Best Arizona Brewery: Wren House, wrenhousebrewing.com.
AFM Fave! Best Tiki Cocktails: UnderTow, undertowphx.com.
Best Blues/Jazz Bar: Char’s Has the Blues, charshastheblues.com.
Best Gay Bar: Kobalt Bar, kobaltbarphoenix.com.
Best Local DJ: Mr. P-body, mrpbody.com.
Best Lounge: The Mint Ultra Lounge, themintaz.com.
Best Place To Discover New Music: Valley Bar, valleybarphx.com.
Best Saloon: The Hideaway Grill, hideaway-usa.com.
Best Place To Buy Booze: Total Wine & More, totalwine.com. Also a 2017 winner!
Best Hipster Bar: Casey Moore’s Oyster House, caseymoores.com. Also a 2017 winner!