Envision becoming a stowaway in the dark bellows of a clipper ship, complete with the sounds of creaking wooden and portholes with sea sights and transforming climate designs. Or hop on an stylish early 20th-century practice, sip a significant-conclusion cocktail, and delight in surroundings of fog rolling in about Louisiana’s bayou. These are not significantly-off voyages. They’re the options of bars in Phoenix’s emerging planet of cocktail theater—where elevated cocktails accompany immersive, general performance art-esque settings.

Over the earlier number of years, Phoenix has grow to be dwelling to 3 unorthodox areas for these quite real looking theatrics. While bars have very long hosted dwell functions like bands or burlesque, the bars System 18 (train themed), UnderTow (ship themed), and 36 Under (botanical wonderland) are a new breed. In these spaces, a bar gets to be the stage and bartenders are the administrators. Flip to the back of the menu at Platform 18 or UnderTow, and as an alternative of just drink descriptions, you are going to meet the plotline of the evening. Probably it’s the fictional Hollis Cottley Pennington’s bootlegging adventures in the Rockies, or the story of Captain Mallory’s probable journey to locate a shipwrecked Undertow. Read carefully and you will notice the cocktail names are weaved into the story as places or characters.

“We are storytellers,” suggests Mat Snapp, vice president of operations at System 18 and UnderTow. “Creating an surroundings to entertain that is good, pleasurable, comprehensive of surprise, nostalgia, and emotion is our intention.” 

Even though elaborate storytelling is crucial to these bars’ appeal, the beverages enjoy a starring function. Platform 18 and Undertow offer you encyclopedia-sized menus that includes elaborate concoctions—classics and originals, alike. At Platform 18, you’ll discover funky historical cocktails like Scorching Trousers (a bright pink, 70s-era recipe that melds tequila, grapefruit, and mint into an inexplicably tasty drink) and dwelling-made boozy ice lotions, like the Grasshopper. UnderTow features tiki drinks, original and classics, such as the Scorpion Bowl cocktail—rum, cognac, orgeat, orange, lemon and nutmeg— served in a bowl complete with swimming pools of flames on the rim. Get some good friends you will have to have assistance. 

Hidden in the basement of a coffee store, 36 Underneath is a wonderland of lush greenery. There are wall-to-wall digital naturescapes and cocktails served in spectacular glassware, like a stone chalice shaped like a Greek goddess. The bar shows electronic artwork, like fish swimming by from the porthole of a submarine , and even diffuses the area with aromas that reflect a quarterly topic, this sort of as Roman Ruins or Aquatic Mediterranean. 

Now, you may be rolling your eyes, wondering if all these bars sum to a tacky show with crappy, overpriced drinks. Your skepticism is valid. But these bars are not like people overplayed speakeasy ideas where by you squeeze through, say, a popcorn maker and simply click your heels two times to enter. The cocktails are pristine. In 2022, Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, like the Oscars of hospitality, honored Century Grand—the elaborate that homes System 18, UnderTow, and sister bar Grey Hen Rx—as 1 of the top rated ten “Best U.S. Cocktail Bars in the West.” 

Browsing these spots usually takes some scheduling. Substantially like heading to a Broadway display, you should really test to reserve your seat in advance, gown to impress, and plan to be there for the full experience—roughly an hour and a fifty percent. Choose a seem within these Phoenix bars, where by a good deal of smoke, buried treasure, remarkable vibes, and most importantly, damn fine drinks are accessible. 


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