Tuesday, April 16, 2024
HomeLatest NewsSince 1988, martinis, art and glitz have drawn crowds to this classic...

Since 1988, martinis, art and glitz have drawn crowds to this classic Scottsdale bar – AZCentral.com

Welcome to Spirit Guide, where nightlife reporter Tirion Morris leads you to the buzzy bars of metro Phoenix and lets you know what to order when you get there.

On a recent weekday evening, there was an hour wait for a table at AZ88. So, as one does, I parked myself at the sleek white bar and ordered a Pornstar Martini.

Beams of light glinted and sparkled off the giant collection of disco balls strung from the ceiling. The dramatic piece was part of the most recent in a rotating series of art displays, which are either hung from the ceiling or set up in the middle of the square dining room. 

A case could be made for keeping the shining disco balls year-round, but it has to go to make room for the next display, the highly anticipated Christmas tree, which usually goes up just after Thanksgiving. Past trees have been made out of an array of different materials from safety pins to shattered glass and dollar bills. Last year’s tree was aptly made of toilet paper. This year, the bar revealed a shining clear tree made entirely of martini glasses.

The art installations have been a tradition since 1988, when the bar was opened by Karl Kopp. The restaurateur and businessman is based in Milwaukee, where he’s known for Kopp’s Frozen Custard, a dessert and burger joint, along with a few bars, including AZ88’s sister restaurant Elsa’s on the Park.

For those invested in trying to guess the Christmas tree’s theme before the big reveal each year, here’s a hint: If a tree is displayed at Elsa’s one year, it might appear in Arizona a few seasons later and vise versa. In downtown Phoenix, the trees might also appear at sister bar Hanny’s.

Though the art changes throughout the year, one constant over the decades has been the martinis.

More: This rooftop bar is a Phoenix classic. Here’s a guide to Don Woods’ Say When

Prime people-watching and views

On any given night, the reservation-free bar and restaurant is packed with an array of customers enjoying a martini or a full dinner. The people-watching at AZ88 is top notch as the bar draws longtime Scottsdale socialites, couples on first dates, Instagram influencers showing off their best new outfits and casual customers who stroll in after a walk in the park.

Currently, the park is under construction, limiting entrance to AZ88, so customers must enter through the parking lot located southwest of the bar off First Street.

Construction does not, however, hinder the patio experience, which offers more seating and a view of Scottsdale’s Civic Center Park. 

Inside the open, airy bar, a gallery-like setting lets the art take center stage with white floors, white bar top and white walls with high ceilings and expansive windows.

Bully!: Here’s a guide to Rough Rider, Roosevelt Row’s new underground cocktail bar

Beyond aesthetics, part of the restaurant’s wide-reaching attraction is the reasonably priced food, especially considering its location in the heart of Scottsdale’s tourist district.

Some classics are reminiscent of the bar’s early days, like the shrimp cocktail and club sandwiches, which share menu space with burgers, a selection of salads, shareable plates and desserts. But it’s the martini menu that the restaurant is really known for.

What’s on the martini menu?

Since 1988, the Old Town Scottsdale cocktail bar has been known for its sharply dressed bartenders who carefully shake an array of martinis for Scottsdale locals and tourists alike.

While different sorts of drinks, from palomas to brambles, mojitos and Moscow mules are available, this is a martini bar through and through.

I started with a Pornstar Martini ($15), made with Smirnoff vanilla vodka, vanilla syrup, passionfruit and lime juice. A luxardo cherry was added to the bottom of my glass before the bartender poured the bright orange drink with a flourish and presented it with a shot of Champagne on the side. 

The mixture of vanilla and passionfruit flavors combined to create a creamy, soft and fruit-forward drink. After a few sips, a taste of the dry Champagne helped cut the richness. Alternating sips between the large, almost overflowing martini glass and the tiny shot of bubbles added to the fun.

A classic that has suddenly become trendy again is the espresso martini ($15). At AZ88 the drink is made with Smirnoff vodka, Kahlua, Irish cream, creme de cacao and a shot of espresso topped with three coffee beans. The thick, creamy drink doubles as dessert and is perfect for lovers of all things sweet. 

The Fleurtini ($14) offers a festive feel in a way that’s a little less rich and creamy. The red-hued drink is made with Smirnoff raspberry, framboise liqueur, lime, cranberry and Champagne. A spiral of lemon rind tops it off.

The subtle fruit flavors blend to create a citrus-forward drink that has just the right amount of tart. The Champagne adds a little sparkle to the drink and when paired with cranberry, gives it a certain dryness. The overall effect is a drink that isn’t overpowering, making it a good option to pair with food. 

Get glam at AZ88

Whether you sit at the bar and grab a quick drink before heading to dinner elsewhere or settle in for an array of cocktails and food, AZ88 offers a hit of 1980’s glam in the heart of a gilded Old West downtown.

The bar’s sleek interior, sharply dressed waiters and famously selfie-worthy bathrooms encourage customers to dress up and dine out in style. This is the place to wear that sparkly dress in the back of your closet, test your ankles in your favorite pair of stilettos or sport your sharpest jacket.

The best part of the night is watching others do the same. And it’s especially fun to do so with an overflowing martini in hand.

Details: 7353 E. Scottsdale Mall, Scottsdale. 480-994-5576, az88.com.

Hours: Open daily, 11 a.m. to midnight.

Price Range: Cocktails range from $10 to $16. Entrees range from $11 to $32.

Reservations:  Reservations are not accepted. Customers are added to a waiting list and will receive a text when their table is ready. The bar provides open seating while you wait.

Cocktail surprise: Sotol has a sneaky entrance and killer views. Here’s your guide

Reach the reporter at tirion.morris@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter at @tirionmorris, on Facebook at Tirion Rose and on Instagram at tirionrose

Support local journalism and subscribe to azcentral.com today.

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments