Phoenix Comicon 2015: Top Five Custom Cocktails

1 Jun
Part of the special

Part of the special “Villains Ball” menu at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour, on deck the weekend of Phoenix Comicon only.

The new trend at this year’s Phoenix Comicon was artisanal cocktails. It seemed like all the bars surrounding the massive fanfest were offering character-themed libations. Here are our five favorites.

5. The Black Widow (Province at Westin): Espresso, Bailey’s, Frangelico, Grand Marnier

4. Sonic Screwdriver (District American Kitchen & Wine Bar): Conch Republic rum, Bogle Essential Red, pineapple juice

3. Don’t Be a Pussy (Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour): Horchata milk punch with Olmeca Altos tequila

why so serious

Why So Serious?

2. Why So Serious? (Icon Lounge at Renaissance Hotel): Gin, cucumber, lemon, rosemary

Sinister Powers

Sinister Powers

1. Sinister Powers (Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour): Powers Irish whiskey, vanilla liqueur, fresh lemon, ginger beer


Phoenix Comicon 2015 Costume Slideshow

31 May

We found Waldo. And Carmen Sandiego. And a bunch of Daleks. We even found Predator hanging out with a bunch of furries. Phoenix Comicon 2015 wraps up at the Phoenix Convention Center today, and we’ve compiled a slideshow featuring some of the coolest costumes we encountered. Enjoy the epicness.

Ameri-Can Canned Craft Beer Festival 2015

17 May
beer fest crowd

Happy hopheads at the 2015 Ameri-Can Canned Craft Beer Festival

Beer wonks get the ultimate adult play day at the Ameri-Can Canned Craft Beer Festival. It’s like Disneyland, but with can cozies and hop vines instead of Mickey Mouse ears and roller coasters. This year’s event took place from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, at lovely Scottsdale Civic Center Mall park, and it was pure beertopia. More than 120 vendors from around Arizona and the U.S. pitched their tents and poured a variety of brews, ranging from ubiquitous piney IPAs to malty chocolate stouts. Food vendors fit finely into the festival — Honey Bear’s BBQ, Arizona BBQ and a food truck slinging grilled cheese sandwiches, in particular, helped festivalgoers soak up the suds.

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Earth Mama Top Secret Marijuana-Inspired Vodka

5 Apr

earth mama

One of the great things about vodka is its amenability to all sorts of infusions, from grapefruit to green olive to cilantro. It’s easy to flavor vodka with virtually anything, which is why some of the top-selling vodkas sound like desserts, such as Pinnacle Whipped Cream and Smirnoff Raspberry. There are pecan-flavored vodkas, tobacco-flavored vodkas, even a Sriracha vodka.

And now, there’s a “marijuana-inspired” vodka: Earth Mama Top Secret. I recently received a bottle in a promotional package, complete with a colorful booklet full of promo placards, poster images and advertisements featuring half-naked hippies dancing. I think they made for great photo props, as you’ll see throughout this review.

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McDowell Mountain Music Festival: The Good, the Bad and the Groovy

29 Mar
Passion Pit performs at the 2015 McDowell Mountain Music Festival Friday night. Photo by Esther C. Groves.

Passion Pit performs at the 2015 McDowell Mountain Music Festival Friday night. Photo by Esther C. Groves.

As a general rule, I don’t like large music festivals. I don’t like standing in long lines for everything from admission to drinks to the nasty outhouses; I don’t like waiting out crappy bands I could care less about wedged in-between bands on the bill that I do want to see; I don’t like trying to wade through swarms of dancing, drunken people; and I don’t like being stuck standing directly under the sun for any extended period of time (“extended” being longer than like, two minutes).

At the same time, festivals provide a way to see multiple bands (sometimes from disparate genres), meet interesting people, try new foods, and enjoy the (hopefully nice) weather.

The McDowell Mountain Music Festival (held this year March 27-29) occupies what I call the “Goldilocks Zone” for music festivals. It’s not too hot, not too crowded, not too expensive, and has just the right amount and balance of music acts. I last attended the festival in 2005, when it was held at WestWorld of Scottsdale. The event has grown substantially since then: It’s much larger, taking place over three days, and it’s moved from Scottsdale to Hance Park, in the heart of downtown Phoenix, right next to the library. I love the location.

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Shameless Plug: PHOENIX magazine’s YouTube site

15 Mar

phx mag youtube

I’ve recently become more interested and involved in video shoots for PHOENIX magazine. I’ve blogged about some of the videos I’m in – like the Tent City lunch review with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a tour of Alice Cooper’s teen center, and the quickie shoot with Rob Halford of Judas Priest, but there are so many more marvelous videos at the PHOENIX magazine YouTube site, including an at-home interview with Vickie Kerr, creator of Miss Vickie’s potato chips; a behind-the-scenes video from our “Best of the Valley” cover photo shoot with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald; how-to drink recipe videos from Summer Cocktail Camp at The Gladly; a “Top 5 Valley Desserts” video with radio personality Monti Carlo; and many more. Videos coming to the PHOENIX mag YouTube channel soon include a behind-the-scenes look at our photo shoot with Olympian Amy Van Dyken and a cooking video on how to make cannabis butter with chef Payton Curry,

Check out the channel at

Five Favorite Female Musicians

8 Mar

In honor of International Women’s Day, here’s a list of my top five favorite female musicians. Be forewarned – most of them are not for the faint of heart, and could be considered downright scary by some people. (Grace Jones barely missed this list.)

Yoko Ono (Wikimedia Commons)

Yoko Ono (Wikimedia Commons)

5. Yoko Ono: OK, I know she’s not technically a “musician,” I know that a lot of people still think she broke up The Beatles, and I know some people dislike her so much they might have already stopped reading. But let’s put aside the off-key, shrieking “art rock” and The Beatles debate and look at one, very important thing: Her continued custodial respect of John Lennon’s musical legacy. When was the last time you heard a John Lennon song selling cars or hamburgers? Seriously, if you’re one of those people that judges Yoko Ono about The Beatles and her relationship with Lennon (I can’t blame anyone for criticizing her “singing,” though – it almost makes my ears bleed), go watch any interview she’s done in the past 20 years. When John Lennon was murdered, she didn’t go on a mourning tour or take a widow’s throne (hell, she hasn’t even written a book); she quietly raised their son and made sure her late husband’s art was seen in galleries and his music kept out of commercials.

4. Lynn Breedlove: The singer of defunct San Francisco dyke punk band Tribe 8 made jaws drop every time the band played some small club in the Midwest, where I lived as a teenager and traveled around to see them. She regularly removed her shirt while performing – not to be sexy, but because it gets hot onstage, and guys can take off their shirts and not get arrested, so why couldn’t she? (She got arrested a lot for exposing her breasts). Another staple of the Tribe 8 show was Breedlove pulling a strap-on dildo out of her pants and castrating herself, then flinging the lopped-off dong into the crowd. Did I mention my crust punk male friends loved this band? I’m not kidding. The skinheads, not so much. When they showed up at a show, Breedlove always challenged them to fight outside the venue after the show. The skins never met the challenge on any night I was there, but there were never more than three of them to the band’s 50 or so fans, so that may have had something to do with it. Plus, I think they secretly liked the show.

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