By Alison Bailin Batz / Photo by Debby Wolvos
In early 2019, Rick Phillips bought MercBar. While a successful business owner and investor today, Phillips is actually an alumnus of the iconic Valley mainstay. In fact, he was instrumental in opening the original MercBar in New York City in 1993 before moving to Phoenix in 1997 to run MercBar Phoenix.
All these years later as the owner, Phillips is dedicated to continuing the tradition of excellence without losing the bar’s historic feel.
Chief among them: bringing 2017 Bar Brawl champion Will Luddington on board.
Together, they’ve launched a new menu featuring more than a dozen new signature cocktails utilizing fresh ingredients, hand-juiced citrus, homemade syrups and tinctures. Of course, several all-time favorites are still there, too.
“When I won Bar Brawl, the most popular cocktail I made during the competition was Eastern Promises,” Luddington says. “When I came over to MercBar, it was one of the first items we added.”
Eastern Promises ($14) begins with Tito’s Vodka and dry vermouth.
“In addition to the spirits, I add passion fruit puree, housemade simple syrup and Giffard Crème de Fruits de la Passion Liqueur, which is a passion fruit liqueur, to the mix,” says Luddington, noting he also adds lemon for acid. “The bitter, herbaceous notes in the vermouth counteract both the passion fruit and syrup’s sweetness, while still allowing the flavors to come through.”
Luddington shakes the mixture then strains it in a goblet with ice. He tops it with a float of Peychaud’s Bitters, which makes for a striking appearance and adds aromatics, as does the garnishment of mint.
MercBar, 2525 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix; 602.508.9449; www.mercbaraz.com.