Where to Drink in Flagstaff, Arizona - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Where to Drink in Flagstaff, Arizona

Hugging historic Route 66 and serving as a gateway to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff may be the ultimate summer road trip destination. Nestled at the base of the San Francisco Peaks within the world’s largest Ponderosa pine forest, the mountain town bucks typical notions of the Arizona desert. It even boasts a distant celebrity by the name of Pluto, which was discovered at the Lowell Observatory thanks to Flagstaff’s famous (and legally preserved) dark skies. A state university keeps the town of 65,000 lively, and the food and drinks scene continues to evolve, with quality cocktails and beer growing alongside historic speakeasies and iconic coffee shops. “Flagstaff hosts millions of visitors from around the world each year and has built an amazing collection of hospitality endeavors,” says Michael Marquess, the founder of Mother Road Brewing Company, who shares some of his favorite spots. “As locals, we all enjoy the benefits!”

Mother Road Brewing Co.

Like any mountain town popular with outdoor enthusiasts, Flagstaff has no shortage of breweries, but few have seen the growth and popularity of Mother Road. “After the stereotypical start as a home brewer and then opening a small brewery and taproom in 2011, I never imagined we would become the third-largest brewery in Arizona and have the number-one selling independent craft beer,” says Marquess. The brewery is named for John Steinbeck’s description of Route 66 in The Grapes of Wrath, and the taproom is located on the original 1926 portion of the iconic road in a circa-1925 repurposed industrial laundry building. Among the 14 taps are the brewery’s popular Tower Station IPA and the Conserve & Protect Golden Ale (with can sales benefitting Arizona Game & Fish). 

Macy’s European Coffeehouse and Bakery

When it opened in 1980, Macy’s was one of Arizona’s first coffee roasters, and four decades later it remains an independent Flagstaff institution for coffee, vegetarian fare, and community. Macy’s continues to source its own green coffee beans directly from farmers (from Kenya to Colombia to Sumatra) for roasting in-house. “Macy’s attracts students, professors, professionals, and tourists alike,” says Marquess. “I like to sit in the upper area by the coffee roaster for the best people watching with a double Americano and a freshly baked vegan carrot muffin.”

Annex Cocktail Lounge

Flagstaff Arizona Annex
The Grapefruit Sazerac at the Annex Cocktail Lounge. | Photo by Eric Hays

Befitting its name, the Annex Cocktail Lounge was originally created as a space to handle overflow from the adjacent Tinderbox Kitchen not long after the restaurant opened in 2009 in Flagstaff’s historic Southside. “The Annex has since become its own destination for cocktails and small plates,” says Marquess, who prefers a seat at the bar to chat with the bartenders as they build an array of inventive, seasonal cocktails like the Tell-Tale Heart (vodka, sage, mint, lemon, stone fruit, and bubbles). “They have the most beautiful cocktails, but I’m also a sucker for their Grapefruit Shandy made with Mother Road’s Tower Station IPA, Desert Rain Gin, and fresh grapefruit juice, as it pairs perfectly with their famous Annex Burger.”

Whisk and Whisky

Opened in the summer of 2018, Whisk and Whisky operates like a gastropub, with a hearty food menu complemented by craft cocktails, beer, and wine. But the real spotlight is on the whiskey selection, with a deep list spanning global styles. “It’s part of a small, local collective of boutique restaurants, but don’t let the location in a new shopping development deter you,” says Marquess. “Whisk and Whisky boasts a menu of almost 200 labels, and the staff is enthusiastic about whiskey, so they always have a favorite recommendation to share with you. My favorite afternoon stop consists of a Whistle Pig Farmstock Rye and their deviled eggs.”

The Monte Vista Cocktail Lounge

Located at the historic Hotel Monte Vista, this cocktail lounge was the first speakeasy to operate in Flagstaff and continues to sling drinks today (interrupted only by a raid in 1931 that forced a two-year shutdown). “The Monte V is a great place to hear live music or shoot pool. Both the hotel and lounge are purportedly haunted, so ask your bartender for their favorite ghost story,” advises Marquess. “This is one of Flagstaff’s last ‘real’ lounges that hasn’t been ruined with a renovation. Don’t expect a fancy cocktail here; just order an uncomplicated classic, such as an Old Fashioned, a Gimlet, or a pint. Then sit back and enjoy the band.”

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