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

Where to Drink in Tucson, Arizona

In the postcard-perfect surroundings of southern Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, Tucson exists as a small metropolis (at just over half a million) shaped by the historic confluence of cultures, from indigenous tribes like the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui to early Spanish missionaries and the city’s inextricable link with Mexico.

Today, Tucson remains both historically minded and community-centric, as evidenced by the devotion to its hometown businesses, many run by native Tucsonans, and its designation as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. And the best source for a recommendation on where to grab a great drink is from bartenders themselves. “We tend to get a decent amount of folks from out of town, so I’m no stranger to writing down a list of places to explore. The hard part is not putting everything on the list!” says Amanda Sierra, a veteran of Tucson’s hospitality scene with more than 30 years in the city, and currently a bartender at cocktail bar SideCar.

“The constant has always been the people in the bar community—they show up for each other as a ragtag community filled with artists and misfits,” Sierra says. Whether you’re seeking a well-made craft cocktail, a beer brewed with local ingredients, or an education on mezcal, Tucson brings it home.


With an emphasis that could be considered hedonism at its finest, Batch puts its focus on two things: whiskey and doughnuts. Opened in 2016 by Tucson natives Ronnie and Christian Spece, Batch boasts one of the largest whiskey collections in the state, with more than 1,000 unique labels and counting. “This spot is perfect for whiskey enthusiasts and anyone looking to chase that elusive ‘best Old Fashioned ever’ dragon,” says Sierra. “Pair it with one of their fresh doughnuts they make on the weekends.” In addition to their signature Old Fashioned, the bar, bottle shop, and part-time bakery crafts cocktails like the Notorious F.I.G. with bourbon, sweet vermouth, and fig and allspice liqueurs. Rotating doughnut flavors are available each Friday and Saturday, with offerings like the Mango Margarita with a tequila-mango glaze, and the Maple Bourbon Pecan.

Crooked Tooth Brewing Co.

Built out in a converted 1940s auto garage in downtown Tucson, Crooked Tooth Brewing incorporates an air of mysticism, from celestial artwork and events to the rotating monthly Full Moon Brew. Under the purview of co-owner Julie Vernon, a lifelong Tucsonan and practitioner of healing arts, Crooked Tooth regularly collaborates with fellow makers and incorporates regional ingredients for their beers like the Poquito Saladito with Sonoran citrus or the Tamarindo Sour. “I’m not really a beer person, I hate to admit, but when I venture to a brewery, this one is the first on my list,” says Sierra. “Their brews are so interesting—especially their sours—and their approach is so inclusive.” Stop by the taproom for one of their signature Micheladas and an event like drag tarot bingo.

Exo Roast Co. and Crisol Bar

Operating as a small-batch coffee roaster in Tucson since 2009, Exo Roast Co. opened their first café in 2012, highlighting local goods such as the Sonoran-grown chiltepin peppers that go into their cult-hit cold brew. “The chiltepin cold brew was recommended to me, and now I pass down the good word to everyone else,” says Sierra. “They take great care in their selection of beans, which they roast in-house, and all their regional products.” In 2022, Exo opened a second location in an 1885 adobe home in the historically recognized Barrio Viejo neighborhood and added Crisol Bar, a mezcal-focused bar and educational space, with guided tastings every Thursday. “They bring the same level of passion and care to their mezcal bar,” Sierra says. “It is a place to pay homage to craft, history, and connection.”

The Royal Room

Opened in 2017 in downtown Tucson’s Warehouse Arts District, The Royal Room conveys the quirky charm of a Wes Anderson set but minus the affectation. “Fun, unpretentious, and just plain cool—the interior alone is worth a visit,” Sierra says. Mixing a concise list of classics and house cocktails, the bar also stocks a solid selection of beers—available on draft or grab-and-go from the amply stocked beer fridge—as well as wines on draft and by the bottle. “There’s really something for everyone,” says Sierra, pointing to the drink selection and the vibe, which can oscillate between soul music and board games to a disco dance night.

The Shelter

“The Shelter is the bar equivalent of the leg lamp from A Christmas Story— kitschy in all the right ways,” says Sierra. The historic watering hole leans full-tilt into the atomic age aesthetic, from the shimmery red vinyl banquettes to the JFK memorabilia lining the walls—fitting, given that the bar itself opened in 1961. “It was rumored to be a bomb shelter, but I know for certain it has definitely been a diffuser to many a bad day,” Sierra notes. She recommends ordering a Martini or two and playing a few rounds of free pool under the (many) watchful eyes of President Kennedy. Even more than 60 years later, the space still lives up to the atmosphere espoused on its original sign (sadly destroyed in a windstorm in 2020) as a “go-go boot wearing, martini drinking, swanky, groovy lounge.”


Effectively straddling the line between elevated drinks and casual vibes, SideCar was an early entrant on Tucson’s craft cocktail scene when it was opened in 2014 by two local bartenders. Located in the historic Broadway Village plaza, 10 minutes east of downtown Tucson, the sunlight-flooded Spanish Revival space remains a neighborhood favorite, with a menu featuring riffs on classics and creative originals like the Oaxaca Dry Sour (mezcal, gin, salted lime cordial, dry vermouth, absinthe, and a habanero shrub).

Enjoy This Article?

Sign up for our newsletter and get biweekly recipes and articles delivered to your inbox.

Send this to a friend