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When it comes to designing new cocktails, most bars will break out tools such as shakers, jiggers and swizzle sticks. But at Little Rituals in Downtown Phoenix, the process starts with firing up an ultrasonic jewelry-cleaning machine, warming up the sous vide tubs, checking on the fragrant flowers fermenting in a bourbon bath, and cooking up some curry and neon-colored Sichuan pepper oil.
Handcrafted by owner Aaron DeFeo and his bartending team, Little Rituals recently rolled out new food and drink menus, including eight all-new cocktails. Much like the name implies, the secret to Little Rituals success as Arizona’s most-awarded hotel bar, is a commitment to constant experimentation, and months of behind-the-scene, lab-style testing that the general public will never see (but can taste in every sip).
For example, the new Ponzi Scheme, a Manhattan-style cocktail “was completely reworked a half-dozen times,” DeFeo said. “Even after we’d perfected the flavors, the drink wasn’t ready until we’d figured out a way to infuse and then micro-filter the (marigold) flowers to ensure the drink looks as good as it tastes.”
Still, the cocktail wasn’t complete until one more twist was added — a lemon-peel garnish embedded with a keepsake Little Rituals coin. “Turn it in next time you visit for a special prize,” DeFeo said. “It might be some merch, a little treat, or a simple high five. That’s why it’s a Ponzi scheme, because you never know what’s going to be your return on investment.”
Another new standout is the Sidepiece, “a single-malt Scotch whisky-based cocktail designed for those who, like me, don’t traditionally drink Scotch,” said bartender Chanel Godwin-McMaken. “Balancing the Scotch with a sweet, fruity apple brandy, crisp lime juice and creamy butterscotch honey was a great start. But it all came together once we added a quick mist of a Scotch spray, and a savory-sweet garnish of honey dusted with black and white sesame seeds.”
Handsomely presented inside a book-like, 14-page menu featuring custom illustrations, Little Rituals new menu also includes multiple cocktails offered with low-alcohol and non-alcoholic versions, such as the all-new Honeysuckle Spritz or Stone Fruit Buck.
What about that industrial-grade ultrasonic jewelry cleaning machine? It turns out the temperature controlled micro agitation is perfect for wholly infusing disparate ingredients right in the bottle, such as mezcal and lime leaf in the new Pleasure Island cocktail.
Plus, Little Rituals upgraded its menu of chef-crafted bar bites to include all-new bruschetta boards, fried chicken sliders, vegan options, and a decadent dessert called the Espresso Chocolate Cake.
Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 5-11 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 1 p.m., swing by from 5-6 p.m. to enjoy “Aperitivo Hour,” a rotating menu of beers, wines, cocktails and bar bites at discounted prices. Little Rituals is located at 132 S. Central Avenue, inside the Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott Phoenix Downtown.