Friday Bites with JT Tillman
Beverage director, JT Tillman is responsible for crafting the cocktail and beverage menus for both La Bocca Urban Kitchen Wine Bar locations on Mill Avenue and on High Street as well as Modern Margarita and the Handlebar Tempe. He is on constant trend alert to advance each concept with top-of-the line programming and drinks.
With more than 20 years of both front and back of the house restaurant experience and countless awards later, Tillman holds the title of Jack Daniels Rock ‘n’ Roll Cocktail Competition Champion and is USBG Spirits Professional Certified. Tillman is a known whiskey connoisseur with a passion for people and drinks.
Right now, he is working on crafting new spring cocktail menus for each of the venues. As a special treat for Phoenix Bites readers, in addition to sharing his insight on some of his favorite Arizona haunts, Tillman also has a little sneak peek at some of the hottest drinks of the moment as well as a few in development.
While most folks are familiar with the classic “limoncello,” Tillman is a fan of showcasing other seasonal flavors when making La Bocca’s famous in-house “cello” cocktail offerings. For example, during the holidays, his team hand-crafted a “cranberry-cello,” and just in time for spring, they have an “apricot-cello.” In addition to the custom made cellos, Tillman and his team also make all of their sangrias in house each day.
Tillman believes the key to creating an exciting and appealing menu is with quality spirits, fresh ingredients, and craftsmanship. His inspiration for the new Modern Margarita menu was a Sonoran inspired combination of the above including ingredients like fresh-squeezed juices, ginger beer, jalapeños and prickly pear.
What was old is New Again
Tillman also believes in paying homage to classic cocktails, giving them a new life at each concept. A great example – the Bocca Old Fashioned, one of La Bocca’s new craft cocktails made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, figgy pudding and orange bitters, and cinnamon.
Friday Bites with JT Tillman
First Date Spot | Second Story Liquor Bar
If you’re looking for an intimate place to get to know someone, Second Story Liquor Bar is the place. This chef driven whiskey bar is best known for its classic craft cocktails. Order a few old fashions and you’ll be on your way to a favorable night.
Authentic Arizona | The Stockyards
The Stockyards is known as Arizona’s original steakhouse. How much more authentic could it get? This steakhouse has been open for nearly 70 years, and is home to a good steak. The Stockyards is your classic, nostalgic Arizona restaurant.
Late Night Eats | Counter Intuitive
Counter Intuitive is the definition of late night eats. They’re only open from 10 p.m. – 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday nights. The cool thing about this bar is that they switch up their menu theme four times per year. That’s so many I can barely keep track of what kind of food they serve. Right now they’re channeling their inner China Town with an Asian themed menu. CI is one of the best craft cocktail bars in Arizona.
Best Asian | Abacus Inn
Real, traditional family-owned Chinese food is found at none other than the Abacus Inn. This Chinese cuisine is consistently authentic and the orange chicken is a must try.
Best for People Watching | Wasted Grain
Wasted Grain in Scottsdale has something for everyone. They’ve got live music and DJs going at the same time, as well as three bars and an upper level patio. You’ll see a little bit of everything at this spot.
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