Drinks With a Twist: Unique Tucson Bars
Portal Cocktail, Photography by Justin Haugen and Logan Havens
By Lauren Wong
Falling into habit is good, when it comes to your weekly exercise and working routine. However, when it comes to your free time and social life, falling into the rut of hitting the same bars and same restaurants time after time can get boring. With a lively, vibrant nightlife, Tucson is full of plenty of diverse bars to spice up your night out.
Skip your usual go-to spot and check out one of these bars.
With a location in both Phoenix and Tucson, Cobra Arcade Bar is a must for all game lovers. Try Inky’s Drinky, Princess Peach, Crash Bandicoot, Kirby, or any of their other themed drinks. Play your all-time favorite classics, and try out some new machines from their collection of rotating arcade games. Compete to get the high score while Ds play in the background.
If you’re looking for a comfortable place with retro vibes, this is a great option. Originally, the plan back in 2018 was to create the first Nocturnal Creatures Lounge, but an unexpected fire took those original plans up in flames with it, thus creating Jackrabbit Lounge.
They say that this bar is for those who feed off the night as it “caters to those who crave the night lights and bright desert stars.” During the week they have live entertainment including dueling piano shows, karaoke, and other events.
Standing since 1963, Kon Tiki, inspired by the 1947 Kon Tiki voyage, is one of the last original outposts surviving what could be considered a “tiki bar depression.” The expedition that inspired the birth of this neighborhood-centric bar was the raft journey led by Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian explorer and writer. Paying homage to this odyssey that took place across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian Islands, the bar features over 50 tiki inspired cocktails and some island and inland comfort foods.
They consider themselves a “purveyor of Aloha.” Escape the Arizona desert and step inside of this beachy bar that’s not only filled with the world’s largest collection of Milan Guanko carved tikis and island curios, but also tributes this amazing, inspirational journey that took place years and years ago.
The Moonstone can be found atop the 14th floor of the Graduate Hotel in Tucson that opened up in 2020. Enjoy your night out with stunning views that overlook the city. Bring a suit and go for a dip in their rooftop pool, or get cozy around one of their fire pits on the bar deck. There’s a whimsical, inviting aura you feel the second you step foot inside. It’s dreamlike atmosphere is brought on by the dozens of dreamcatchers that hang above the bar.
Their menu features a regional twist on your favorite American classic cuisine. Some menu items include Tajin Spiced Shrimp and Mango Skewers, and the Southwestern Avocado Chicken Panini.
Enjoy your cocktail amid Owls Club’s spooky ambience. This building holds a lot of history. It was originally built back in 1902 and served as a bachelor’s club for the Owls. Because they often partied late into the night, they called themselves the ‘Owls.’
It was then a funeral home turned bar. Bring Funeral Home, the original mortuary, opened in 1928. Allegedly thousands of bodies have been ushered in and out of the once, funeral home until it opened as Owls Club in 2016 so it comes to no surprise that many believe the place is haunted.
Located in the historic Armory Park neighborhood, the western-themed bar pays homage to the original bachelor’s club. Decked out with stained glass and chandeliers, it’s a beautiful gem in the middle of Downtown Tucson. If you don’t have a date, no worries, there’s plenty of ghosts who can accompany you as you choose from their whiskey section, wine list, or their well-curated spirits collection. They also have a modest beer program.
The architectural design of this bar is what makes it stand out so much. The intent behind the design of the Portal was to create a transformational experience that is otherworldly. This isn’t your typical walk-in bar, every minor detail in its construction is what helped them to create a space that leaves you feeling like you’ve stepped out of reality through this magical portal.
The interior is angular and curvy, which not only looks cool, but also makes for phenomenal acoustics and stage setup. Complex geometries found in nature are what inspired this layout. Their goal was to create an environment that’s not only comfortable, but also interesting and sexy. The birth of Portal Cocktails creates what they call a “cozy womblike dirigible fully stocked for a luscious spirituous journey.”
Portal Cocktail, Photography by Justin Haugen and Logan Havens.
Travel back in time to the 60’s by visiting Tucson’s only 60’s retro lounge. Stop in for a classic or modern martini or cocktail while basking in their nostalgic atmosphere. Sit back and relax with your drink of choice as music and classic movies play in the background.
The Shelter Cocktail Lounge, photo courtesy to Pammy Santangelo
Nestled within Tucson’s #1 gaming store, Tucson Games and Gadgets, is this little gem. The bar always has some type of event going on and has over 600 board games in their library that you can choose from and play.
Odds are you’ve never even heard of this place, that’s because it’s hidden behind a wall at the Vero Amore. Even if you’ve dined in at their restaurant you may have never known it existed. The speakeasy-style craft cocktail bar brings you back in time with their specialized drinks from the Prohibition and Pre-Prohibition Era.