Story | Justin Lee
Photography | Mark Lipczynski
“Can I get a margarita?” the lanky male rumbled to the bartender, pensively walking up to the dark, L-shaped bar.
“I can,” says the tucked-and-tailored man behind the counter. “But how about I make you something different?”
Mr. Bartender goes on to survey, measure, dash, smack, spray, double-strain and pour.
“Try this,” he says, handing his thoughtful potion to the half-hearted young man. “I think you’ll like this better.”
Episodes like this paint the luxury of a top-tier cocktail bar like downtown Tucson’s Scott & Co. It’s not only what you want in a fabulous drinking destination, it’s sometimes what you never thought you wanted in the first place.
Marked only by a beveled gray door along Scott Ave., a few steps north of Congress Street in a less-trafficked elbow of downtown Tucson, Scott & Co. opened in 2010 by partners Nicole Flowers and Travis Reese adjacent to the pair’s more visible sister restaurant 47 Scott. Since then, they’ve never looked back.
From quick coverage in The New York Times shortly post-opening, to subsequent national love in food culture hubs like TastingTable.com, to industry royalty love (mixology demigod Jim Meehan from NYC’s famed PDT cocktail bar once named Scott & Co. “a favorite new bar” in 2012), Scott & Co. immediately catapulted to must-go status for serious booze enthusiasts.
Dimly lit, framed by exposed brick walls partially draped with shelves of exotic potables and curated glassware filled with handcrafted syrups and tinctures, Scott & Co. glows before the sipping begins. Sassy monikers crown otherwise very serious, tongue-catching cocktails on the regularly refreshed, often seasonal drink menu designed with progression from light and juice-y, to dark and emotional.
On the “cleaner” side of the menu, the Lying Bastard is flowery, herbal and delightful, mixing genever (malty Dutch gin), Campari, sloe gin (infused gin liqueur), ginger syrup, fresh lime juice and tiki bitters. Leaning more complex, the Cheeky Cherub is a back-and-forth of cherry-infused brandy, bourbon, lime, egg white and a leathery tobacco tincture, fortified with a float of port. Cheeky or not, it’s delicious.
The Dig Your Own Grave cocktail is another intentional pause for dramatics. Rye whiskey, amaro, pecan orgeat (floral, nutty syrup), whole egg and hoisin give this play a spiced, dark note while ideally sweet and smooth.
A final tour of Scott & Co.’s sometimes divine cocktail calculating is the Phancy Philanthropist. Funneling bacanora (herbal, sweet agave-based spirit), mezcal, crème de cacao, absinthe, fresh lime and grapefruit, half and half, Peychaud’s and Angostura Bitters in a sip that pushes smoke, sweet, bitter, butter and spice.
The best prescription to fully absorb an experience like Scott & Co. is go early, grab an ideal perch at the bar, expand your notions to what may (or may not) be essential to making a delicious drink and let your bartender be your guide. Oh, and park there for the evening. This is bucket-list drinking.