All Aboard Platform 18
This unique journey takes passengers on a cocktail-rich railroad passage to the early 1900s.
By Robert Danielson
Feel like a quick getaway? How about a rail journey aboard a vintage, first-class Pullman car through the snowy Rocky Mountains?
I know, it sounds expensive. But you can do this for less than $100 per passenger. You board from the terminal on Indian School Road, and the entire trip takes just 90 minutes. Seriously.
Platform 18, which opened in October, is the latest cocktail concept created by Barter & Shake Creative Restaurants, owner of the popular UnderTow cocktail bar located next door in the basement of Sip. The UnderTow’s speakeasy transports 36 adventurous sailors below deck on a transoceanic Clipper Ship. The lounge is located within Century Grand, 3626 East Indian School Road in Phoenix’s Arcadia neighborhood.
Similarly, Platform 18 whistles aboard its 36 passengers every 90 minutes beginning at 4 p.m. Travelers embark onto a Presidential Pullman-inspired train car for “an immersive and elevated cocktail experience.” By booking a ticket, er, a reservation, guests enjoy a journey through the mountain terrain of Hollis Cottley Pennington’s mountainous estate. Guests of Mr. Pennington enjoy an opulent adventure during the early 20th century while imbibing exquisitely crafted cocktails inspired by worldly flavors and ingredients.
Spokeswoman Kailee Asher explains its approach toward building a cocktail. “It’s a little more scientific than ‘just a little of this and touch of that.’ We offer something completely different than anything you’ll find across the country.” Its cocktails are creations based on how the molecules in ingredients work together in food. They also offer full alcohol sorbets and ice cream aboard the train, as well as Campari Cotton Candy.
The trip aboard Platform 18 begins with complimentary bubbles, and concludes with a nice, boozy chocolate truffle. While most cocktail orders can be accommodated, an inspired menu offers a variety of concoctions, most priced in the high teens. One of the bartender’s favorites is the Skin of the Grizzly, $17, a masterful blend of Old Forester 1920 “Prohibition” bourbon, barrel-aged Bluecoat gin, Caperitif, dandelion root-infused Giffard Pechê and vetiver root. No wonder why there’s a 38-page bound cocktail menu with a glossary in the back.
But it is not just the cocktails that sets this experience apart from any other offered in the United States. The rail car itself, a complete reproduction of a 1920s Pullman, is an amazing piece of architecture and technology. The car’s interior boasts dark mahogany paneled wood, cozy leather booths, and an elegant marble-like bar.
Its 16 expansive windows house LED screens that capture the Rocky Mountain scenery. The system has an individual player for each screen. The video is delayed for each screen by ¾ of a second and is reversed on the opposite side of the train. As I stepped aboard, there was a realistic sense of movement. While more romantic, it reminded of the feeling when you are sitting inside your car in a car wash. Is this car moving? Videographer Nick Andrews of Los Angeles filmed the content on a train riding through Durango, Colo. At times, lights dim as the train passes through mountain tunnels.
Reservations are strongly recommended, and are available online at www.centurygrandphx.com. Reservations open 7 days in advance at midnight (for example, Friday night into Saturday at midnight for the Saturday 14 days later). The last reservations for Platform 18 are at 8:45 p.m. At that point, anything after 10:15 p.m. is all walk-in business—your best time to visit without a reservation.
The rationale for the 90-minute limit is two-fold: One, with a seating capacity of just 36 guests, more visitors can enjoy the experience; and two, since most drinks have 2 ounces or more liquor in them, the policy was created to ensure the safety of guests who may partake in two to three cocktails within the 90 minutes. Toward disembarkation, passengers hear a train whistle, with a blow of smoke, signaling that time is up. While there is no dress code enforced, management prefers guests dress “business casual plus.”
Platform 18 is one of three concepts under the same roof, all consistent with an art deco train station theme. Housed in the former Gino’s East Building on Indian School Road near 36th Street, the building also features Century Grand, a turn-of-the-century inspired restaurant, and the Grey Hen, an intimate local bottle shop.
MORE DESERT DIRT
- Century Grand is a turn-of-the-century inspired cocktail-centric venue featuring a unique wine cart with artisanal wines that is wheeled up and down the aisle of the restaurant. The wine collection exceeds 2,200 labels.
- The executive chef is former Ocotillo and Singh Meadows Chef Sacha Levine. She has created a curated menu that is based on traditional American cuisine, incorporating popular cooking techniques from the 1920s, and reinvented with modern interpretations and local produce.
- The Grey Hen, with the look of an historic apothecary, features hand-selected fine spirits. Tucked into the corner of the building, the 20-seat space is an intimate bar and upscale neighborhood bottle shop.
- In honor of the anniversary of Prohibition, beginning in January, patrons of the Grey Hen will receive a prescription in order to purvey their spirits.
- The Century Grand complex has the largest single barrel whiskey selection in the United States with more than 80 barrels selected from whiskey producers across the county. The Grey Hen houses all of these plus additional whiskeys from around the world.
Robert Danielson is a 35-year career journalist, marketing and public relations expert. He joins us here at Phoenix Home and Garden Magazine as he explores the Valley as a newcomer to our region. Please welcome him by e-mailing him at RobertDigsIntoArizona@gmail.com