By Barry Barbe
When it comes to spirituous liquors and wine, there are few people in Prescott more knowledgeable than Russell Roberts, owner of Lyzzard’s Lounge, 120 N. Cortez St.
With a colorful background that includes a stint as an elementary teacher in his hometown of Pearce, Arizona, Russ was fortunate enough to take over the reins of one of the oldest bars in town in 2019, from previous owner, Lex Guinn.
Opening in 1905 as The Del Monte Bar, the establishment went through a few transitions earning its current moniker from Liz and Richard Long … thus, Lyzzard’s. During that time, Lyzzard’s was a virtual melting pot of Prescott personalities where you could find a combination of council members, lawyers, professionals and the blue collar guys playin’ pool and hanging out together — a truly unique hang out.
Russ has carried on the tradition after acquiring the property through a drink and handshake agreement at a Christmas Party. Six months later, Russ took the keys and began putting his own mark on a Prescott landmark.
“The ornate back bar is literally irreplaceable,” dating back to 1894 — the Brunswick Del Monte Back Bar, with Russ adding, “It’s the third oldest bar rail in Prescott, and opened July 4th.”
While tending bar at L’ Auberge, Russ began honing his skills with a sometimes jet setting clientele when he was approached by Rob Tewes of Young’s Distributing who wooed Russ into the world of beverage sales.
“Young’s was a great opportunity for me,” Russ said. “I had the opportunity to experience not just spirituous liquors, but also the history behind them, how the grapes are grown, liquors distilled, and the process at the source.
“While in sales, I took the opportunity to become as knowledgeable as possible, earning my two-tier sommelier certification, traveling overseas and directly to the roots of the industry.”
Russ also has a passion for sharing his knowledge and, while in the sales world, was known as a source for staff training and education.
While offering the traditional beverage selections, pool, patio, games and live music, Russ is keeping tabs on industry trends and adding new items to the mix with his unique elevation of product.
“Lyzzard’s was always known for fairly traditional bar offerings, but we’ve expanded and elevated the selections, if you will, to include premium distilled beverages and sought-after sipping bourbons, ryes, scotch, etc.,” Russ added.
“We still have industry discounts, and a wide selection of well-known liquors and beer, but we have definitely upped the game so to speak when it comes to unique and thought-out product line.”
One of the trends sweeping the industry is batched cocktails, for both convenience and consistency. Some are prepared off site, but Russ prefers a more personal touch.
“We started batching in-house craft cocktails. Using select liquors, we’re able to have the convenience of a draft cocktail that we prepare in house and with the use of a nitrogen system, we can deliver the same quality that you get if we were to mix the drink to order.”
Russ clarifies that these are not the premixed beverages that come from the distributor, but rather in-house signature recipes.
The other trend that is finally becoming more popular is “Mocktails” — creative beverages made with fresh fruit juices and flavors without the alcohol.
“We want everyone to be able to join us, and not sit all night as the designated driver sipping on water or Coke all night, so we and the industry in general are offering a selection of Mocktails so those that prefer not drinking for whatever reason can have something creative and flavorful to enjoy,” he said.
“Non-alcoholic drinks are definitely the newest and biggest trend in the industry and we’re offering Mocktails during game day and special events, and it’s becoming more popular. We really want everyone to feel comfortable and be able to enjoy the experience of being social and simply hanging out and relaxing.”
Open Monday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 2 a.m. — and celebrating 118 years of continuous operations July 4.
For more information and events, check out Lyzzard’s Lounge on Facebook. And listen to the full interview, July 8 at noon on KQNA 1130AM.
Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. His radio show, the Prescott Palette, is on KQNA 1130AM, Saturdays at noon. Email: Prespalette@gmail.com.