November 06, 2013 12:00 PM

Dierks Bentley is a bar expert. That’s what happens, he says, when you spend years “playing every bar there is in this country.” It’s research that not only helped him hone his skills onstage but also prepared him for his newest adventure: creating Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, a restaurant and bar just blocks from where the singer grew up. “I wanted somewhere you walk in and go, ‘Oh, this is what new country feels and looks like,” says Bentley. “Someplace reflective of the music that’s being made in Nashville at the moment—it’s not cheesy, it’s cutting edge, and it’s very cool.”

How cool? How about being greeted at the door with a free shot of Fireball whiskey, poured straight into your mouth from the bottle while you recline back in a camouflage-covered chair. “A free shot before you walk in the door – that makes people feel welcomed and appreciated,” says Bentley. Inside, the walls are reclaimed wood from an old Kentucky tobacco farm, the tabletops are made of repurposed construction road-plate—perfect for boot stompin’ – and a vintage 1954 tractor hangs from the ceiling. But perhaps Dierks’s favorite feature of all (besides the stage suspended over the bar) is that patrons don’t need a waitress or a bartender to get a drink. “I just hate going to a bar and having to wait, like, 20 minutes to get the waitress or bartender’s attention,” says Bentley. So at Whiskey Row, each table has its own self-serve tap, complete with three choices of beer and one liquor. As you pour your own drinks, the price is calculated by weight and tracked on a tablet at your table. “Your drinks are always here waiting for you – amazing!” says Bentley.

Bentley is also proud to host live performances by country artists at the bar, something that had been missing in the Phoenix area in recent years. “This is the area where we used to come and hang out,” he says. “My buddies would be over at the more happening bar, but I’d line up in the one old country bar … just drinking beer and listening to the band playing. Then that place closed, and there was just no country presence here at all anymore.”

Until now. Says Bentley: “When I came in to see the place the other night, everyone was high-fiving me and fist-pumping. I couldn’t even walk through. They’re just so grateful there’s a country-themed bar here. It was like walking around a bar full of thousands of your friends.”

In fact, it was a moment that brought the singer full-circle. “I was sitting in the back booth with my band, and my drummer has been with me from the very beginning,” says Bentley. “We started playing a tiny bar in Nashville together. It had a little stage about a foot off the ground and a TV behind us that people would watch while we were playing – it was brutal,” he says. “So anyway, there we are, sitting in my bar, listening to my vocals and his drum track on ‘Free and Easy,’ a No. 1 song for us. It felt really good. Yeah, we’ve come a long way.”

Tip It On Back!

Try these favorites from Whiskey Row

THE LEGEND

Makes: 1 serving

8 oz. light beer chilled

3 tbsp. bourbon

Pour beer into a chilled 12-oz. glass; drop full shot glass of bourbon into beer. Serve immediately.

SMUTTYNOSE

Makes: 1 serving

3 tbsp. cucumber vodka

1½ tsp. elderflower liqueur

Fresh lime juice

Prosecco

Cucumber slices

Fill cocktail shaker 2/3 full with crushed ice. Add vodka, liqueur and splash of fresh lime juice; cover and shake vigorously. Strain into chilled champagne flute. Top with prosecco. Garnish with cucumber slices. Serve immediately.

WORKING CLASS HERO

Makes: 1 serving

8 oz. beer (not dark), chilled

3 tbsp. Irish whiskey

Pour beer into a chilled 12-oz. glass; add Irish whiskey. Serve immediately.

COW TIPPER

Makes: 1 serving

3½tbsp. blackberry whiskey

1½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1½ tbsp. agave nectar

Fill a cocktail shaker 2/3 full with crushed ice. Add whiskey, lemon juice and agave nectar; cover and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Serve immediately.

DIERKS’S LEMONADE

Makes: 1 serving

5 fresh raspberries

3½ tbsp. whiskey

1½ tbsp. lemonade

1½ tsp. simple syrup

Club soda

Place raspberries in cocktail shaker, pressing with back of a spoon. Fill shaker 2/3 full with crushed ice. Add whiskey, lemonade and simple syrup; cover and shake vigorously. Strain into a 12-oz. glass. Top with club soda. Serve immediately.

THE BUSHWHACKER

Makes: 1 serving

2 tbsp. cinnamon whiskey

1½ tbsp. coffee liqueur

¼ cup cream of coconut

¼ cup milk

1 cup ice

Combine all ingredients in the container of an electric blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a 16-oz. glass. Serve immediately.

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