The Southwest’s first Canopy by Hilton is open in the heart of Downtown Tempe, ushering in a contemporary, full-service hotel offering guests a local experience with a boutique feel.
With the hotel’s debut comes two distinct dining venues helmed by seasoned Valley chef Ken Arneson. Alter Ego, the hotel’s signature restaurant located on the ground floor, serves elevated fusion cuisine made with fresh locally and regionally sourced ingredients and an inventive craft cocktail program that aims to set the bar for elevated cocktail culture in Downtown Tempe. Alibi, the East Valley’s only full-service rooftop pool and bar set atop the hotel’s 14th floor, is a scenic retreat for weekenders and locals looking to relax, cut loose and cool down while lounging by the pool with music in ear and a cocktail in hand.
We recently sat down with Claudia Sojo, who is the hotel’s lead food and drink enthusiast (also known as director of food and beverage) to learn more about Canopy by Hilton’s evolving cocktail programs.
How did you get into this career?
My first job was a shooter girl on the beach on Margarita Island off the coast of Venezuela. After leaving my home and family in Venezuela at a young age, I pursued my passion in food and beverage and was able to work for amazing properties like The W South Beach, then transitioning to the opening team of The W Scottsdale and then on to positions with Kimpton. Now with Hilton, I have had this amazing opportunity to launch an incredible new boutique brand within the Lifestyle Hilton Collection.
What’s the oddest drink order you’ve ever gotten?
While working at a bar on Margarita Island, a guest ordered a drink called “Cucaracha,” translating to cockroach. This drink consists of a shot of vodka, Kahlua and brandy, which you then light on fire and drink up. That was pretty crazy!
Oddest ingredient you’ve used in a cocktail?
The oddest ingredients I have used in a cocktail were date preserves. It is an ingredient in one of our Alter Ego cocktails called “Left on Read” featuring Copper City Bourbon.
What does ordering a rum and Coke say about a person?
What first comes to my mind is the Caribbean Islands, the beach and simplicity with familiar flavors. Rum is the drink of choice where I come from. It says this person likes simple ingredients that have a good taste!
Favorite memory working behind the bar?
I had the most fun when I worked behind the bar at a club in Margarita. At my bar was this bell hanging from the ceiling that all the surrounding bars had as well. When the party was at its peak, all the bartenders would ring our bells and it would be loud and energizing for the crowd. Everyone would cheer and dance with the music, having tons of fun.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into the industry?
My advice to someone looking to get into the cocktail industry would be to become an expert on classic cocktails and techniques, then apply your knowledge and skills to develop more crafty and innovative recipes. Always stay up to date with trends and have fun being creative, too.
Tell us about the cocktail program at the hotel.
The cocktail program at Canopy Tempe follows our brand pillars of “simply enabling, thoughtfully local and surprisingly comfortable.” We have partnered with Proprietors LLC to aid the creation of an exciting, exclusive and successful bar program for Alter Ego. They have created a menu of cocktails that are inspired by the diverse stories and trends in our local area. We also loved the process of finding our Local Partners and are proud to serve delicious spirits and craft beers from AZ Distilling Co, Pedal Haus Brewery, The Shop Beer Co., Huss Brewing and Four Peaks Brewing.
How is the hotel handling COVID-19 to ensure guest safety?
Given the state of the world, beyond the amenities and accommodations, it should also be noted that Canopy Tempe and Alter Ego are proudly part of the Hilton CleanStay program. Hilton CleanStay, created in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, includes new procedures to help Hilton guests enjoy an even cleaner and safer stay. In addition, Alter Ego closely adheres to all social distancing policies recommended by the CDC as well as local and national regulations. All guests and employees are required to wear face masks or coverings until they are properly seated at their tables. Guests dining indoors will be sat at tables spaced 6 feet apart, with all tables and chairs in between marked as “reserved” so as to note that no party can be sat there. Guests can also opt for outdoor patio seating if that makes them more comfortable, and tables are appropriately distanced in that instance as well.
What is one drink you want us to feature this month?
The drink we will be featuring this month is Pirate Jenny ($14).
Why do you like the cocktail?
This cocktail has hints of spiciness and is a little sweet and really fresh. The drink is quite colorful, and its ingredients create a tasteful experience.
Chosen Cocktail Recipe
1 1/2-ounce habanero-infused Blanco tequila
1/4-ounce Grand Marnier
3/4-ounce carrot juice
3/4-ounce lime juice
It is shaken and served in a double old-fashioned glass over ice, with a salted rim and fresh lime.
Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown, 108 E. University Drive, Tempe, 480.968.6800, tempedowntown.canopybyhilton.com.