Platform 18 Review – High-End Cocktails on a Simulated Train

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on December 14, 2023.

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Immersive cocktail bars are becoming all the rage these days, as the ambiance and overall experience of the space are becoming almost as important as the cocktails themselves.

At Platform 18 in Phoenix, you board a smuggler's train trying to elude the authorities and get a high-end cocktail experience in the train's bar car when along for the ride.

This is one of those spots where everything truly comes together to be better than the sum of the parts!

Platform 18 is a Cocktail Bar on a “Train”

Platform 18 in Phoenix

When you first sit down on the train, you get a rundown of the experience- namely, a bit of the backstory of the train itself and then are handed a rather large book featuring dozens of cocktails and a longer story about the smuggler whose train you are on, if you were so inclined to read more.

But as the cocktail book is quite large, you'll likely spend much of your first few minutes at the bar simply looking through and deciding what to order. We also were fortunate enough to have a somewhat long conversation with our bartender (who only really served, at most, six guests per seating), who also helped guide us into the best choices for our palates.

Ignoring the theming for a minute, we must say that the cocktails here were incredible. During our visit, we were fortunate enough to sample five plus alcohol-infused ice creams for dessert to round out the experience. 

Cocktails at Platform 18

Gentlemen's Heist was one of our favorites of the evening, which contained cognac, elderflower, amontillado sherry, cardamaro, mustard seed, rye passionflower bitters, smoked rosemary, and orange oils. This one was booze-forward and had a rather integrated flavor profile, all with the smoked rosemary lingering in the air to accompany every sip. At $23, it was also the most expensive of the night, but do we say it was worth it? Absolutely.

We followed that with two more spirit-forward cocktails, Twelve Miles Offshore (featuring barrel-aged gin, chinato, campari, lo-fi gentian, combier liqueur d'abricot, lapsang tea, vetiver root, bitters, and lemon oil) and No Body, No Crime (made with 10-year bourbon, 12-year rum, salted plum, Thai basil, Chinese long pepper, cassia bark, toasted sesame, orange oils, and yamamomo berry) which both packed a boozy punch with excellent balance between the fruit and more savory components.

Cocktails at Platform 18

Blame the Dutch came with coconut-washed gin, lemongrass, lime leaf, ginger, lemon, lime, and chile oil. This one offered a bit more of a vibrant cocktail experience thanks to the citrus with a subtle, but integrated bite from the ginger and chile oil. Since most of our cocktails were spirit-heavy, this one was a bit more of a refresh to help break things up a bit.

The final cocktail of the night was their clarified milk punch, Always Quiet in the Graveyard (arguably one of the most popular drinks at the bar outright, too). This one featured Hendrick's orbium gin, rum, Cocchi vermouth, Galliano, Giffard creme de peche de vigne, heirloom alchermes, tamarind, ancho chili, and guava tea plus milk and lemon for clarification. While the nuance of some of the ingredients in this one was mild (the Galliano, for example), the combination of peach, guava, ancho, and tamarind worked beautifully with the milk wash. Balanced, not too overbearing, and, well, perfect!

Last Word Ice Cream

We finished the night with two scoops of homemade ice cream- created to reflect the flavors of the Last Word and a Grasshopper, respectively. The alcohol flavors in this one were mild, but did lend themselves to their namesakes quite nicely. Admittedly, the absinthe-flavored waffle cone that came with the Last Word was perhaps our favorite element of all!

How is the Immersive Experience?

Waiting Area at Platform 18

We have been to many “immersive” cocktail bars worldwide, and Platform 18 is among the best in theming. 

From the minute you walk into the main building (which is home to not one, not two, but three unique cocktail bars), the experience begins. You wait in a simulated outdoor train station, looking at a tree-lined courtyard with an apothecary across the way (one of the other bars on-site). Behind you is a train car's exterior, and when it is your turn, you are invited to board the train.

Inside the Platform 18 train

The experience looks and feels like you are on a first-class train's bar car in almost every respect. From the details on the wall, the width and length of the space, uniforms worn by the staff, and of course, the windows looking out, you will feel like you are on a moving train.

So, if you get motion-sick, this one could be a bit much- it is that good (we're told this was an issue in a former iteration when the window scenes were actual video footage instead of generated graphics). Thankfully, any rocking or motion is only in your head as the immersive experience stops at audio and visual.

Decor at Platform 18

That said, only keen-eyed viewers may notice a few minor (and we mean minor) details that help break the immersive feeling, particularly in the window elements. We aren't going to share those beyond noting that a couple are present. But perhaps the only real downside was that the views over the 90-minute experience did not add much to the storyline- they were simply a beauty to enjoy with all of the details inside the train car itself.

Still, even with this very small detail of note, the immersive experience at Platform 18 is top-notch and puts other immersive bars to shame. If you are looking for a high-end cocktail bar with an experience a bit unlike anything else you've had before, do not overlook Platform 18!

Platform 18 is located inside Century Grand at 3626 E Indian School Road in Phoenix.

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About Jeremy

Jeremy from Living the Dream

About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.

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