Yeah, Detroit can be rough, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. Sometimes, all you need is a stiff cocktail and a smile to get you through. And who better to give you said stiff cocktail and a smile than a lady? Well, a lady who mixes the best damn 'tails in town and can school you on your booze knowledge in the process, obviously. Fortunately, the Motor City is home to some very talented drink-slingin’ dames who can cheer you right up with one of their specialties. The smile might cost extra.
Laura Finlay and Loretta Lucas
Where to find them: Two James Distillery (address and info) Loretta’s specialty: “My new specialty is Crimson Punch. It's made with Two James Old Cockney gin, fresh, unsweetened cranberry juice, spiced honey syrup, and ginger beer. I'm partial to Old Fashioneds though.” What Loretta’s doing when she’s not working: “I play multiple instruments: guitar, auto-harp, synch, ukulele.” Laura’s favorite thing about Detroit: “We are fortunate that it’s a really small ‘big city.’ We have a lot of space to do things. People are really generous here with their time and talents. Also, it’s a good hub: you can go and come back and it’s really easy to do so.”
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Where to find her: The Bronx Bar (address and info) Specialty: “Yellin’ at people. Telling these kids to get their shit together.” What she’s doing when she’s not working: “Gamble. I like to go play the slots; kill time and be by myself.” Favorite thing about Detroit: “I guess it’s mostly the people, especially the (college) kids around this area. They keep me goin’. I never thought I’d work here for 38 years, and it gets harder every day. If it weren’t for the kids, I’d have quit a long time ago. This is the best part of the city, right here. And now they’re tryin’ to do it up and push everybody out.”
Where to find her: Mudgie’s Deli (address and info) and the forthcoming La Rondinella Specialty: “I love playing around with stuff, and my favorite part of the job would have to be turning people on to something they wouldn’t normally have tried. I’ve turned people onto mezcal, chartreuse, fernet; stuff people usually see on the back bar and are like ‘what’s that?’” What she’s doing when she’s not working: “Usually visiting friends, colleagues, and co-workers at various bars and restaurants in the city. I also spend a lot of time nerding out by reading up on different kinds of cocktails, and watching Netflix with my cats.” Favorite thing about Detroit: “The attitude of it and the work ethic that people have; the creative and really passionate people that reside here. I haven’t really been anywhere that’s quite like Detroit, (or that has) what we have here in Detroit. I like that you can pretty much do anything that you want to do. If you put your mind to it, you can get it done.”
Where to find her: UFO Factory (address and info), Marble Bar (address and info), and Checker Bar (address and info) Specialty: “Cheap beer and expensive Scotch.” What she’s doing when she’s not working: “I book shows at seven different venues throughout Detroit with my company Party Store Productions.” Favorite thing about Detroit: “I like that everybody works together as a community and people aren’t cutthroat or competitive: they all really help each other out.”
Where to find her: Bookies Bar & Grille (address and info) and UFO Factory (address and info) Specialty: “I've made a lot of cocktails in my day but I'm really in love with the classics. As an avid tequila drinker, I've got to toot my own horn and say that my margarita is pretty top notch. I like to add a splash of orange juice and pineapple for a lil’ one, two punch and rim the glass with a little chili salt for a touch of heat.” What she’s doing when she’s not working: “I'm an avid reader and writer. I also collect records and am a boss at thrifting. In addition, I am half of the DJ duo Nothing Elegant.” Favorite thing about Detroit: “The people: they are so quirky and hardworking. The resilience that people have in this city is inspiring.”
Where to find them: As a duo at Small’s (address and info); Kat solo at Zeke’s Rock ‘n’ Roll BBQ (address and info) Kat’s specialty: “My absolute favorite thing to make is my blood orange mojito. You’ll need one blood orange sliced in half and with one slice saved for garnish. The rest can be used for juice. In a cocktail mixer, put eight fresh mint leaves, 1-2tbsp of sugar (to taste), and the juice of half a lime. Muddle ingredients. Add the juice from the blood orange along with 1-2oz white rum (to taste) and ice and finish with soda. Garnish with blood orange slice and a mint leaf.” What Melody’s doing when she’s not working: “I'm a features and entertainment reporter for The Detroit News. It's always been a fun job but it's been extra interesting the past few years to be able to cover the city as it changes.” Kat’s favorite thing about Detroit: “The music and arts scene, hands down. No other city in the world compares to how vibrant and diverse it is. Musicians from all over the world have remarked to me how fortunate we are, not only to have so many places to see gigs seven nights a week, but also to have such a unique and varied blend of artists and musicians living in the area.”
Where to find her: St. CeCe’s Food & Spirits (address and info) Specialty: “I am a whiskey and bourbon girl. My special cocktail is a Bourbon Blackout, made with good bourbon, sloe gin, fresh lemon, and a tiny bit of simple syrup. Shake it up and serve over ice.” What she’s doing when she’s not working: “What I really do is play music. I am a singer/songwriter with my band Alison Lewis and String of Ponies.” Favorite thing about Detroit: “It’s a big city that feels like a small town; and the camaraderie.”
Sarena Marie Ridley
Where to find her: PJ’s Lager House (address and info) Specialty: “I make a mean margarita, and seasonally right now I'm making snakebites with pear cider and Guinness.” What she’s doing when she’s not working: “I’m a seamstress. And I love crafts. I started out doing a ‘craft a day’ in April.” Favorite thing about Detroit: “The people. I lived in LA for four years and I had two friends. No one really stops and talks to you. My first day here I found someone to live with and made a bunch of friends. This city is like that -- that’s how it works. Everyone looks out for each other and everyone’s friends. It’s not a malicious city. Everyone is into what they’re doing and into what everyone else is doing, not trying to one-up each other. It’s kind of like a big family.”
Where to find her: Tangent Gallery (address and info) and UFO Factory (address and info) Specialty: My favorite cocktails have a classic cocktail structure: a spirit, citrus, bitter, and sweet component. This summer, my jam was Hornitos reposado tequila on ice with Jarritos grapefruit soda, a splash of brut Champagne, and three to four dashes of orange bitters. What she’s doing when she’s not working: “I take my craft pretty seriously so in the last few years I find myself very drawn to New Orleans, where all things are possible and everything is textured. The inspirational well there is truly bottomless.” Favorite thing about Detroit: “My favorite things about the city vary from season to season but Belle Isle is forever majestic and beautiful. Motor City Wine has such a nice portfolio that my perfect day is grabbing two bottles to go and surprising a friend that may be having an awful day with spicy red or mineral-rich white. Nobody doesn't love a bubbly rosé either...”
Where to find her: Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails (address and info) Specialty: “As far as specialty cocktails I wouldn't say I have one in particular. I think the cocktail scene is sort of ever-evolving and labeling yourself as or with one specific drink could hold you back. I did however recently submit a cool cocktail I'm pretty proud of for a competition. It's tequila, mango, grapefruit, lime, and mint with a fernet float. It sounds pretty wild, but all the ingredients really complement the others well.” What she’s doing when she’s not working: “I really try to travel. I love art history and I have a long list of places I want to visit before I kick it. Any kind of new or weird experiences are my favorite ways to spend my time. I want to try to see and do as many things as possible. People are so strange; I like getting out there and seeing them in their natural habitats.” Favorite thing about Detroit: “The unyielding devotion that people from Detroit and Michigan have in general. It's a really cool thing to see people defend Detroit when others try to sell the city short. Now that more people are traveling and moving here, it's fantastic to see so many people enthusiastic to share what they love about Detroit.”
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Megan Frye is one of the female writers in Detroit you need to know about, but unfortunately she’s not THAT good at making drinks. Follow her on Twitter at @fryechild.