This Tea Changes Color Like a Mood Ring
Modern cocktails in a high energy atmosphere
This one-time new kid on the block has quickly become a go-to standard -- a standby, if you will. This place is consistent, creative, and always on point: go for the Snake In the Grass cocktail, which mixes liquid nitrogen with muddled mustard greens, Citadelle gin, lime, simple syrup, and celery bitters. The full menu is organized by spirit and lists tasting notes under every drink, ranging from "meditative, medicinal, viscous" to "vegetal, tropic, familiar." Make sure to check out Standby's sister bar down the alley, The Skip. The outdoor bar features a relaxed vibe with the best frozen cocktails in the city, and is even known to shut down the whole alley for a live concert.
Hip, Spanish-style wine bar with a full bottle shop
Wine remains one of the most intimidating beverages out there, and the fear of buying a pricey bottle only to find out it's awful is a fairly common one. The Royce eliminates that fear, though, with dozens of glass pours available to sample and unique bottles of wine at criminally low prices. This Spanish-influenced bar features small plates of charcuterie and cheese, as well as many wines from the Iberian Peninsula, so whether you're an established wine snob or don't know a rosé from a rioja, you can't really go wrong here.
Experimental nano-brewery with a heartwarming charity component
Michigan is awash with an outrageous amount of great beer, so it's often challenging to find a place that separates itself from the herd. Batch Brewing is that place which combines compassionate social programs with phenomenally good beers. Proclaimed as a nano-brewery, the team here takes chances creating unique beverages. And its city-wide Feelgood Tap program gives back to worthy organizations while you drink the fermented creations.
Nationally renowned spot for the eponymous green liqueur
When your restaurant finds out it's one of the top places in the country for selling the herbal liqueur of the same name, you know magic is happening. Chartreuse Kitchen has travelled to the motherland for its spirit and brought back incredibly rare varieties, in both age and type, to sample at the bar. If you’ve never tried the reasonably common green or yellow flavors of Chartreuse, come here for your first sip; if you want to expand your palate, treat yourself to that scarce stock of bottles.
Modern cocktails with an industry-leading batched drink program
Will Lee is a man of extreme creativity and determination. His cocktails at Grey Ghost are deceptively simply and well thought out. Nuanced details such as tiny drops of sesame oil or homemade infusions with adventurous ingredients like mace put him in a class outside of many others others. He is also among the brave few leading the charge on quality batched cocktails served by the tap.
Helped start Detroit's craft cocktail movement and still dominates
One of the godfathers of the Detroit Cocktail scene is Sugar House Detroit, named after the famous Detroit Purple Gangs speakeasy. While you can certainly get the prerequisite classic cocktails (the menu is filled with them), Sugar House is constantly reinventing itself with clever pop-ups such as Tiki, Carnival, and Bill Murray. You can’t go wrong with any of the drinks here, but it's especially worth checking out the one-of-a-kind single barrel selections sourced directly from distilleries around the US.
Adventurous distillery producing whiskey, vodka, and gin
There are more than 30 distilleries in Michigan and most are doing great work. Two James Spirits is proving that it's one of the area's best by making knock-out spirits and taking brave chances, such as producing absinthe and mezcal currently unrivaled in the state. Have a seat in the circular bar and see how the source treats its spirits.
Fine spirit production steeped in Detroit history and charm
The ultimate in classic decor is Detroit City Distillery is the ultimate in classic decor, with sparsely decorated walls and a massive wooden bar that practically begs you to sit and have a tipple. While it focuses on the full product line on-site, DCD truly eclipses the competition when it comes to gin; no other Michigan producer has the depth of line, ingredient, or flavor when it comes to the juniper spirit.
Open, inviting space with well-thought-out cocktails and food
Farm-to-table is Selden Standard's middle name, and nothing beats sitting at the cocktail or kitchen bar watching the masters at work. The drink menu here is broad (maybe the only place in town you'll find Australian rarities) but curated enough to not be overwhelming, That said, there are secret-ish extended menus with some real treats, if you know who to ask.
An oasis of craft beer and unique whiskeys in the 'burbs
What once was the overflow room for a subpar oyster bar is now a thriving beer hall. Ale Mary’s keeps its tap rotating, has a profound bottle list with plenty of rare beers, and vast selection of whiskeys to boot.
Deceptively simple cocktails and a constantly changing menu
Mabel Gray has solidified its position as a world-class restaurant, with an award-winning staff that's equally comfortable serving upscale, seasonal menu or grilling up hot dogs as a fundraiser for the Detroit Dog Rescue. Paul Fradeneck has spent his time working around the best bars in the city and put his particular touch on the drink list here, which changes daily to work with the freshest ingredients. So many intensely flavored boozy creations come out of such a small working space.
Intimate speakeasy with expert bartenders and a rotating cocktail menu
Besides creating some of the best drinks in the whole city, the Oakland has served as a training ground for local bartenders to build up their skills, only to go onto bigger things outside of the nest. These same bartenders win awards around the world too. Its “dusty shelf” contains spirits with forgotten names and checkered pasts, and the menu changes often to showcase cocktails with spirits acquired abroad. Even David Wondrich, one of the world's foremost cocktail historians, was in awe with the collection during his visit.
Flaming cocktails and gourmet, preserved foods
Jarrod Kassis continues to mesmerize as Beverage Manager at The Conserva, with flavor-forward cocktails like the Irish Handcuffs: a smart mix of Irish whiskey, Pimm’s Cup, sugar, citrus, and just a dash of Laphroaig Scotch. He also serves up some incredibly delicious flaming cocktails (if you're not afraid of a little fire), and if that's still not enough to convince you, then the constantly updated food menu dreamed up by Chef Matthew Baldridge will be.
Inventive, high-priced cocktails worth splurging on
The ultimate hidden bar in Detroit, Bad Luck burst onto the scene in 2016 offering an $80 pour of vintage British navy rum and hasn't looked back since. Bar mastermind Yani Frye breaks all the cocktail rules, creating memorable mixed drinks using ingredients that range from condiments and Pop Rocks to prosciutto and classic treasures like vintage falernum. On cold nights you might be greeted with a welcome cocktail in a tiny tea cup, to help set the mood and acclimate you to the warm bar.
St Clair Shores
One of the finest whiskey selections in Metro Detroit
Bourbon continues to be "so hot right now" with no sign of stopping, and the original epic bourbon bar of the region is Butter Run Saloon. With over 750 whiskeys available to pour, and a barrel-aging program you can actually see front and center, this is just about the best selection in town. Though it's best known as a whisky bar, Butter Run's rum collection is constantly growing along with the giant barrel-aging program that's front and center of the bar.
American Chinese food with thought-provoking cocktails
This place is a tribute to the Detroit Chinatown of days gone by, with arguably the best sake program in town. The beer list is curated and thoughtful, which is good since 8° Plato is just around the corner, and the cocktails are Asian-influenced without being gimmicky, relying on Eastern flavors like chai, cardamom, and orgeat.
Proper tiki bar with just the right amount of divey charm
Sure, there have been some incredible pop-ups in the past, but it's been years since Detroit had a true tiki bar. Enter Mutiny, which takes the best parts of tiki -- well-balanced tropical and boozy drinks -- and pairs it all with a relaxed, dive bar atmosphere. Expect drinks packed with bold flavors, flaming garnishes, and outrageous glassware. Try the Ship 2 Shore, which features whiskey, rum, amaro, banana, ginger, Falernum, and lemon -- in other words, all the flavors you expect in a great tiki drink.
Unconventional Irish pub serving obscure drinks
While your mind probably connects Irish bars with dark wood walls and high-proof shots, Lady of the House subverts that expectation with a bright, cheery space and a classy drink list. Christian Stachel, Lady of the House's beverage mastermind, has riffed on the Irish food menu (white potato donuts & homemade tomato toasts) with out-of-the-ordinary beer and wine selections, as well as a simple roster of cocktails. Stachel is also known for digging deep in cellars for worthy gems, so keep your eye out for Basque ciders (on tap, no less) and delightfully obscure fortified wines.
Inspired cocktails paired with dry-aged steaks
Owner Jeremy Sasson hired an all-star team from around the US, including Jonathan Shock from NYC and Liz Martinez from Chicago. Shock has lived up to his name with bold flavored cocktails that incorporate tricky spirits like Scotch and mezcal -- try the No Fly Zone cocktail, which features Auchentoshan Scotch -- while Martinez, with her pedigreed background from Chicago’s Purple Pig, seeks out obscure and under-loved wines from places like Greece’s Santorini Islands. Stay tuned for the basement speakeasy that'll be opening here in 2018!
1. Standby225 Gratiot Ave, Detroit
2. The Royce76 W Adams Ave, Detroit
3. Wright & Co.1500 Woodward, Detroit
4. Batch Brewing Company1400 Porter St, Detroit
5. Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails15 E Kirby Suite D, Detroit
6. Grey Ghost47 E Watson St, Detroit
7. Motor City Wine1949 Michigan Ave, Detroit
8. Mudgie's1300 Porter, Detroit
9. Sugar House2130 Michigan Ave, Detroit
10. Two James2445 Michigan Ave, Detroit
11. Detroit City Distillery2462 Riopelle St, Detroit
12. Selden Standard3921 Second Ave, Detroit
13. Ale Mary's318 S Main St, Royal Oak
14. Mabel Gray23825 John R Rd, Hazel Park
15. The Oakland201 W 9 Mile Rd, Ferndale
16. The Conserva201 E 9 Mile Rd, Ferndale
17. Bad Luck Bar, Detroit
18. The Butter Run Saloon27626 Harper Ave, Saint Clair Shores
19. The Peterboro420 Peterboro St, Detroit
20. Voyager600 Vester, Ferndale
Discreetly nestled in The Belt art alley, Standby serves inventive New American fare and creative booze-forward cocktails in a trendy, sultry space. Helmed by chefs Jesse Knott and Lindsay Salminen (of Detroit Delhi fame), the kitchen puts a modern spin on classic dishes like pierogies, served here with a whiskey-mushroom filling with tamarind, chile d'arbol, and scallion; in a similar vein, meat offerings like chicken liver mousse and country terrine illustrate the emphasis on house-made recipes. Accessible mixology continues to define the cocktail list, which is organized by spirit type and blends quirkily named signatures with timeless classics. If the place gets too crowded for your tastes, it's worth the short walk down the road to The Skip, Standby's seasonal sister bar. The libations go down just as quickly, and the open-air patio features a massive Shepard Fairey mural.
The Royce Detroit wine shop and bar takes just as much pride in its products as in its philosophy. Committed to visions of sustainability, all prices include tips to ensure that employees are taken care of. To create community among its wino customers, The Royce hosts weekly tastings that highlight producers from around the world. Royce devotees have a great deal to talk about; glass pours change every other week, and they are always complemented by delectable bites, like hard and soft cheeses, meats, nuts, and olives. The atmosphere is straight out of a Williams Sonoma catalogue, complete with white exposed brick and chocolate leather banquettes in the upstairs loft area. The Royce is a destination to meet, to unwind, and to feel you’ve made the right decision in coming.
Serving upscale New American tapas and craft cocktails in a refined, Deco-inspired space, Wright & Co. is a popular destination for happy hour and date nights alike. Food offerings range from elevated gastropub fare like pork belly sliders with tomato jam and arugula to larger plates like sautéed sea scallops with yellow squash purée, asparagus and succulent chive butter sauce, and the sheer variety makes for a myriad of ways to approach the market-driven menu. While the cocktail list changes seasonally, expect eclectic ingredients, house-made infusions, and top shelf liquors like añejo rum, mezcal, small batch whiskeys, and chartreuse to make regular appearances. The six-course Sunday brunch tasting menu attracts the masses, but daily happy hour steals make for a lively ambience any night of the week.
Co-owners Stephen Roginson and Jason Williams bring nano-brewing to Corktown, with delicious small-batch, handcrafted Detroit beer. Also on order is a dope assortment of bar snacks on a weekly rotating menu. We can't say for sure what'll be there when you stop by, but expect creative and flavorful takes on classic bar fare: past dishes include braised pork belly sandwiches, shiitake and bok choy arancini, and chili chicharrones.
Located by the Detroit Institute of Arts, this large, lime-green hued restaurant sports glossy wooden tables, botanical touches, and a dried flower installation that makes you feel like you're part of the world's coolest garden party. The vegetable- and seafood-heavy menu aligns with the earthy theme as well, with entrees like grilled spanish octopus and Michigan shrimp served with polenta.
Craft cocktails and house-made charcuterie reign at the sleek and industrial Grey Ghost. The menu brings stereotypically lowbrow dishes to an elevated level, like bologna, which is fried and served on a toasted waffle with sharp cheddar and jalapeño. Fries, too, get the fancy treatment -- they're paired with the not-so-subtly named Fancy Sauce -- and for dessert, peanut butter & jelly gets a makeover in a sundae with concord grapes and peanut fry bread. Cocktails are strong no matter if you have champagne or PBR taste, given that veteran bartender Will Lee is behind the shaker.
Half wine bar, half wine store stocked with worldly bottles, Motor City Wine has pairings of the best things that go with the grape juice, such as cheese plates, charcuterie, and guest pop-ups. This Corktown spot makes all of their bottles available for consumption on premises for just an $8 corkage fee. Enjoy a glass while listening to live bands playing everything from jazz to motown.
This artisanal deli is a source of pride for Detroit natives, and it should be: nearly all the meats are roasted in-house and everything from soups, salad dressings, and ketchup is made from scratch. What isn't homemade is sourced from local vendors, and the result is hearty sandwiches like a Reuben on onion bread and the multi-meat Gutty packed with salami, pastrami, corned beef, bacon, and beef brisket. A formidable selection of craft beer, including local and imported bottles, makes Mudgie's a veritable Corktown hot spot for locals on the lunch prowl.
One of Detroit's leading mixology bars, this hip Corktown spot uses eclectic spirits and mixers to make inventive and delicious drinks. Bartenders clad in tiki shirts or vests shake and stir creative concoctions with off-the-beaten-path liquors -- cacaçha, mezcal, absinthe, madiera, and chartreuse, to name a few -- and homemade infusions and syrups. While the specialty menu rotates seasonally, the staff's encyclopedic knowledge of classics from Aperol Spritzes to Zombies ensures a constant flock of regulars, aided by the antique hunting lodge décor (taxidermy animals mounted throughout, vintage bar stools, original brick facade from 1888) and dim, sultry ambience.
This Corktown distillery -- the city's first -- churns out gin, vodka, and whiskey, and comes with a bar serving cocktails infused with the liquors. It's located in a former taxi garage, a grungy element which it preserves through exposed steel and a concrete counter curved into an exaggerated horseshoe shape. The whole setup is airy, open and conducive to socializing, though you're also welcome to shop their retail selection for whiskey to go.
Detroit City Distillery uses locally-sourced ingredients from area farms and Eastern Market -- where the distillery and tasting room is located -- to offer a wide breath of spirits, including Bloodline Whiskey, Two-Faced Bourbon, Gilded Age Vodka, and Railroad Gin. The food menu doesn't go beyond finger foods and charcuterie, but with a killer cocktail list with both classics and Distillery-exclusives, the bar proves an ideal crowd-free pre- or post-dinner spot.
Made moody and proper with charcoal black tables and seats, and a white-tiled full-service bar that intimidates with its wide liquor selection, Selden Standard marries the upscale with fresh, rustic fare usually seen in more whimsical settings. The menu is brought to you with the help of partnerships with michigan farms, and features simply dressed courses like charred octopus, chicken and ricotta campanelle, and half grilled chicken.
Designed for the beer aficionado, Ale Mary's is decorated with kegs, beer-related photography, a beer bottle cap wall, and even beer-infused food. Of course, there're also almost 100 kinds of beers in total you can enjoy with it, including generic and niche stouts, ales, IPAs, and porters to fit every palette. And while beer-battered fries and multi-taps are nothing new, a classy and upscale place to enjoy all your beer-related goods makes this spot a novel find.
Created by former Top Chef contestant James Rigato and partner Ed Momou (the minds behind The Root Restaurant & Bar), Mabel Gray in Hazel Park boasts a seasonal, nose-to-tail (handwritten) menu and full bar. Charming interior design details like an otter mural paint the space, while thoughtfully plated dishes like sweet potatoes with queso fresco and pumpkin seeds, match the in-the-moment vibe. Dishes are changed on a regular basis, though, so you can expect your best friend's dinner suggestions to be replaced with something even better on your next visit.
Don't be confused about the "Art Novelty Company" title that adorns their website -- The Oakland is all about cocktails. Well, cocktails and the creation of a sumptuous turn of the century aesthetic.
If you've never aspired to have bad luck, reconsider: Bad Luck Bar gives Detroit something it was pining for -- a high-octane, high-mets-low cocktail pad with sex appeal and serious drinks. The space hides in an alleyway, with a door marked by a painting of a snake. Inside, the cocktails range from outrageously expensive (an $80 Caribbean rum leftover from reserves the United Kingdom set aside for its Royal Navy in the 1970s) to a champagne flute filled with Miller Highlife that just costs a few dollars. There are even mid-range surprises, in an enchanting Past Lives sip that blends gin, pisco, Umeshu fruit liqueur and rose-hibiscus syrup; or a bourbon ditty that comes with a spoonful of caviar. Tastes like your luck's about to change.
Located in what was once Detroit's Chinatown, The Peterboro pays homage to the area's cultural history with a contemporary American-Chinese menu from Chef de Cuisine Brion Wong and a bar program that is nothing less than you should expect from the Detroit Optimist Society, the folks behind The Sugar House, Wright & Co., Café 78, and Honest John's. Take the "C.R.E.A.M.," a cocktail made with bourbon, rice and almond milk, cinnamon syrup, and bitters that might as well be double as your dessert as well.