Food & Drink

These are Detroit's best cocktail bars

Published On 11/06/2013 Published On 11/06/2013

Anyone who's ever seen Cocktail knows that a great cocktail bar is... nothing at all like what's portrayed in that film. Though any establishment STILL gets bonus points if Elisabeth Shue is frequenting it. Anyway, here are Detroit's best haunts for top-notch libations that don't involve any Tom Cruise chicanery.

Courtney Ochab

Sugar House
Corktown
The dimly lit bar dresses its barmen in classic button-ups and ties, but even if you aren't dressed so formally they'll gladly pour you a meticulously crafted cocktail as mounted deer heads overlook them thirstily (kidding, they're dead). The menu changes seasonally (sometimes weekly), with the most recent featuring collabs with Anthology Coffee, a bean shop located down the street.

Roast
Downtown
Roast in Detroit has been named one of the best places to go for a craft cocktail and it’s no secret as to why. There is more than talent behind the bar -- there is passion. The wine cellar is the backdrop for the bar and the bartenders are knowledgeable about their spirits, wine, and beer. The happy hour prices are really a bargain but don’t forget your reservation!

Bailout Productions

Bailout Productions
Pop-Up Bar Events
Green Dot Stables and Rhino Club in Harmonie Park have already housed Travis Fourmont and Joe Robinson’s (both previously bartenders at Roast) newest creation -- essentially, a pop-up bar! They bring their talents and friends, like chef Andy Hollyday, to create pairing events that are worth tracking down. To find their latest location, follow them on Facebook.

Courtney Ochab

Two James
Corktown
It's the first distillery to open in Detroit since prohibition (what took so long?!), but it certainly won’t be the last. Founders Peter Bailey and David Landrum purchased the taxicab storage and dispatch center on Michigan Avenue in July, and since have renovated the 7000sqft building into a space for local artists of all sorts. Oh, and also for drinking. Bourbon barrels without bottoms allow for a preview of the distillery, and their bottles literally serve as the centerpieces for the bar, in addition to the cocktails, of course.

Great Lakes

Great Lakes
Midtown
Though known primarily for their coffee, the shop has a small bar featuring wines, craft drafts, and cocktails that require your attention. The current cocktail menu references poems from Yates and other literary notables (fancy!), and James (one of the owners) carefully selects the ingredients for the frequently changing cocktail options that include an array of house-made syrups and infusions.

Courtney Ochab

Cliff Bell's
Downtown
This bar's alive with sound and spirit -- seriously just ask the bartender about the ghosts. As she pours a cucumber cream cocktail into a tall Lexington you might feel a cold hand brush your shoulder. But, is it the girl who was found downstairs, or the owner who enjoyed the sound of a jazz quartet as he sipped his dirty martini? So yeah, scary good cocktails.

Rodin

Rodin
Midtown
The sculptor-named establishment is piled deep with small plates and French wines, but you'd be remiss to... miss the specialty cocktails that pair well with the amazing view of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The menu changes, along with the décor, as they take on different cities in France, their main staple being Paris.

Centaur Bar

Centaur Bar
Downtown
The two-story Art Deco cocktail lounge located in the heart of Detroit’s theatre and entertainment district has a team of expert bartenders and a lineup of 21 specialty martinis that changes seasonally, so devote yourself to trying them all if you don't have too much going on for the rest of the year.

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1. Sugar House 2130 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48026 (Corktown)

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.

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2. Roast 1128 Washington Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226-1907

Headed by Iron Chef Michael Symon, Roast is a massive, highly decorated, 200-seat steakhouse. Its bar/lounge is also known for dishing out some of Detroit's best cocktails, each made with fresh ingredients. Located within the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit, the bar’s Renaissance-style ambiance will make your night out feel classy as can be.

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3. Two James 2445 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216 (Corktown)

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.

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4. Great Lakes Coffee 3965 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201 (Midtown)

Great Lakes has a bit of everything: great coffee, tasty small plates, and rotating wines and cocktails. They focus on small scale productions and locally-sourced ingredients, with awesome offerings like cold-brewed coffee ON TAP and house-made syrups and infusions for their cocktails. The Midtown coffee shop has become a gathering place with the warm atmosphere featuring reclaimed wood and smart design elements, it's easy to see why.

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5. Cliff Bell's 2030 Park Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Hands-down Detroit's finest cabaret club, Cliff Bell's is a cocktail bar, restaurant, and entertainment destination with dramatic Art Deco décor that includes a curved wood ceiling, mahogany leather banquettes, and a vintage Steinway grand piano. Stop by to wash down great jazz and burlesque with quality martinis and other beverages mixed by well dressed and professional bartenders.

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6. Rodin 15 E Kirby St, Detroit, MI 48202 (Midtown)

This bar & bistro is named after the sculptor of The Thinker, and mixes enough Parisian-inspired cocktails to ensure that no one will mistake you for him.

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7. Centaur Bar 2233 Park Ave, Detroit, MI 48201

Centaur Bar is your new best friend: aside from serving you small plates until 2am and giving you a free ride to all the Red Wings home games, they have 1/2 off wine Wednesdays and a killer 5$ martini (they have over 25 kinds) happy hour every day.

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