Food & Drink

The Rise of Strange Spirits: Where to Drink Mezcal and Absinthe in Detroit

Published On 09/01/2016 Published On 09/01/2016
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Jason Leinart

Sugar House


Now that you’ve sampled it from the source, head across Michigan Ave to Sugar House, where this spring and summer it's transformed itself into a tropical wonderland of fruity drinks. The Spice Trader combines the punch of chipotle mezcal and rum with the fruity flavor explosion of pineapple, mango, grapefruit, and rum.

El Barzon

Southwest Detroit

Since you’re down that way already, head a bit further southwest and check out El Barzon’s fantastic selection of mezcals. Last we checked, it had at least five different kinds, including Del Maguey from Oaxaca, a 100%-certified organic mezcal that has become one of the standards for reliable, smooth mezcal all over the world. If you ask the bartender very nicely, he or she may also pull up a bottle or two that’s not included on the standard menu, as they make trips to Mexico frequently to pick up unusual or rare spirits that can’t be ordered here.



Speaking of variety, check out the brand-spanking-new, Detroit-by-way-of-Brooklyn Calexico Downtown. The Cali-Mex restaurant has a few varieties of mezcal too, including the Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal, a single-village mezcal that is creamy and smoky, almost fruity. It also features two mezcal-based cocktails: the mezcal margarita and the mezcal Negroni.

The Whisky Parlor


Finally, for just a hint of mezcal flavor in a sweet-and-spicy drink, try the off-menu Don’s Cherry at The Whisky Parlor Downtown. It pairs a Dos Jaimes Mezcal Joven rinse with Traverse City Cherry Whiskey and a dash of Averna Amaro for a tart and spicy experience, just like Detroit’s favorite brash hockey commentator from neighboring Canada.

Two James Spirits


As with the mezcal, Two James produces its own version of this legendary spirit with 15 botanicals and a finish that’s not too licorice-y. The recipe was ready to go into production and shipping nearly two years ago, but since US law is extremely finicky regarding bottle labels, it took nearly a year and several rounds of edits to get a design approved.

The Whitney


For an absinthe experience straight out of 1895, The Whitney is unbeatable. The Absinthe Room, just off the third floor’s swanky Ghost Bar, features the traditional drip with your choice of Two James Nain Rouge, Mata Hari, Herbsaint, or St. George absinthe, which has a brandy base rather than the traditional neutral grain. It also has an Absinthe Mule and, Ernest Hemingway’s invention, Death in the Afternoon: Champagne and absinthe.

St. Cece's


In continuation of its love of all things limoncello, St. Cece’s serves up the Absinthe Riddle: absinthe paired with tequila, PAMA (pomegranate liqueur), and limoncello. The tart pop of the lemon and tequila get your taste buds working, and the sweet finish of the anise and pomegranate make it a great summer cocktail.

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