As the classic cocktail revival was rocketing to one of the hottest national culinary trends in major cities in the late aughts, Detroit's cocktail culture was restarting quietly, the result of a perfect shitstorm.
In 2008, Detroit was tumbling deep into the recession, harder and faster than the rest of the country. The flailing economy led to people leaving (or, more likely, fired from) their 9-to-5 industries to start their own ventures, many of them digging their heels into a would-be progressive food and drink scene that really just didn’t exist yet. Detroit’s talented chefs and drinking sophisticates wanted to see those kinds of envelope-pushing bars and restaurants in Detroit, not just in New York and San Francisco and New Orleans, et al., and they had nothing left to lose anyway. They drained their savings, borrowed from friends and family, cashed out their 401(k)s, took advantage of development incentives and grants, and opened the bars and restaurants of their dreams because, well, fuck it.
And if there's something that's recession-proof, as mentioned, it's booze. Which isn't to say people were shelling out for $15 cocktails (at least not in 2008; even now, the very upper echelon of cocktail prices hovers around $13). It was never about a $20 drink as the price climbed in other cities. Anyone who was spending $8 on a vodka soda could now just as easily spend that $8 on a Manhattan instead.