Detroit's cocktail scene is killing it; where's the love?
The latest spate of bar and restaurant openings continues to raise the bar on Detroit bars. Hell, they haven’t just raised the bar; they broke it.
In the last few months alone, Joe Robinson and his business partners opened Standby and The Skip, the former boasting a cocktail list of 50 (mostly) unique creations (four pay homage to that first wave of early 2000s NYC cocktail bars), and the latter offering next-level frozen drinks -- think frozen Negronis and gin & tonics -- and boilermakers, showing the more playful side of craft cocktail culture.
Kwiatkowski’s latest, The Peterboro, opened with a cocktail, sake, and sherry menu that complements its contemporary-American-Chinese-by-way-of-Detroit concept courtesy of Brion Wong. Katoi also opened, with a bar straight out of Blade Runner and more of Detroit’s top cocktail talent behind it (including resident DJ-drink maestro Drew Pompa, another Roast alum). La Rondinella carries a robust selection of amaro -- Italian herbal liqueurs like Fernet, Cynar, Averna -- which serve as the backbone of their small but impressive cocktail program. Levine’s Chartreuse opened about a year ago, with the Chartreuse-driven Last Word front-and-center on its cocktail menu.
Incidentally, Levine says Chartreuse sales in the Detroit area have been going up the last five years and skyrocketed last year, prompting a visit from the President and CEO of Chartreuse, Jean-Marc Roget, who had never before visited the city where the Last Word was invented. Levine himself recently returned from a visit to the Carthusian Monks in France, the makers of Chartreuse, courtesy of Roget & Co. Not just anyone gets to visit the Chartreuse monks on the Chartreuse dime. You could safely say that this is kind of a Big Deal.
In the meantime, back in Detropia, cocktail recipes from Standby (in Playboy), Sugar House (Food Network), and Mabel Gray (Eater) have all recently been published for national audiences.
Yet all of this attention Detroit’s cocktail scene has received has been tinged with a sort of gawking at those managing to make great cocktails despite everything else -- certainly not because of it. When the talk shifts back to the “serious” American cocktail cities, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago, and Portland still dominate, with nary a whisper of Detroit's renaissance.
“One thing I’ve been scratching my head about is the lack of national press our cocktail scene is getting,” says Fourmont. “Sure, we have gotten a nod or two, and a couple cocktails published nationally, but compared to other comparable areas, we often get overlooked. I feel we already have some of the best cocktail bars in the country, and with the addition of places like Standby and Katoi we will no longer be denied.”