Detroit's food scene has earned more and more attention over recent years, as chefs flex their creative muscles with a range of openings from classic barbecue to Japanese izakaya to upscale Mexican fare. "It seems like there's a new restaurant opening every week," Slows Bar BQ cofounder Brian Perrone told Tasting Table last year. "There are chances for anybody who really wants to do a good thing to do well here."
And Detroit's appetite for the new and exciting has spread to the bar world as well. "The city's cocktail scene is maturing," Jeremy Sasson, owner of Heirloom Hospitality (Prime + Proper, Townhouse Detroit), says. "So much of its personality is woven into the creativity of its beverage practitioners, and the community's passion for the new and delicious."
That's not to deny the impact of the city's historical bars, including Baker's (the oldest operating jazz club in the world) and Nemo's (beloved to many a sports fan). But for modern-day craft cocktails and thoughtful, contemporary wine lists, here's where to drink now.
Expect tight seating (call ahead for a reservation) and dramatic, offbeat cocktails. Death, for instance, is a potent elixir of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, Pedro Ximénez sherry, spiced butter and lime juice—served in a skull mug.
Located in Detroit's West Village off Kercheval Avenue, this venue was built inside a refurbished bank, even preserving the bank vault as a private room; its wines are drawn from across the globe, from Michigan Rieslings to South African Malbecs, and the charcuterie is just as notable.
Above John Varvatos, this design-forward bar is a destination for clever cocktails, like the Tender Is the Night (Brugal Añejo rum, goji berry, lime cordial and Byrrh) and Downtown Nino Brown (Laird's Bonded Applejack, Amaro Nonino and Nux Alpina).
Near the Little Caesars Arena, Grey Ghost is a gorgeous place for a drink, whether you're seated out on the patio or by the elegant back bar; its cocktails are creative and very much in line with current drinking trends, be it something spicy (Twenty Fifth Hour, with Thai chile pisco, mescal, poblano and lime) or savory (Heroic Intention, with caper-infused vermouth, gin, sesame oil and black pepper).
Notable if only for the gorgeous urban artwork at its entrance, the aptly named Standby has become just that—a reliable destination for phenomenal drinks, handily characterized on the cocktail menu (like the "medicinal, funky, bittersweet" Apartment Bartender, with Plantation pineapple rum, Carpano Bianco vermouth and Cappelletti).
This speakeasy isn't the newest, but a pioneer of Detroit's craft cocktail scene that's only gotten better over the years, with clever themed menus ranging from a Chinese Zodiac motif to a summer Corktown Carnival menu, where you'll find drinks like the Wet 'n' Wild Waterslide, with vodka, blue curacao and Salers.
Carey Jones is a New York-based food and travel writer and the author of Brooklyn Bartender: A Modern Guide to Cocktails and Spirits. Follow her on Twitter at @careyjones.
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