City Guide 2024: A Guide to Detroit’s Cocktail Lounges and Bars

Looking for a watering hole in Detroit? Check out some of these elegant cocktail lounges and neighborhood bars in the city.
20
Illustration by Ryan Olbrysh

The city’s cocktail renaissance has by now blossomed into an internationally recognized scene. Detroit’s trademark ingenuity and drive shine through in it’s bars, from elegant and intimate lounges to laid-back neighborhood spots.

Cocktail Bars

Experience Zuzu

Perfectly situated just a football toss from Campus Martius Park (near the Guardian Building) is this relative newcomer to downtown Detroit’s nightlife. Zuzu’s swanky red and black space overlooks Woodward and is primed to
be the place to see and be seen during the 2024 NFL draft.

Zuzu is impossibly chic, with custom-designed elements from international design firm ICRAVE, better known for its restaurant and lounge designs in New York and Miami. Zuzu’s deep-red velvet booths, heavy curtains, and silver-chained chandeliers invite indulgence.

The bar is happy to cater to that decadence, with full bottle service of Don Julio 1942 tequila, Dom Pérignon, or house specialty Ace of Spades Champagne. Large-format cocktails for the whole table like the Sei Less, a sweet-and-spicy concoction of tequila, sherbet, and hot pepper syrup, help to make any gathering a party.

From Friday to Sunday, keep the night going after dinner by heading to the Upstairs Bar on the second level, where the DJ spins tunes starting at 9 p.m. At the bars downstairs and upstairs, custom-designed high-top tables evoke art deco backgammon tables. The dining at Zuzu is meant to be a shared experience; diners can choose from an abundance of small plates with a focus on ultra-fresh seafood and Wagyu beef.

Zuzu is built to celebrate most special occasions, whether you’re on an intimate date or require enough space for a private party of 10 or more, with plush booths for small or large groups. 511 Woodward Ave., Ste. 100, Detroit; 313-464-7777; experiencezuzu.com.

The Godfrey Hotel Detroit Bars

One of the newest entries in the blooming Detroit hotel scene, the Godfrey brings understated elegance and class to Corktown. The hotel’s IO Rooftop Lounge offers stunning panoramic views of downtown. Hamilton’s, the Godfrey’s restaurant, and the lobby bar also serve up plenty of chic drinks to complement the hotel’s posh vibes. 1401 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-385-0000; godfreyhoteldetroit.com.

The Lexington

The Lex is one of those “if you know, you know” spots, catering to a dedicated group of regulars who stop in for expertly made drinks that don’t take themselves too seriously. Helmed by two Detroit bar industry veterans, the Woodbridge neighborhood bar serves up what might be the best old-fashioned in town, alongside a full wine and cocktail list and a hefty bourbon, rye, and whiskey list. 5063 Trumbull Ave., Detroit; 313-888-9415; thelexbar.com.

Bad Luck

Bad Luck makes no bones about being a prestige cocktail bar. Bad Luck’s vibe is all about mystique, and its cocktails each embody a specific energy; the Persephone, for example, is about reincarnation and growth and features Norden aquavit served with botanical liqueur and strawberry. The unabashedly elegant bar can only be accessed by knocking on a door tucked down an alley. 1218 Griswold St., Detroit; 313-657-9177; badluckbar.com.

Le Suprême

Tableside. Martini. Service. Need we say more? OK. How about a cocktail list that leans heavily on French impressions, with delicate and expressive sippers, a smashing Bloody Mary, and a wine and beer list heavy on the Old World influences? 1265 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-597-7734; lesupremedetroit.com.

Kiesling

Old brick, warm wood, and burnished leather couches help make this Milwaukee Junction mainstay a must-visit. The rows and rows and rows of bottles are a clue to just how well the staff knows its drinks, from the classics to new inventions. The drinks list is also conveniently arranged in order of “booziness.” 449 E. Milwaukee Ave., Detroit; 313-638-2169; kieslingdetroit.com.

Grey Ghost Detroit

Grey Ghost’s beverage program is every bit as innovative and smart as its celebrated food. A few dozen standards, changed seasonally, run the gamut from breezy and refreshing to dark and brooding. Grey Ghost makes clever use of ingredients like pickled honeydew and chiles to complement the food offerings. 47 Watson St., Detroit; 313-262-6534; greyghostdetroit.com.

Standby

There’s a reason Standby has been around for almost 10 years, making it an old-timer by Detroit standards. This moody Belt alley bar organizes its drinks menu by listing the base spirit (rum, for example), flavor profile (“savory, tropical, nostalgic”), and preparation and serving method (stirred or shaken, served in a cordial glass or even a coconut). 225 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-241-5719; standbydetroit.com.

Sugar House

One of the first and still one of the premier cocktail bars in the city, Sugar House set the bar for Detroit’s cocktail renaissance all the way back in 2011. With drink options running into the hundreds, Sugar House offers 101 impeccably made classics like the bijou and pisco sour, along with a rotating seasonal menu and a deep, deep list of single-barrel whiskies. 2130 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-0123; sugarhousedetroit.com.

Castalia at Sfumato

It’s not often that a bar changes the cocktail game completely, but Castalia does just that in a tiny basement space in Midtown that doubles as a perfumery. Drinking at Castalia is a full-on sensory experience; each cocktail is meant to be savored as much by scent as by taste, as each drink is paired with a scent stick meant to draw out subtle nuances in the drink. 3980 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-305-1442; castaliacocktails.com.

Ash—Bar at The Siren

The vibe at Ash—Bar is all about midcentury chic, like drinking a martini on a first-class train car sometime in the late ’40s. Lime-green banquettes and whimsical concoctions are available all week and all day on Saturday and Sunday, from breakfast through dinner. Ash— Bar’s happy hour is one of the best in the city, too, featuring classic cocktails and wine from 3 to 6 p.m. daily. 1509 Broadway St., Detroit; 313-277-4736; ash.world/hotels/the-siren.

Sports Bars

Nemo’s

No sports lover’s visit to Detroit is complete without a stop at Nemo’s for some draft beer and griddle sliders. This fan favorite was once a quick hop from Tiger Stadium. It’s survived thanks to an incredibly friendly staff and fanatically loyal customers, who flock to the green-striped awning whether or not there’s a game on. 1384 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-965-3180; nemosdetroit.com.

Thomas Magee’s

One sign of a great sports bar is its cable TV package. Thomas Magee’s invests in just about every game you can find, especially international soccer games. If there’s an important match on, Thomas Magee’s will open as early as 7 a.m. 1408 E. Fisher Service Drive, Detroit; 313-263-4342; thomasmagees.com.

Tin Roof

Three floors of giant TVs, live music stages, a few dozen beers, and a perfect rooftop view of Comerica Park: With these perks, it’s no surprise that Tin Roof is consistently packed before every Tigers and Lions game. 47 E. Adams Ave., Detroit; 313-262-6114; tinroofdetroit.com.

McShane’s

Whiskey, sports, and Irish hospitality make this Corktown staple a perfect place to stop for a quick drink or to while away a few late-afternoon hours chatting with the bartender or a new friend. 1460 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-1960; mcshanespub.com.

Detroit City Clubhouse

Watch parties, watch parties, and more watch parties bring the fans to this east-side spot run by the owners of the local pro soccer team. The clubhouse boasts giant TV screens for soccer and NFL action, while indoor soccer leagues compete on the adjacent fields. 3401 E. Lafayette St., Detroit; 313-656-2480; detroitcityclubhouse.com.

Wine Bars

The Royce Detroit

If you’ve never been to a Wednesday free wine tasting at The Royce, you’re missing out. The wine shop and bar near Grand Circus Park hosts wine tastings every week, and the staff is dedicated and passionate about the best vino for every occasion. 76 W. Adams Ave., Detroit; 313-481-2160; theroycedetroit.com.

Ladder 4 Wine Bar

This converted historic firehouse is stunning, sumptuous, and serious about its wines. Ladder 4 features a rapidly rotating list of wines that lean heavily on the low-intervention and “natural” side. 3396 Vinewood St., Detroit; 313-638-1601; ladder4winebar.com.

MotorCity Wine

For 14 years (15 years in August), Detroit bartenders and musicians have flocked to MotorCity Wine for chill nights, music jams, and samples of funky, unique wines from all over the world. MCW is utterly unpretentious and welcomes everyone, from novices to wine geeks. 1949 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-483-7283; motorcitywine.com.

Mudgie’s Deli & Wine Shop

Perhaps better known for its sandwiches, Mudgie’s has a smart collection of reasonably priced wines available by the bottle and glass. From Thursday to Saturday, the beloved Corktown deli and bar offers bottle discounts in its attached shop during happy hour. 1411 Brooklyn St., Detroit; 313-961-2000; mudgiesdeli.com.

Stadt Garten

The folks at Stadt Garten are proud wine nerds, especially when it comes to anything German. The cozy Midtown storefront with an attached bar and garden epitomizes the concept of gemütlich: effortlessly cozy and cheerful.
3980 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-500-0000; stadtgartendetroit.com.


This story is one piece of our 2024 City Guide, which appeared in the April 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. For the rest, pick up a copy of Hour Detroit at a local retail outlet. Our digital edition will be available on April 5.