Metro Detroit Bucket List: Cheers to These Drinking Spots

In our 2022 City Guide, we roundup what every local must do in their lifetime. Here are the must-visit places to get cocktails, wine, and beer in the area.
detroit drinks
We asked locals to experience our Bucket List. Here, Ryan (clockwise), a certified sales consultant at Cadillac of Novi; Brent, a senior financial analyst at General Motors; LaPorschia, a model; and Asia, the stylist and creative producer behind Styled By Jones, enjoy drinks at Cafe D’Mongo’s.

Sip in the lap of luxury at Bad Luck Bar

This downtown hot spot may give off airs of pretension and exclusivity with its $200 cocktail, The Admiral (which was $80 when it opened a few years ago), and hard-to-find alley location, but when it comes to experimental and creative drinks you won’t find elsewhere, Bad Luck Bar is unparalleled. In addition to offering unique cocktails, the little touches that come with the drinks, like Guilt Chocolates, make a night at Bad Luck Bar feel extra special. Detroit: badluckbar.com

Eat, drink, and listen to jazz at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge

Touted as the world’s oldest jazz club, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge is an art deco jewel on the famed Avenue of Fashion on the northwest side of the city. It has been playing host to world-class musicians and serving up some of the best soul food for decades. Belly up to the piano-shaped bar for a signature cocktail named after your favorite musician, from Billie Holiday to Miles Davis. Detroit: find them on Facebook

Grab a drink and maybe spot a celeb at Cafe D’Mongo’s

To see and be seen, Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy is the place. You never know who you will spot at this laid-back and chill bar, whether it’s a local chef or famous actors (Ryan Gosling was a customer during his 2013 stay filming How to Catch a Monster). As legendary as the bar itself is the owner, Larry Mongo, whose larger-than-life personality has made him a local celebrity. For the ultimate Cafe D’Mongo’s experience, get The Detroit Brown (Crown Royal and Vernors ginger ale). Detroit: facebook.com/cafedmongo

Savor the sweet life at Candy Bar

Candy may be dandy and liquor may be quicker, so why not have the best of both worlds? With its glam, posh decor and drinks like the Bubble Rum (extra dry rum, bubble gum syrup, and lemon sherbet), Candy Bar is the adult (and very pink and red) version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, full of pure imagination. Detroit: candybardetroit.com

Try the Witching Hour at the Ghostbar inside The Whitney

The Whitney is an institution in Detroit, the place for special occasions and a throwback to restaurants of the past. But it’s also an excellent place to grab a drink in one of Detroit’s most iconic buildings. Try the Ghostbar’s signature Witching Hour Martini, a mix of Valentine White Blossom Vodka, limoncello, Chambord, and lemon. Detroit: thewhitney.com/ghostbar

Raise a glass of locally made beer at Kuhnhenn Brewing Co.

The profile of Michigan’s craft beer scene has skyrocketed in recent years, but Kuhnhenn has been cranking out well-made beers, wine, and mead since before it was trendy. Beers like DRIPA, a double-rice India pale ale, and Loonie Kuhnie, a pale ale, helped them build a loyal following of beer fans. This pub is the perfect spot for leisurely Sunday beers. Warren and Clinton Twp.: kbrewery.com

Dance and drink on the patio at Motor City Wine

A wine shop/bar, Motor City Wine is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team David and Melissa Armin-Parcells, who founded the no-frills wine shop when they couldn’t find the wine they wanted more than a decade ago. Originally located atop Grand Trunk Pub downtown, it’s now a fixture of Corktown’s drinking scene and has one of the city’s best patios for sipping wine from the carefully curated selection. Live music adds to the ambience free of any wine snobbery or pretension. Detroit: motorcitywine.com

Relax on the beloved patio at The Old Miami

This Cass Corridor staple is a must-visit for its lush and expansive patio alone. A classic dive bar in the most endearing sense of the word, The Old Miami is a popular hangout
for checking out live music, shooting a game of pool, and drinking beers with your best friends. Detroit: oldmiami.business.site

detroit drinks 2
LaPorcshia sips a beer at Nancy Whiskey.

Admire the art of cocktails at The Oakland

A classic speakeasy with plush seating and dark lighting, The Oakland Art Novelty Co. marked its 10th year in business last year, no small feat when the local craft cocktail scene has become even more crowded in the past decade. It gives off swanky vibes, but at its core it’s a friendly neighborhood lounge offering well-crafted cocktails as well as one of the region’s best American whiskey and artisan mezcal selections. Ferndale: theoaklandferndale.com

Go to Detroit’s oldest party at Nancy Whiskey

Established more than 100 years ago, Nancy Whiskey, a North Corktown community fixture, is one of the city’s oldest bars. It’s the place to be on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day when the parade winds through the streets of Corktown, but it’s also a mainstay any day of the year for its solid bar food and drinks and laid-back vibes. Detroit: 313-962-4247

Belly up to the (raw) bar at The Sardine Room

While it has an excellent seafood-centric bill of fare, the drinks are equally as impressive, making The Sardine Room a go-to spot for those looking for a well-made cocktail and perhaps a bite or two from the raw bar. The cocktail offerings emphasize twists on the classics, like a Spiced Old Fashioned, and there’s also an approachable wine and beer list. Plymouth: thesardineroom.com

Trust your mixologist at The Sugar House

Opened more than 10 years ago in Corktown, this craft cocktail spot has cemented its status as a drinking destination in Detroit with expertly prepared drinks and an intimate atmosphere. The Sugar House’s extensive menu features a wide range of classic and craft cocktails, from Manhattans to margaritas, but for the ultimate experience, simply tell the bartender what you’re in the mood for. Chances are they’ll bring you a cocktail you never thought you needed but now can’t live without. Detroit: sugarhousedetroit.com

Meet friends over beers at Urbanrest Brewing Co.

With so many craft brewery options in Michigan, there is no shortage of local beer, but this neighborhood-focused brewery serves up some of the best (in 2018, head brewer Zach Typinski was named Cicerone of the Year in Hour Detroit’s Best of Detroit list). In the summer, Urbanrest’s large patio is one of the top spots to enjoy the great outdoors over a pint or two. There’s also a rotating schedule of food trucks and pop-ups. For boozy soft-serve ice cream, head to the downtown Ferndale outpost. Ferndale (two locations): urbanrest.com

Get into the (local) spirit at Valentine 

Valentine Distilling Co., which has a commitment to producing high-quality spirits, was established in 2007 before the proliferation of local craft distilleries. Over the years, it has nabbed numerous awards for its hand-crafted vodka, gin, bourbon, and whiskey, using Michigan-made materials and ingredients. The tasting room in downtown Ferndale makes it easy to go straight to the source for classic cocktails like a good old dirty martini. Ferndale: valentinedistilling.com

Enjoy drinks and music at Willis Show Bar

Formerly a jazz club in the mid-1900s before getting shut down by the city three decades later for drugs and prostitution, this stylish and sophisticated Midtown speakeasy with a touch of old-school glamour was revived in 2018. Today, Willis Show Bar combines live entertainment and killer craft cocktails, making it a go-to for a classy night out. Detroit: willisshowbar.com


Panelist Picks

Mickey Lyons

Cocktail expert
Mickey Lyons
Mickey Lyons

“If you haven’t experienced a wild night out at Menjo’s [Entertainment Complex], you’re missing out on a Detroit rite of passage. It’s one of the country’s oldest gay bars and serves as a storehouse of Palmer Park’s gayborhood history. [For something new], Jeremy and Amy Duncan took more than a dozen years to open Henrietta Haus [in Hamtramck], their bijou of a coffee shop and bar, and the love shows. From the impeccably restored enamel tables to the High Victorian backbar to the meticulously chosen beer and wine selection, HenriettaHaus epitomizes the new neighborhood bar done right.” 

Amy Haimerl

Author of Bar\Heart, a newsletter featuring weekly cocktails
Amy Haimerl
Amy Haimerl

“At Castalia Cocktails, mad scientist Kevin Peterson puts his Ph.D. and culinary degree to use creating cocktail-and-scent pairings. Plus, he’s always doing something for science, like creating cannabis infusions with a whipped cream dispenser. Detroit City Distillery is my spot for serious drinking thanks to its mad crazy concoctions — like Paczki vodka and the spicy, cool Rye on Fire from distiller Steve Orzechowski. Finally, Jaz’min Weaver at Frame creates genius cocktail pairings for the rotating chefs who pop-up there. No small feat when a week could take her from Pakistani flavors to old-school steakhouse.”


New & Notable

Dragonfly 

From the same team behind Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails, this casual drinking spot in Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction is in the same building as sister restaurant Freya. With an emphasis on low/nonalcoholic drinks, such as the Heart So White with coconut water, strawberry, lavender, and Bitterlekker, Dragonfly shows the same creativity and care when crafting cocktails with and without booze. Detroit: facebook.com/dragonflydetroit

Madam at the Daxton Hotel

This swanky new restaurant in Birmingham is also a go-to spot for live music and expertly prepared classic and signature cocktails like The Madam, an upscale take on the margarita. This is not your average hotel bar. Birmingham: daxtonhotel.com/food-drink

Shelby Detroit

Located in a restored bank vault in downtown Detroit’s financial district, Shelby offers a drink menu that matches the ambience and vibe: old meets new. Libations like the Express Lane (a mix between a Manhattan and a vanilla latte) typify the “classic cocktails with a modern twist” approach. Detroit: shelbydetroit.com

Spot Lite Detroit

The Islandview multidisciplinary space has an industrial, utilitarian aesthetic, fitting for the coffee house/record shop/bar and lounge/art gallery/neighborhood hangout. By day, guests can sip on Cairo Coffee while plugging away on laptops and then stay for happy hour. After hours, it turns into a dance party. Detroit: spotlitedetroit.com

Supergeil

Inspired by the buzzy food scene in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, this Corktown restaurant and bar from the owner of Two James Spirits has quickly become a staple in the neighborhood. Drinks like Garden Party (horseradish-infused Old Cockney gin with tomato, carrot, and fermented rice) pair well with the flavorful doner. Detroit: supergeildetroit.com


Dorothy Hernandez is Hour Detroit’s food and drink editor. Her work on food and lifestyle has been published in CNN Travel, Midwest Living, Eater, NPR, and other national and local publications.


This story is from the April 2022 issue of Hour Detroit. Read more in our digital edition

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