It was tough work, but someone had to do it. We scoured the region to find the tastiest, classiest, most creative concoctions. Here’s our guide to where to sip the best cocktails in metro Detroit.
Ann Arbor Distilling Co.
Ann Arbor Distilling Co. has been crafting spirits from scratch since 2014, using ingredients sourced right here in Michigan. Its tasting room offers a low-key and cozy neighborhood atmosphere for enjoying its fine selection of drinks. Go classic with a Michigan Old Fashioned, featuring Fox River Michigan Whiskey, or opt for a flight and try four different spirits of your choice. 220 Felch St., Ann Arbor; annarbordistilling.com.
Bad Luck Bar
This Capitol Park bar offers many drinks named to fit its superstitious theme, such as Mercury Rising and the Alchemist. The main focus of the intimate setting is a wall lined with spirits and illuminated by a white glow, creating the perfect ambiance against the geometrically shaped tables and overhead lighting. Parties smaller than six are encouraged, as it’s a tight space. 1218 Griswold St., Detroit; badluckbar.com.
Living up to its status as Michigan’s most beautifully designed bar — one bestowed by Architectural Digest — Candy Bar is covered floor to ceiling in shades of pink and decked with old Hollywood décor that recalls Detroit’s jazz era. The frequently updated cocktail menu includes outside-the-box drinks. The space fills quickly, but the swanky lobby of the Siren Hotel, which houses Candy Bar, makes for a comfy place to wait for a table. 1509 Broadway St., Detroit; candybardetroit.com.
The lower level of a Midtown Detroit Victorian mansion — an intimate space occupied by fragrance retailer Sfumato by day — turns into an unconventional cocktail bar by the same owners with an elevated-cellar feel by night, where mixologists use the relationship between scent and taste to their advantage. Created using liqueurs, spirits, and in-house tinctures, each cocktail is inspired by a Sfumato scent and is served with a napkin spritzed with the fragrance to create an unforgettable sensory experience. 3980 Second Ave., Detroit; castaliacocktails.com.
Detroit City Distillery
Detroit City Distillery is a small-batch distillery started by a group of eight friends who wanted to make spirits “the old-fashioned way.” In 2014, they opened their speakeasy-esque distillery in Eastern Market, specializing in artisanal vodka, gin, and whiskey created with locally sourced ingredients. The menu ranges from the classics to such original creations as the Head Honcho, made with toasted barrel-aged summer rum. We suggest heating up your night with the Rye on Fire, a delightful blend of sweet and spicy flavor profiles with whiskey, mango, habanero, honey, ginger, and lemon. 2462 Riopelle St., Detroit; detroitcitydistillery.com.
With its soft-lit, intimate, and beautifully designed interior, Evening Bar at the Shinola Hotel is a sensual take on the classic hotel haunt. Complementing the tucked-away space is the wonderful seasonal menu of cocktails and small plates from owner and award-winning chef Andrew Carmellini. Collaborating with local mixologists, Carmellini elevates classic recipes and creates new ones emphasizing organic extracts and artisanal alcohols. Sit back with a classic like a Sidecar Tall, or switch it up with the original cocktail Perfect Timing, which features bourbon, ginger, pandan, orange zest, and candied ginger. 1400 Woodward Ave., Detroit; eveningbar.com.
This Royal Oak speakeasy goes to great lengths to provide guests with a Prohibition-era experience. It requires a reservation and can only be accessed through a secret door, which leads guests into a dimly lit basement. The restaurant offers classy house cocktails, such as the ‘Old Smokey’ Old Fashioned (cinnamon and vanilla infused bourbon with Aztec chocolate and orange bitters, Demerara and applewood smoke) or Johnny’s Manhattan (Eagle Rare 10 bourbon, Dolin rouge, bitters, and luxardo cherry). 215 S. Main St., Royal Oak; johnnysroyaloak.com.
Brick walls, brown leather, and Art Deco accents, as well as the neighborhood bar’s residence in a historic building (built by the Kiesling family in 1890) conjure a classic, masculine elegance. Kiesling’s menu, which changes each season, features its takes on the classics, as well as varying craft cocktails. Current options include the Reverse Trust Fall, Espolon Blanco Tequila, Suze Aperitivo, Cynar amarao, lemon, agave, chamomile, and grapefruit and orange bitters. 449 E. Milwaukee St., Detroit; kieslingdetroit.com.
This rum-centric tiki bar offers tropical cocktails served in eccentric mugs — think skulls, parrots, and bathtubs — and an atmosphere elevated beyond the kitsch of a typical Cheeseburger-in-Paradise joint. Classic tiki options include the Mai Tai and Tiki Old Fashioned. 15421 Mack Ave., Detroit; lostrivertiki.com.
Motor City Gas
The distillery has a cocktail room that offers a seasonal menu with weekly featured drinks and up to 18 different styles of whiskey, all made in-house. The Motor City Manhattan cocktail puts a Detroit spin on a classic, while the Apple Sauce’d, which comprises cider, apple pie moonshine, and bourbon, is all its own. The farmhouse feel of the distillery is complete with a large chalkboard menu listing the different types of whiskey available. 325 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; facebook.com/motorcitygas.
Mutiny Tiki Bar
Bringing a piece of paradise to the Corktown area, this tiki bar serves up killer tropical cocktails. With its own spins on the classics and fruity drinks like the Painkiller and Island Hopper, Mutiny Bar will help you find your aloha and have you living on island time. The colorful overhead lights elevate the interior’s fun mood. 4654 Vernor Highway, Detroit; mutinybar.com.
A mural of pink flowers adorns one of the walls in this vintage cocktail bar. The interior is bright, youthful and, well, very pink, as are many of its concoctions. The menu of drinks is vast, made up of cocktails such as the Dancing Raspberries (Prosecco, St. Germaine, raspberries, and dry ice) and Thank U, Next (Sobieski vanilla, blood orange, lemon, and fava water). 100 S. Main St., second level, Royal Oak; pinkysroyaloak.com.
This beer garden and tiki bar feels more like a skatepark hangout spot. It offers traditional boat drinks like pina coladas and daiquiris, as well as classics like the Hemingway and a whiskey mule. The outdoor spot is currently closed for the season, but are presenting at The Crow’s Nest at Woodward Avenue Brewers this fall and winter. 116 E. Troy St., Ferndale; portferndale.com.
This sleek and contemporary spot situated in downtown Ann Arbor has a wide variety of beverages. The bar uses innovated techniques and state-of-the-art equipment to bring guests a modern cocktail experience. The menu changes seasonally, but classic cocktails served include Manhattan, Whiskey Sour, Old Fashioned, Margarita, and more. 220 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; nightcapbara2.com.
Sid Gold’s Request Room
The New York City karaoke piano bar opened its second location near Detroit’s Siren Hotel. Guests can sip cocktails while enjoying music from an array of genres performed by a live pianist. Traditional drinks include the Hemingway Daiquiri, made up of rum, maraschino liqueur, lime, and grapefruit. 1515 Broadway St., Detroit; sidgolds.com.
The inventive cocktails on the menu are concocted with help of a centrifuge and liquid nitrogen — technology that pairs nicely with the bar’s industrial feel. The extensive menu includes various drinks made with a range of spirits. Brandy lovers can experience the refreshing taste of the Speakerboxxx while those who favor whiskey might enjoy a Good Vibrations. 225 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; standbydetroit.com.
The Corktown craft cocktail bar features a rotating seasonal menu in addition to 101 perfected cocktail classics, a potentially overwhelming selection that’s full of favorites. Among those classics are the Bee’s Knees (gin, honey syrup, and lemon) and the Kangaroo cocktail (vodka, French vermouth, and orange bitters). Esquire recognized the bar as one of the best in America in 2018. 2130 Michigan Ave., Detroit; sugarhousedetroit.com.
The Ghostbar at the Whitney
Located on the third story of the Whitney, the Ghostbar once served as the Whitney family’s art gallery. Art still adorns the walls of the cocktail lounge, where spirits (other than the supposed ghosts that roam the mansion) can be enjoyed. A favorite is the Witching Hour Martini. 4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit; thewhitney.com/ghostbar.
The High Dive
A giant fiberglass shark greets guests walking into this cocktail parlor, which often hosts local bands. The drink menu includes signature cocktails inspired by the area, like the Hamtramck Mule, a traditional mule with a twist — strawberry preserve lends a fruity surprise. Another creative drink is the 75 N’ 8 Mile, blending Cruzan dark rum, ginger beer, angostura bitters, and a cured lime peel. 11474 Joseph Campau Ave., Hamtramck; thehighdivedetroit.com.
The Last Word
Named after a drink created at the Detroit Athletic Club in the 1920s, The Last Word serves up a serious cocktail experience. It conjures a Prohibition-era speakeasy feel with its nondescript, unmarked entrance door leading into a room that exudes Gilded-Age elegance. The drink selection is almost encyclopedic, with the menu split into six different chapters, each its own category of drink, as well as a glossary describing each term. The bestseller is the Osborn, a punchy mix of gin, pineapple, jalapeno, lime, and ginger beer. 301 W. Huron St., Ann Arbor; thelastwordbar.com.
The Library at the Detroit Club
Drinks inspired by such notable figures as Ernest Hemingway are the main focus in this space, which is open to the public, unlike much of the Detroit Club. Try Pretty in Purple, a mix of Rose Tequila, Créme de Violette, Hibiscus, lemon juice, a lime round and a fresh, edible flower. The interior is grand, complete with a 20-foot crystal chandelier. 712 Cass Ave., Detroit; thedetroitclub.com/thelibrary.
Valentine Distilling Co.
Complementing the distillery where it makes its internationally acclaimed spirits, Valentine Distilling brings the same artisanal penchant for quality and detail to its cocktail lounge. Plush couches, red silk curtains, and crystal chandeliers meld with aged barrels and exposed brick walls to give the space an elegant yet rustic feel. The cocktail selection is full of Valentine twists on classic flavors, using its signature vodka, gin, and whiskey. A favorite is the Pink Petal, a refreshing mix of White Blossom vodka, cranberry, and grapefruit. 161 Vester Ave., Ferndale; valentinedistilling.com.
The Meeting House
The interior of the Meeting House is simple and modern, with a wall of slanted mirrors opposite a row of wooden tables and bright red chairs. The drink menu includes classics as well as modern mixes like You Can’t Sit With Us (Tito’s Vodka, cold brew, oat milk, pumpkin purée, and Allspice Dram) pr the Redemption Song (Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve Rum, Lustau PX Sherry, spiced citrus, and lime). 301 S. Main St., Rochester; themeetinghouserochester.com.
The Oakland Art Novelty Co.
With shimmering chandeliers and golden décor throughout the space, this speakeasy-style bar has a sophisticated, club-like atmosphere. A blend of blues, jazz, and psychedelic rock gives it a timeless feel. The cocktail menu changes seasonally. 201 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; theoaklandferndale.com.
Traverse City Whiskey Co., a small-batch distillery, has brought its award-winning whiskey to Ferndale, opening the Outpost in the same building as Como’s Restaurant. The small and rustic tasting room serves delicious cocktails with a distinct Northern Michigan influence using its signature Traverse City Whiskey Co. spirits. Popular creations include the Michigan Mule, which fuses bourbon, ginger beer, and lime for a twist on the classic. 22812 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; tcwhiskey.com.
This whimsical hangout has everything from frozen Irish coffee to self-proclaimed “Fancy Drinks.” The Miles to Go is made with pineapple rum, bonded rye, mango brandy, grenadine, and lime. The interior is decked with the pinks and greens of plants and flowers, like those of a tropical jungle. 1234 Library St., Detroit; theskipdetroit.com.
The Whisky Parlor
Nestled above the Grand Trunk Pub, this whisky parlor offers an abundance of whiskey, wine, and various other spirits. For those who are light drinkers, try the Detroit cocktail (Old Forester bourbon, Barrow Intense, Dolin Rougue, angostura bitters, black pepper, and torched lemon). With a Baseball Bat is the Parlor’s take on a PB&J Old Fashioned, made with peanut butter brandy, strawberry or grape jelly syrup, orange bitters, and peanuts. Note: This location is currently closed for renovations. 608 Woodward Ave., Floor 2, Detroit. whiskyparlor.com.
Two James Spirits
The tasting room at Two James Spirits offers a selection of all the spirits made in house. The distillery works with ingredients that are locally sourced in Michigan to create gin, rum, bourbon, and other spirits, including the 98.8 proof Catcher’s Rye Whiskey. Four cocktail menus are rotated throughout the year in accordance with the changing seasons, using the freshest elements available. 2445 Michigan Ave., Detroit; twojames.com/tasting-room.
Willis Show Bar
The legendary Cass Corridor bar honors its early years, continuing to host live entertainment and performances from local talent. The inside of the bar feels like a Gatsby-era speakeasy. House cocktails include the Late Shift (vodka, coffee liqueur, cold brew, and earl grey) and the Private Island (white rum, reposado tequila, pineapple, lime, and ginger. 4156 Third St., Detroit; willisshowbar.com.
This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for 2022.