Red, White, and Booze

Getting into the voting spirit with election-inspired cocktails

To put it mildly, the 2016 election has evoked quite a bit of “spirited” debate. After such an exceptionally aggravating (and seemingly endless) campaign season, we collectively need a nice, stiff drink. To bid this election good riddance, we asked five nonpartisan experts (aka local mixologists) to craft politically inspired cocktails. Here’s what they proposed.

Red States, Blue States

Photography: EE Berger // Prop Styling: Stephanie Potts

Happy Accident

In the beginning of this race, few expected to find Trump in command of the Republican Party. Maybe The Donald saw it all along, or perhaps even he considers it a “Happy Accident.” Regardless, you can count on finding beverage director Will Lee’s Happy Accident as a regular on the menu at Grey Ghost. As for the name of the cocktail? According to Lee, it comes from the unexpected combination of red wine, chamomile, and cocoa powder.


1½ ounces vodka
½ ounce Dolcetto
½ ounce chamomile
½ ounce lemon juice
Dust of cocoa powder


Wet the side of glass. Dust with cocoa powder. Shake ingredients. Strain into chilled cocktail coupe.

Vote for Pedro

The raging battle between blue states and red states can make this country seem like it sees in just two colors, but in reality, it’s home to many. The tequila-based “Vote For Pedro” champions the country’s diversity with a nod to the growing and mostly blue-voting Latino population. “The housemade cola syrup is a versatile ingredient that helps bring this cocktail all together,” says Lee.


1½ ounces tequila
½ ounce Blue Curaçao
¾ ounce Ancho Reyes
¼ ounce cola
½ ounce lime juice
2 bar spoonfuls habanero jam
Lime wheel and pepper top for garnish


Shake all the ingredients together. Double strain. Garnish with lime wheel and pepper top.

The Front-Runners

The Glass Ceiling

Whether you’re “with her” or not, Hillary Clinton’s presidential run goes down as a first in American politics, and commemorating her historic feat requires a drink that’s just as ground- (or ice-) breaking. “Hillary is making a huge leap for women everywhere,” says Detroit cocktail enthusiast and bar mercenary Nick Britsky. “This cocktail is a nod to that achievement. It brings in products from her home in NYC, and it also incorporates some slightly bitter flavors.”


1½ ounces bourbon
1 ounce Angostura bitters
¼ ounce simple syrup
¼ ounce apple cider
4 dashes orange bitters


Fill an ice sphere with water and freeze for about 1½ hours (+/- depending on your freezer). The goal is to get an ice sphere that is  inch thick. Heat a metal ice pick in a flame then melt a hole in the sphere. Drain the water. Place sphere back into freezer until ready to serve. Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake. Strain into the cocktail sphere using a small funnel or pouring a thin stream. Serve with the sphere in a glass and give the guest a small hammer to break before serving.

The Hair Piece

Not everyone agrees that Trump would or could “Make America Great Again,” but when it comes to The Donald, America is united: His hair is sensational. “Trump’s hair is his calling card,” Britsky says. “I wanted to make a cocktail featuring the Trump brand sparkling wine, and the Seelbach Cocktail was a perfect match. I backed off the sweetness and included cotton candy to represent his hair.”


3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1½ ounces bourbon
⅜ ounce lemon juice
¼ ounce orange liqueur
Sparkling wine to top it off
Orange cotton candy for garnish


Mix everything but cotton candy and wine with ice in a glass. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and top with sparkling wine. Place a large enough piece of cotton candy over the glass so it doesn’t touch the liquid. Press the candy into the glass prior to drinking.

Campaign Woes

The Great Divide

Trump’s call to “build a wall” cemented his immigration policy long ago, despite its divisive nature on both sides of the aisle. With that in mind, Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktail’s Kaytee Querro reached for the tequila. “It’s a Mexican-themed cocktail that’s unpredictable and bitter at the bottom,” she says, fitting for a candidate full of off-the-cuff remarks and controversial comments regarding our neighbors to the south — and other targets.


1½ ounces Lunazul tequila
¼ ounce Campari
¾ ounce coriander/grapefruit/habanero syrup
¾ ounce lime juice
1 ounce pineapple juice
Lemon peel for garnish


Shake tequila, syrup, lime, and pineapple. Pour over ice in a rocks glass. Sink Campari to the bottom of the glass. Garnish with hairpiece-shaped lemon.

Weak in the Knees

From issues like email servers to the Clinton Foundation’s lack of transparency, Hillary’s campaign has constantly suffered from a general sense of distrust. Rumors about the candidate’s health never helped things, either, but this “tonic-like” cocktail from Querro is meant to work as a pick-me-up. “It will lift your spirits and bring you to your feet,” Querro says. “It’s feminine without the softness, but don’t let it fool you — it’s a sneaky one!”


2 ounces Hendrick’s Gin
1 ounce lemon
¾ ounce lemon basil syrup
¼ ounce Szechuan pepper St. Germain
Soda for topping off
Mint sprig for garnish


Shake all ingredients. Pour over ice in a Collins glass and top with soda. Garnish with a sideways slice of lime wheel with a mint sprig through the center.

Decisions, Decisions

Lesser of Two Evils

What’s a voter to do when a two-party system produces a pair of deeply flawed candidates? “Vote third party,” says the optimist. But when the stakes are this high, you may just have to hold your nose and pick one. Luckily, this creation from Detroit City Distillery’s Cole Levy is sweeter than it seems. “It can’t be as bad as it sounds, right?” Levy says. Nope. It’s not. Trust us. We tried it.


½ teaspoon pickled mustard seed
¾ ounce lemon juice
2 ounces VodKale (Detroit City Distillery Gilded Age Vodka infused with kale)
Pinch of minced garlic
Kale leaf and honeycomb for garnish


Muddle pickled mustard seed and garlic in tin. Combine remaining ingredients. Shake into rocks glass. Garnish with kale leaf and honeycomb. Wait for this to all blow over.

Moving to Canada

It’s a phrase uttered only half-jokingly, but in Detroit, the prospect of Canadian immigration is only a bridge or a tunnel away. If you seriously think you can’t handle four years of [insert your most despised candidate here] Levy suggests you take this drink with you. “To help ease you into your new life in the Great White North, this is a cocktail chock-full of Canadian touchstones: maple syrup, rosemary, and, of course, Canadian bacon.”


2 ounces Detroit City Distillery Homegrown Rye
3 dashes plum bitters
1¼ ounces rosemary-infused maple syrup
¾ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce apple shrub
Strip of Canadian bacon and rosemary sprig for garnish


Combine rye and plum bitters in shaker, and stir with a mild mannered and even-tempered hand. Add remaining ingredients to tin and shake over ice. Double strain into a chilled rocks glass and garnish with the eponymous meat of your new homeland. Cheers, eh?

The Runners-Up

Cruz Missile

Despite his many efforts, Sen. Ted Cruz’s uber-conservative platform never succeeded in propelling him to the top of the Republican ticket. Was his “failure to launch” a nod to the perceived hypocrisy of a Washington insider trying to run as an anti-establishment candidate? Was it the “Lyin’” moniker? Either way, he inspires a mixed message. “You wanted a whiskey old fashioned, but the Cruz Missile is a spirit split of rye and gin,” says Standby’s Dorothy Elizabeth.


1 ounce Rittenhouse rye
1 ounce London dry gin
2 bar spoonfuls butter syrup
⅜ ounce honey
1 pinch Maldon sea salt
2 dashes Dr. Adams Spanish bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3 dashes Bittermens Hellfire Shrub
Chile de árbol, to garnish rim
Spicy pepper for garnish


Stir all ingredients over ice then single strain in a coupe over one large ice cube. Garnish with a spicy pepper.

Burning Sanders

Fueled by a progressive platform of universal health care and $27 donations, Bernie’s impassioned 2016 run will be hard to forget. And with help from this “old-school Long Island variation” from Elizabeth, the flame of Sanders’ democratic socialism lingers on. “This cocktail calls for representation of all spirits equally,” Elizabeth says. “It’s boozy and delightful.”


¾ ounce gin
¾ ounce vodka
¾ ounce mezcal
¾ ounce white rum
⅜ ounce Ancho Reyes
⅜ ounce Green Chartruese
¾ ounce fresh squeezed lime
⅜ ounce honey


Shake all ingredients together with pellet ice. Pour into a tall pilsner glass. Using hollowed out fruit, fill with Green Chartreuse and light on fire. Feel the Bern!