Thursday, June 27, 2013

[HOT LIST] Cocktails

Dave Kwiatkowski of the Sugar House. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

It goes without saying that the BEST best places in metro Detroit to get a craft cocktail are Roast, the Oakland, and the Sugar House (which was just named one of the best bars in America by Playboy). But as the trend has grown over the last couple of years - so much so that Michigan Radio recently took notice and ran a state-wide poll looking for Michigan's best craft cocktail bar, and Michigan State University has their own Artisan Distilling Program (the Master Distiller of Death's Door is a graduate of this program) - an ever-increasing number of bars and restaurants are getting with the craft cocktail program. And not in the half-assed way they did before (changing the name of their martini menu to "craft cocktails," yet keeping all the same candy-flavored vodka drinks) - this time it's in earnest. Top-shelf spirits (think bourbons, gins, and boutique liqueurs), fresh-squeezed juices, and house-made bitters and infusions separate the men from the martinis. What a difference two years make, eh? These are some of the best places to get some (aside from Roast, the Oakland, and the Sugar House, of course).

#1 Pizzeria Biga Royal Oak, Southfield, Ann Arbor (opening soon)
Pizza and craft cocktails? Absolutely, when the pizza in question is made by James Beard award-nominated chef Luciano del Signore (along with house-made charcuterie) and the cocktails by some of the best local bartenders in the business. Biga's beverage program in general is a thing of excellence, with proper dues given to its Italian inspiration in its selection of Italian beers, wines, and liqueurs. They also have a great selection of craft beers and have recently started hosting beer dinners. As for cocktails, they have a full selection of classic craft cocktails as well as some of their own creations.

Red Crown. 
#2 Red Crown Grosse Pointe Park
Turns out, Grosse Pointers are a bunch of booze-hounds. (This probably surprises no one who is familiar with Grosse Pointers and their lifestyles.) Mixologist Thomas Phillips, a self-described liquor nerd, leads the bar's cocktail program, which includes a mix of classic cocktails and his own creations, which he changes seasonally. The renovated historic gas station in Grosse Pointe Park opened earlier this year and was an instant hit with the community that has been woefully underserved in their demand for drink. This summer, enjoy their expansive, beautifully-landscaped patio with a cold cocktail and some smoked meat and Southern-style comfort food.

#3 The Last Word Ann Arbor
The Last Word takes its name from the classic cocktail of the same name, which is fitting for this Prohibition-era craft cocktail bar. This place is all about the booze, and be sure to shop in for Whiskey Wednesdays when they serve Scotch (SCOTCH SCOTCH SCOTCHY SCOTCH), bourbon and rye half-off. It's a classy joint in a college town, and their cocktails are on point.

#4 Bailout Productions Detroit
We all know that Roast is one of the best places to go for a craft cocktail, and that's because of the talent behind the bar. Bailout Productions has its roots in Roast, where founders Travis Fourmont (who now works at Great Lakes Wine and Spirits) and Joe Robinson (still holding down the happy hour fort) both worked. They now team up for pop-up bar events at places like Green Dot Stables and the currently-uninhabited Rhino Club in Harmonie Park, and bring their full cocktailing skills along with some friends – like chef Andy Hollyday, who recently left his post at Roast to work on opening his own restaurant in Midtown. They've got more events planned for this summer, so be sure to follow them on Facebook for updates on their upcoming pop-ups.

#5 Sardine Room Plymouth
The much-buzzed-about Sardine Room in Plymouth just celebrated its one-year anniversary earlier this month. Known for their selection of fresh seafood (oysters, the oysters, especially the oysters) and elevated small plates, the Sardine Room also has an excellent selection of craft beer and craft cocktails. What with all of the oysters and the hot sauce and the lobster rolls (basically a lobster po'boy) and the shrimp and grits, the Sardine Room has a vaguely New Orleansean vibe, so it seems only fitting to sip on a Sazerac (the drink that originated in the Big Easy over 150 years ago) while you're here.

Bubbling under Valentine Distillery (Ferndale), Gastronomy (Southfield), Zingerman's Roadhouse (Ann Arbor), St. Cece's Pub (Corktown), Vellum (Ann Arbor), Great Lakes Coffee (Midtown), Union Woodshop (Clarkston), the Raven's Club (Ann Arbor), Imperial (Ferndale), the Bar at 327 Braun Court (Ann Arbor), the Laundry (Fenton), the Root (White Lake), Torino (Ferndale), Lena (Ann Arbor)