Detroit is set to get its second dedicated tiki bar this week with the debut of Lost River. The kitschy cocktail lounge will open its doors to the public for the first time on Mack Avenue on June 8 complete with a lineup of classic themed cocktails in a laid-back setting.
Owners Matt Mergener and Karen Green took over the former neighborhood bar Memories Jazz & Blues Lounge last fall, preserving parts of the space and adding more tropical elements like bamboo, thatch, and netting to the walls. Features like the mirrored back bar and penny bar top are throwbacks to the building’s former occupants — Memories and the Village Idiot. The coin bar in particular felt like a call back to one of Detroit’s most famous tiki bars Mauna Loa, Mergener says. The partners also enlisted designers and local artists to add their touches to the 40-seat bar. Detroit-based artist Ouizi painted a mural for the east wall of the bar using tropical flowers such as birds of paradise and the driftwood light fixtures were made by well-known tiki bar designer “Bamboo Ben” Bassham.
“I think we drew from each one of those very historic references to Detroit and how tiki was such a huge piece of the culture in the 1950s and made it her own,” Green says of Lost River. “I think what we took from that is this very abrupt darkness that we hope you feel when you come in — that you can feel like you’re far, far away from [the outside]. Whether it’s snowing or raining or even sunny outside, [we hope] that you feel like you’re somewhere very different and transported.”
One of the best parts of a tiki drinking experience is the unusual drinking vessels and Lost River is no exception. Each of more than a dozen cocktails on the menu is served in individualized glassware. The rotating Fugu for Two punch bowl, for instance, is served in a large puffer fish made by Munk Tiki in Oregon and the rum barrel used for the tiki old fashioned was purchased from Bespoke Barware. Lost River is also commissioning 50 original mugs from Hamtramck Ceramck, of which Green and Mergener plan sell a portion and keep the rest for special cocktails at the bar.
In developing the menu, Lost River drew on classic recipes from historic tiki bars and also put its own spin on tiki drinks. Customers can find options like a Trader Vic’s mai tai served in a coconut-shaped mug as well as a fog cutter cocktail, a mixture of citrus, rum, brandy, and gin created in the 1940s and delivered at Lost River in a parrot-shaped glass. The Wee Bathtub Gin, served in a small bathtub glass with rosemary-infused Detroit gin and tonic is a tribute Green’s family roots in the city. Green’s great grandmother lived and raised her children in the Delray neighborhood during Prohibition, making gin and whiskey in a bathtub. Lost River will also have two beers on tap as well as boilermakers and, eventually, frozen boozy slushies.
Photographers Michelle and Chris Gerard got a peek at the space ahead of the anticipated opening. Take a look around the bar and scope out the full menu before the doors open on Friday.
Lost River is located at 15421 Mack Ave.; open 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. on June 8 and June 9; regular hours will be 4 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Saturday.
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