Picking Detroit's best cocktail bar is an impossible task, just like defining Detroit's neighborhoods. How can a consensus possibly be reached when the city is so big, so diverse, and in the midst of so many significant changes? Instead of just one, here are a dozen of the best cocktail bars by neighborhood — from old school favorites to innovative, bold newcomers.Read More
12 Superior Detroit Cocktail Bars By Neighborhood
The best cocktail bars in 12 Detroit neighborhoods, mapped.
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Southwest: El Barzon Restaurante
In the land of Americanized Mexican and frozen margaritas, it’s refreshing to see only on-the-rocks options here. But while El Barzon sticks to the more traditional presentation, its many variations are anything but, including “Cucumber Cilantro”, “Jalapeno”, and (appropriately as they also feature food from Italy) an “Italian” with Amaretto. The restaurant features some non-margarita odes to Detroit, including a “Southwest Mule” as well as a selection of other Spanish and South American inspired cocktails for those non-tequila drinkers.
Corktown: The Sugar House
Easily Detroit’s best neighborhood for cocktails, Corktown has a strong distillery game with Two James, innovative cocktails at Gold Cash Gold, boozy milkshakes at Mercury Burger Bar, classic well drinks at Nemo’s, and of course wallet-friendly libations at everyone’s favorite new girl in town Bobcat Bonnie’s. But that said, it’s impossible to top The Sugar House. Detroit’s original craft cocktail bar, Sugar House brought the whole city’s drink game up and Michigan Avenue hasn’t looked back since.
Downtown: Cafe d'Mongo's
Downtown has more than a few cocktail bars of note, but the atmosphere and prohibition-era inspired cocktails at D’Mongo’s are king. Larry Mongo is a local legend for a reason, and entering this small weekends-only establishment with its tight spaces, family photographs, and loud house band feels like a really great house party, packed wall-to-wall every Friday and Saturday night. Say hello to Larry and knock back a Bees Knees or two, it’s a guaranteed excellent time.
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Rivertown: The RattleSnake Club
Standing the test of time, the RattleSnake Club is one of the city’s most beautiful places to have a drink and a special occasion dinner. The autumn cocktail menu is small and heavy on the sugar, but they do feature several drinks made with Two James vodka, gin, or bourbon, keeping true to their goal of featuring local and seasonal products.
Greektown: Firebird Tavern
Fancy cocktails aren’t really Greektown’s thing, but that doesn’t mean a good drink can’t be found when necessary. Firebird Tavern keeps it pretty simple, promising that “you don’t have to learn another language to understand” the menu. That said, the barkeeps here make a mean Manhattan and they feature local distillery Valentine in their specialty “Cucumber Cooler.”
West Village: Craft Work
Classic cocktails with quality liquors and a twist compliment the food menu at this West Village favorite. The drinks, like the fare, aren’t fussy, but they are done right, which makes it an easy decision to stop by for happy hour and stay for dinner. Happy hour features $6 cocktails like the Lemon Drop or the St. Germain Cocktail for easy sipping. Served in the gorgeous bar area, it’s a luxurious bargain that’s not to be missed.
Eastern Market: Detroit City Distillery
The drink menu is small, showing off DCD’s own Detroit-distilled products through quality rather than quantity. They wisely offer classics like a Manhattan and the Detroit-born Last Word, but the bartenders also aren’t afraid to have a little fun with more unusual ingredients and combinations, and excellent names to match (who wouldn’t want to try a “Friends with Penalties” or a “Drunk Yoga”?).
Cass Corridor: La Feria Spanish Tapas
The fluidity of Detroit’s neighborhoods means that Spanish Tapas restaurant La Feria gets to claim both Midtown and Cass Corridor status, but neighborhood aside, they serve more than just outstanding Sangria. Try the “Agua De Sevilla”, made from cava (sparkling Spanish wine), torres (an orange liqueur), whiskey, and pineapple juice. Keep an eye on the specials menu too, as the bar often gets creative depending on the day of the week or special events in the city.
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Midtown: Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails
Midtown’s well-placed restaurant Chartreuse is an excellent choice for dinner, but the cocktails are also well worth a visit. Owner Sandy Levine is best known for his Ferndale speakeasy The Oakland, which brought craft cocktails to the suburbs with style and just a hint of exclusivity. Kaytee Querro, one of The Oakland’s most beloved bartenders, heads up the beverage program at Chartreuse, which features several bright, floral cocktails using the restaurant’s namesake green liqueur to great affect.
New Center: Cuisine
Chef Paul Grosz changes the menu seasonally, and with the fall comes a new batch of cocktails to compliment his French and European-inspired dishes. Cuisine is a New Center favorite and a beloved pre-show stop for the theater crowd. Wondering what to expect from his current cocktail menu? He has teased the “Late Harvest” online, which includes gin, Concord grapes, St. Germain, and lemon juice.
Hamtramck: Rock City Eatery
Owner Nikita Sanches just announced that the popular spot will be relocating to Midtown in February, but stop by the original location while it’s still around and enjoy something a little out of the Hamtramck dive bar ordinary. With a surprisingly robust and creative drink menu for such a small restaurant, and a low $4-$9 price range, it’s the watering hole of choice for those times when a Polish beer from down the street just isn’t going to cut it.
Green Acres: Baker's Keyboard Lounge
Claiming to be the world’s oldest jazz club, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge is a Livernois Avenue fixture, with a piano shaped bar, live music, soul food, and an awfully strong long island ice tea. The drinks aren’t fancy, and they aren’t that cheap, but it’s the experience and the history that makes this the best place for cocktails in the area. Just don’t plan on driving home after one of those iced teas.
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