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Metro Detroit's Essential Cocktail Bars

Solid bets for a stiff drink around town

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Sugar House.
| Michelle and Chris Gerard

Metro Detroit's dining scene has gone through an amazing evolution over the past five years. In that time many establishments with cocktail lists have appeared, endured, and disappeared. The cycle can at times make it difficult for even the savviest of cocktail connoisseurs to keep up. Unlike the cocktail heatmap, which seeks out new, revamped, and seasonal bar programs, the essential cocktail guide aims to capture the best Detroit has to offer in established bars (opened at least one year).

Here, we looking for bartenders that can make a balanced drink with complex flavors. This best of the best can mix with all spirits and are pushing the envelope in the field while constantly learning. From speakeasy lounges to upscale gastropub bars, here are 19 of the finest cocktail destinations metro Detroit has to offer.

Agree/Disagree? This list is updated regularly Why do you think a place should be added or removed? Drop us an email or comment below. Editor's Notes: Nick Britsky is a member of the USBG. Map points are organized geographically, never ranked. Eater Detroit covers the Detroit and greater metro Detroit area.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Craft Work

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Traditional, old-style cocktails that ring true to their name are hard to find, but this Indian Village hot spot is a crowd pleaser with both cocktails and unique dishes. Faithful regulars know to hit the bar during the 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. happy hour or reverse happy hour from 10 p.m. to midnight) which has smartly priced classic cocktails and budget nibbles.

Detroit City Distillery

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Small batch artisan whiskey, gin, and vodka are crafted in this Eastern Market hub with local ingredients sourced directly from farms participating in the market itself. The cozy bar with high ceilings is known for its depth of gin selection. Not sure what to order? Try the omakase option — a "dealer's choice" of sorts — or sample a spirits flight.

Antietam

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Sitting at this Art Deco bar transports you back to the 20s and a period cocktail in your hand completes the fantasy. This menu balances classic drinks and modern twists. Trust the bartenders recommendations and imbibe on a well-crafted cocktail and a proper meal.

Michael Symon's Roast was one of the pioneers in the new restaurant boom in Detroit. Order the Beast of the Day and pair it with The Benchmark. This cocktail made with Woodford Reserve, smoked maple syrup, orange bitters, and Campari won the 2016 Detroit Manhattan competition and will compliment the umami and smokiness of any meat on the menu.

Cafe d'Mongo's

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A favorite haunt for visiting celebrities and Detroiters alike, D'Mongos Speakeasy offers strong drinks and plenty of characters. The Detroit Brown cocktail includes a local invention, Vernor's ginger ale.

Downtown Louie's

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Choose from Downtown Louie's creative list of cocktails like the slightly spicy Casa Louie (Casamigos Blanco, Green Chartreuse, jalapeño, and lemon) or the cinematically named Transformers (Journeyman Gin, basil, cucumber, elderflower, and fresh lemon).

Wright & Co.

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Emerge from the elevator into Wright & Company, a younger but perhaps more distinguished sister restaurant to The Sugar House. Soak in the view and grab any one of the signature and seasonal cocktails from the list. Upon each new visit the bartenders here are always experimenting with some new spirit or ingredient and the results are always on point.

Republic

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The outstanding menu at Republic is matched by an exceptional cocktail program. Republic doesn't disappoint with highly seasonal cocktails, top shelf spirits, and finely tuned atmosphere.

Gold Cash Gold

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A number of fantastic bartenders have put some time into this space improving the cocktails and testing new recipes. The newest addition is frozen drinks. They are still experimenting with the recipes but the results are promising.

The Sugar House

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The powerhouse that is Sugar House is one of the best cocktail joints in the city. These bartenders are using the trends and setting the trends for the industry. The menu is the deepest in the city. Changes in seasons translate into refreshing creativity at the bar from tiki takeovers to Bill Murray-themed menus.

Two James Distillery

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Two James pushes the bounds of local spirits. Their absinthe is incredible, their mezcal was fun, and all the other spirits in the distillery catalog are impressive in depth and scope. Sign-up for a tour and while you wait pick anyone of the fine cocktails mixed at the tasting room's circular bar.

Selden Standard

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This is another restaurant that has seen some amazing talent serve time behind the bar. The curated lists of beer and wine are accessible and creative and the cocktails are award-winning, unique, and extremely tasty.

Great Lakes Coffee

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Though known primarily for its coffee, this shop has a small bar featuring local wine, drafts, and cocktails that also merit attention. The bonus of having a world-class coffee shop is having access to mixing quality coffee into cocktails. Other ingredients for the cocktails are carefully selected based on the season, and an array of house-made syrups and infusions are crafted behind the bar.

Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails

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Per its name the bar program at Chartreuse specializes in one particular monk-manufactured spirit — Chartreuse. The essential ingredient in the Detroit-invented Last Word cocktail, this bustling small plates restaurant offers a wide selection of the spirit so diners can sample and compare different varieties, as well as cocktails and aperitifs.

Public House

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When they opened this cocktail bar had cocktail planning assistance from their neighbor The Oakland but now they are fully versed in the art of cocktailing. Check out the menu with judicious use of bold flavor liqueurs and flavors. The restaurant also offers a well-curated beer selection.

The Oakland

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Leading the pack in cocktail art and theory is The Oakland. For more than four years the bar has served as a training ground for some of the best bartenders in the area. The menu changes often but the current menu features Okay, Byee, and showcases DCD gin, Cardamaro, Montenegro, and bitters.

Valentine Vodka Distilling Co

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The bar is inviting, the patio is relaxing and their cocktails are great. One of the original distilleries in the area, year after year it wins awards for its exceptional spirits. Try a cocktail with Valentine's aged gin.

Standby

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Standby's ambitious bar program developed by Joe Robinson features 45 classic and modern cocktails that incorporate advanced bartending techniques. Despite the formidable list, the bar manages to make its drinks accessible with descriptions that not only list ingredients, but also the type of glass, mixing technique (shaken or stirred?), and helpful flavor profiles. In short, diners don't have to Google ingredients to get a sense of a drink.

Mabel Gray

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Many months in, Mabel is still wildly popular and reservations hard to come by but seats at the bar are first-come, first-served. The small but smartly fashioned bar churns out outstanding cocktails. For those less interest in craft beverages, the bartenders have assembled a well-curated wine selection featuring plenty of bubbles and a beer list with bottles that cater to both highbrow and lowbrow tastes.

The Keep

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This Cadillac Square cocktail bar went underground in the spring but the the upstairs patio space is still alive and kickin'. On sunny days head upstairs for fancy jello-o shots, mojitos, and beer buckets as well as bartender pop-ups or dip downstairs to the speakeasy-style craft cocktail bar.

La Dulce

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Now headed up by bartender and Torino alum Daniel McCarthy, La Dulce's bar program features an exceptional list of cocktails to accompany its tapas lineup. Check out the fresh batch of cocktails rolling out at the bar including heirloom tomato bloody marys and a stunning emerald-hued chlorophyll-agave concoction called The Green Phoenix.

The Whisky Parlor

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Head up the stairs next to Grand Trunk Pub for a visit to this deep-whiskey listed bar. Now just over a year old, it still earns a spot for the recent expansion of its cocktail program which boast a mixture of classic and modern beverages. It's a great low-key option, especially if you like jazz. Drop in for happy hour from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Mudgie's Deli

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Keeping with the relax, timeless vibe of the deli, Mudgie's bar and wine shop defies trends. The intimate cocktail setting features low lighting and cocktails that are easy drinking and easy on the wallet. Bottles from the wine shop retail for as little as $5. Head out to the patio and enjoy the sunshine with your drink.

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Craft Work

Traditional, old-style cocktails that ring true to their name are hard to find, but this Indian Village hot spot is a crowd pleaser with both cocktails and unique dishes. Faithful regulars know to hit the bar during the 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. happy hour or reverse happy hour from 10 p.m. to midnight) which has smartly priced classic cocktails and budget nibbles.

Detroit City Distillery

Small batch artisan whiskey, gin, and vodka are crafted in this Eastern Market hub with local ingredients sourced directly from farms participating in the market itself. The cozy bar with high ceilings is known for its depth of gin selection. Not sure what to order? Try the omakase option — a "dealer's choice" of sorts — or sample a spirits flight.

Antietam

Sitting at this Art Deco bar transports you back to the 20s and a period cocktail in your hand completes the fantasy. This menu balances classic drinks and modern twists. Trust the bartenders recommendations and imbibe on a well-crafted cocktail and a proper meal.

Roast

Michael Symon's Roast was one of the pioneers in the new restaurant boom in Detroit. Order the Beast of the Day and pair it with The Benchmark. This cocktail made with Woodford Reserve, smoked maple syrup, orange bitters, and Campari won the 2016 Detroit Manhattan competition and will compliment the umami and smokiness of any meat on the menu.

Cafe d'Mongo's

A favorite haunt for visiting celebrities and Detroiters alike, D'Mongos Speakeasy offers strong drinks and plenty of characters. The Detroit Brown cocktail includes a local invention, Vernor's ginger ale.

Downtown Louie's

Choose from Downtown Louie's creative list of cocktails like the slightly spicy Casa Louie (Casamigos Blanco, Green Chartreuse, jalapeño, and lemon) or the cinematically named Transformers (Journeyman Gin, basil, cucumber, elderflower, and fresh lemon).

Wright & Co.

Emerge from the elevator into Wright & Company, a younger but perhaps more distinguished sister restaurant to The Sugar House. Soak in the view and grab any one of the signature and seasonal cocktails from the list. Upon each new visit the bartenders here are always experimenting with some new spirit or ingredient and the results are always on point.

Republic

The outstanding menu at Republic is matched by an exceptional cocktail program. Republic doesn't disappoint with highly seasonal cocktails, top shelf spirits, and finely tuned atmosphere.

Gold Cash Gold

A number of fantastic bartenders have put some time into this space improving the cocktails and testing new recipes. The newest addition is frozen drinks. They are still experimenting with the recipes but the results are promising.

The Sugar House

The powerhouse that is Sugar House is one of the best cocktail joints in the city. These bartenders are using the trends and setting the trends for the industry. The menu is the deepest in the city. Changes in seasons translate into refreshing creativity at the bar from tiki takeovers to Bill Murray-themed menus.

Two James Distillery

Two James pushes the bounds of local spirits. Their absinthe is incredible, their mezcal was fun, and all the other spirits in the distillery catalog are impressive in depth and scope. Sign-up for a tour and while you wait pick anyone of the fine cocktails mixed at the tasting room's circular bar.