The Craft Cocktail Craze: Specialty Drinks in the D

By: Toni Cunningham | February 14, 2013

It’s safe to say that most of us 21 and up are familiar with Michigan’s microbreweries and craft beers. However, if you haven’t yet joined the craft cocktail craze, now is the time to add some variety to your evenings out.

What exactly is a craft cocktail, you ask? Simply put, craft cocktails are made with top shelf liquors, fresh herbs, spices and/or mixers. Craft cocktails are to alcohol as vinyl is to music. And they’re not just for hipsters, either.

If you’d like to get in on the trend, grab a specialty cocktail from an expert bartender at one of the following establishments:

The Sugar House, 2130 Michigan Ave., Detroit, serves seasonal craft cocktails, as well as daily drink and punch specialties. While the menu is always changing, you can get a feel for the bar’s drinks with a sample menu online.

To get a sense of what you’re in for, the following have all graced the menu: Johnny Rottenseed (Laird’s Bonded Applejack, Coca Cola syrup and orange bitters), Black Palm (Beefeater Gin, Blackberry Shrub, pineapple, Luxardo Maraschino and black peppercorn) and Xocolatl Fizz (Poblano infused Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Rogue Chocolate Stout, cinnamon syrup and an egg).

Feeling adventurous? Then ask for the Dealer’s Choice, where you can pick a spirit and let your bartender concoct a one-of-a-kind, custom cocktail.

Valentine Vodka Cocktail Lounge, 161 Vester St., Ferndale, is home to ‘liquid chef’ Nicholas Brancaleone, who will whip you up a unique cocktail in mere seconds. Valentine Vodka is made right here in Metro Detroit, and what’s better than sustaining the local economy?

Belly up to the bar and order a Southern Peach Blossom (White Blossom vodka, sun tea, muddled peaches), a Pink Blossom Martini (White Blossom vodka, grapefruit, cranberry juice), or a Valentine Tart (Valentine vodka, raspberries, cane juice and soda).

Cork Wine Pub, 23810 Woodward Ave., Pleasant Ridge, serves more than just vino. The pub’s cocktail menu takes a spin on the classics and is inspired by the west coast.

Original cocktails include the Dirty Pickle (Valentine vodka with McClure’s pickle brine), Pumpkin Pie Martini (pumpkin spice cream, Goslings dark rum, Godiva and Frangelico), and San Antonio Rose (Sailor Jerry spiced rum, El Jimador Blanco, lime juice and agave nectar).

Grange Kitchen and Bar, 118 W. Liberty, Ann Arbor, is committed to using fresh, locally sourced ingredients in its menu items, which also stands true when it comes to the restaurant’s cocktails. The seasonal drink menus are inspired by the “farm to table” mentality, too.

Among said cocktails are the GKB Manhattan (bacon infused Bulleit Bourbon, maple syrup, blood orange bitters and brandied cherries), Tea Thyme (black currant tea, thyme simple syrup, Plymouth gin and lemon juice), and Russian Nog (Stoli, house made Kahlua using Roos Roast coffee and Guernsey Egg Nog).

Roast, 1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit, is famous for its specialty cocktails that are expertly crafted by talented bartenders. While classic cocktails like a Sidecar and Bloody Mary do grace the menu, jump out of your comfort zone and try one of Roast’s unique creations. The Cucumber Collins (house infused cucumber gin, fresh lime juice, sugar and a lime slice) and Bitter End (Hidalgo sherry, cherry Heering, Campari and house made grapefruit bitters) are both excellent choices.

No matter where you enjoy your craft or specialty cocktail, make sure you don’t over-indulge. If you do, call a sober pal, a cab, or a local Designated Driver service to ensure a safe trip home.

Have a happy, happy hour!