Drink in the spring: Seasonal sips from new Metro Detroit cocktail bars

The pandemic didn’t stop new Detroit area bars and cocktail lounges from opening,…

Drink in the spring: Seasonal sips from new Metro Detroit cocktail bars 1
Drink in the spring: Seasonal sips from new Metro Detroit cocktail bars 2

Shake off the frost with a spring-forward cocktail from one of these newer Detroit area bars and lounges

If you’ve been stirring your own martinis at home for the past 12 months, you might be ready to pay a visit to a professional bartender. 

Spring is often a time for revamped cocktail menus to emerge in bars and lounges, and with indoor dining and drinking only recently back on the table, this season is no different. 

Bowlero Lanes and Lounge owner Kelly Elliott says creating seasonal cocktails is a way to offer customers something they can’t make at home. 

“Because of the pandemic, it seems we’re all more in-tune to the little things that are worth celebrating, and going to a favorite spot to indulge in a new cocktail seems to fit that bill,” she said, adding that because they can’t have live music yet at Bowlero, she’s looking for other ways to showcase their vintage-inspired hip bar inside the refurbished bowling alley, which was only open for a few months under new ownership before the pandemic hit. 

“But as an owner, I actually see this as an opportunity to really feature our lounge bar, and demonstrate the wide array of offerings we have available for our guests,” she said. “Sure, you can get a shot and a beer here, but you can also get a well-made specialty cocktail, or a really nice glass of wine.”

Metro Detroit has a few new craft bars and cocktail-forward restaurants that opened either during or just before the pandemic that may have fallen off your radar. Here’s what some of them are offering for spring sipping either inside the bar or to enjoy at home as a carryout cocktail. 

Sherry is Caring is Kiesling

A neighborhood bar in a vintage building, Kiesling has been offering carryout cocktails for its customers to enjoy at home as well as hosting pop-up food service from a rotating lineup of local chefs. The bar will have a grand reopening March 25, when you can give your mouth a kick with the Sherry is Caring cocktail. It blends smoky mezcal, Manzanilla sherry, spiced raspberry oleo-saccharum (a sugar-and-fruit mix), grapefruit and lime juice and spicy bitters. You can also grab this drink (and others) to-go in an 8-ounce bottle, which has 2.5 servings for $20. 449 E. Milwaukee, Detroit. (313) 638-2169. kieslingdetroit.com.

Thanks for Last Night at the Lexington

Located in Woodbridge in the same strip as Bash Original Izakaya Japanese restaurant, the Lexington made its debut in 2020 as best as it could. It’s a neighborhood-friendly pub with affordable beer and shot specials, but it also has a craft arm to it, including the Thanks for Last Night cocktail made with Bombay Sapphire gin, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, the Italian bitter apéritif Aperol, grapefruit juice and a bit of prosecco. It’s been a bright spot on the drink list throughout the winter, and will stay on as the bar transitions to its spring and summer cocktail menu. As with many small spaces, seating is limited, but you can send a message on the Lexington’s Facebook or Instagram page to reserve a spot. Open Thurs.-Sat. only. 5063 Trumbull, Detroit. thelexbar.com.

Clarified Milk Punch at the Shelby

Likely the newest new bar on this list, the Shelby, a dimly lit basement speakeasy-style restaurant, plays up the fact the space used to be a bank vault. The concise cocktail menu features a spring-friendly Clarified Milk Punch with rum and cognac and flavored with cardamom, nutmeg and ginger. Head bartender Desmond Oliver says time is the main ingredient. While it’s made in batches for quick service when ordered, all the work goes into the preparation. “It takes us about 72 hours … we start off infusing booze with chopped fruits, spices, tea … all the elements of your basic punch recipe is in there,” he said. “It’s light and refreshing but it’s still silky and warming.” Not imbibing? Oliver has also crafted the Smuggler, a nonalcoholic drink made with his version of an infused “zero proof” spirit that mimics the flavor profile of American whiskey. The food menu here is just as focused, with savory small plates created to pair with the drinks. In true speakeasy fashion, there’s no signage outside the Shelby. Look for owner Tarun Kajeepeta’s other business, an Australian-style coffee bar called Coffee Down Under, and you’ll find the entrance to the bar from there. Open Thurs.-Sun. only; reservations recommended. 607 Shelby, Detroit. shelbydetroit.com.

Stein cocktails at Bagley Central

This spring, Hubbard Richard neighborhood bar Bagley Central is quenching thirsts with their stein cocktails. Try the Grey Wizard made with absinthe, lemoncello, orange liqueur, citrus juices, cranberry and sage. The Spacegrass is also served in a 12-ounce stein over ice and includes Aquavit, Aperol, lemonade and ginger beer. The bar, which opened in the spring of 2019, is serving indoors as well as carryout cocktails. Open Thurs.-Sun. only. 2545 Bagley, Detroit. (313) 262-6763. bagleycentral.com.

Rosemary Blueberry Smash at Ivy Kitchen and Cocktails

Not all cocktails need booze. This mainstay on Ivy Kitchen’s “mocktails” menu is perfect for a spring day when the only buzz you need is from the bees. In addition to the titular ingredients, the Rosemary Blueberry Smash also has honey, lemonade and sparkling mineral water for some fizz. Get it with dinner, weekend brunch, as a carryout, or enjoy it during Ivy’s new happy hour, 8-6 p.m. Wed.-Fri. with $8 small plates. 9215 E. Jefferson, Detroit. (313) 332-0607. ivykc.com.

Deep Dark Oceana at Johnny’s Speakeasy 

Johnny’s Speakeasy is a hidden restaurant underneath new downtown Royal Oak restaurant Alchemi (formerly Mr. B’s Gastropub). Rebecca Wurster — who is the restaurant’s new farm-to-table coordinator and was formerly the beverage wizard at Midtown’s Savant — has developed the Deep Dark Oceana cocktail not only because it tastes and looks bright, but because it contains mezcal, cucumber, jalepeno, lime and green and blue spirulina, a dietary supplement made from algae which she says has health benefits and is rich in protein and antioxidants. For a dessert drink, check out the Lost Weekend, her version of a Brandy Alexander with dark drum, cognac, Fernet, coffee, coconut, egg white and cinnamon, served with a chocolate bon bon and candy lace. 215 S. Main, Royal Oak. (248) 794-1261. johnnysroyaloak.com.

The Vernal Blossom at Bowlero Lanes and Lounge

This nod to the classic gimlet makes its debut Saturday, the first day of spring, at the bar inside the super-cool, vintage styled Bowlero Lanes and Lounge in Royal Oak, which originally opened in the 1950s. Bartender and creator Greg Woloszyk made it with quick service in mind, so bowlers don’t have to wait long for a craft drink. It’s a bright, strong sipper made with Valentine’s White Blossom vodka, which is infused with elderflower and grapefruit, plus simple syrup, lemon and garnished with fresh mint and fig and served in a coupe glass for $13. 4209 Coolidge, Royal Oak. (248) 549-7500. 

Guava Margarita at Aldana Mexican Bar and Grill

A colorful new restaurant that opened in Troy in January, Aldana specializes in Mexican cuisine and cocktails. One of their newest is the Guava Margarita with Exotic Tequila Reposado and Contreau, plus lime juice, a bit of agave nectar and a good 2 ounces of guava concentrate. Enjoy it in the new restaurant’s colorful dining room, or get it and other flavors of margarita to-go. 2896 W. Maple, Troy. (248) 792-2111. aldanamexicangrill.com.

Beyond cocktails

Spring is also a time for refreshing, light beers, ciders, seltzers and other beverages to hit shelves. Bell’s seasonal American wheat ale Oberon will be released next week. This week Atwater Brewery released its mango wheat fruit ale Whango for the first time in two years (last year’s release was impacted by COVID-19). 

Blake’s Hard Cider is expanding its line of alcoholic beverages to include “craft hard cider lemonades.” This month, look for Blueberry Lemonade and Strawberry Lemonade from Blake’s, made with all-natural lemon juice with an apple cider base and real fruit. They’re 6.5% alcohol by volume and are sold in six-packs of 12-ounce cans. Blueberry is also sold single in a 16-ounce can, perfect for slipping into your beach bag this summer. 


mbaetens@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @melodybaetens

Our special thanks to:detroitnews.com

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