March 22, 2019

The 20 best craft cocktail bars in the Detroit area, right now

Detroit may have more of a reputation as a shot-and-a-beer bar type of town, but that doesn't mean we don't have classy cocktails, too. When you need something stronger than beer but nicer than well-whiskey, head to one of these 20 metro Detroit cocktail bars.

Words by Mickey Lyons, Devin Culham

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Willis Show Bar
4156 Third Ave., Detroit
The building on Third and Willis has returned to its roots as a cabaret in the glory days of swing and jazz when it reopened in 2018. Guests can watch local and national acts perform on the bar's stage, which is located directly behind and above the bartenders, as they sip a variety of martinis and pretend they're hanging out with Sinatra.
Photo by Jesse David Green

Willis Show Bar


4156 Third Ave., Detroit
The building on Third and Willis has returned to its roots as a cabaret in the glory days of swing and jazz when it reopened in 2018. Guests can watch local and national acts perform on the bar's stage, which is located directly behind and above the bartenders, as they sip a variety of martinis and pretend they're hanging out with Sinatra.
Photo by Jesse David Green
Apparatus Room
250 W. Larned St., Detroit
Detroit's world-class hotel deserves an equally stellar bar, and has it in the Apparatus Room. While their food might get most of the critical attention, the Foundation Hotel's bar serves exquisite drinks in a chic, but homey setting. It's just so pretty, the gorgeous glassware alone is worth a visit.
Photo courtesy of @ashmoreaux

Apparatus Room


250 W. Larned St., Detroit
Detroit's world-class hotel deserves an equally stellar bar, and has it in the Apparatus Room. While their food might get most of the critical attention, the Foundation Hotel's bar serves exquisite drinks in a chic, but homey setting. It's just so pretty, the gorgeous glassware alone is worth a visit.
Photo courtesy of @ashmoreaux
Babs Underground
213 S. Ashley St., Ann Arbor
Not all cocktails need to be served in a faux-speakeasy. Babs Underground, tucked underneath the Schwaben building on Ashley, has a solid list of classic cocktails and a few interesting twists. Plus, there's shuffleboard and free pool on Tuesdays.
Photo courtesy of @babsunderground

Babs Underground


213 S. Ashley St., Ann Arbor
Not all cocktails need to be served in a faux-speakeasy. Babs Underground, tucked underneath the Schwaben building on Ashley, has a solid list of classic cocktails and a few interesting twists. Plus, there's shuffleboard and free pool on Tuesdays.
Photo courtesy of @babsunderground
Bad Luck Bar
1218 Griswold St., Detroit
Cocktail wizard Yani Moraitis Frye upped the ante, and the stakes, when he opened this jewel of a bar in a back alley last year. Yes, some (but only some) of the cocktails are pricier than we've seen in years. But that $60 cocktail everyone rages about comes with a 65+ year-old British Royal Navy Rum, so it's worth it. The cocktails are on point, and the service and décor are exactly what you'd hope for from a Detroit Optimist Society venture.
Photo courtesy of @badluckbar

Bad Luck Bar


1218 Griswold St., Detroit
Cocktail wizard Yani Moraitis Frye upped the ante, and the stakes, when he opened this jewel of a bar in a back alley last year. Yes, some (but only some) of the cocktails are pricier than we've seen in years. But that $60 cocktail everyone rages about comes with a 65+ year-old British Royal Navy Rum, so it's worth it. The cocktails are on point, and the service and décor are exactly what you'd hope for from a Detroit Optimist Society venture.
Photo courtesy of @badluckbar
Castalia at Sfumato
3980 Second Ave., Detroit
A cocktail bar connected to a perfumery may seem worryingly hip, but Castalia takes their scents very, very seriously; after all, the majority of taste comes from our sense of smell. Castalia pairs their cocktails with one of Sfumato's signature scents. If you're feeling a mood, there's a drink and scent at Castalia to match it.
Photo courtesy of @featherstonemoments

Castalia at Sfumato


3980 Second Ave., Detroit
A cocktail bar connected to a perfumery may seem worryingly hip, but Castalia takes their scents very, very seriously; after all, the majority of taste comes from our sense of smell. Castalia pairs their cocktails with one of Sfumato's signature scents. If you're feeling a mood, there's a drink and scent at Castalia to match it.
Photo courtesy of @featherstonemoments
Kiesling
449 E. Milwaukee Ave., Detroit
Newcomer Kiesling quickly managed to become a neighborhood bar for Milwaukee Junction when it opened last spring. Its low-key vibe and streamlined menu belie the skill and experience that goes into developing the menu, including the best Pisco Sour we've ever had.
Photo by Devin Culham

Kiesling


449 E. Milwaukee Ave., Detroit
Newcomer Kiesling quickly managed to become a neighborhood bar for Milwaukee Junction when it opened last spring. Its low-key vibe and streamlined menu belie the skill and experience that goes into developing the menu, including the best Pisco Sour we've ever had.
Photo by Devin Culham
Lo-fi
220 S. Main St., Lower Level, Ann Arbor
If Ready Player One were a bar, it would be Lo-fi, recently opened in the basement underneath other popular cocktail joint Nightcap. Everything is purple and red and neon, including the giant dragon behind the bar. Plus, there's karaoke to complete this dystopian dream sequence.
Photo courtesy of @mollymeyer19

Lo-fi


220 S. Main St., Lower Level, Ann Arbor
If Ready Player One were a bar, it would be Lo-fi, recently opened in the basement underneath other popular cocktail joint Nightcap. Everything is purple and red and neon, including the giant dragon behind the bar. Plus, there's karaoke to complete this dystopian dream sequence.
Photo courtesy of @mollymeyer19
Lost River
15421 Mack Ave., Detroit
Near-nightly food pop-ups and a luscious setting have helped the east side's newest tiki bar quickly become one of the hottest spots in the city. Even when it seems like winter will never end, Lost River's tropical rum drinks remind us that summer may someday come.
Photo courtesy of Lost River

Lost River


15421 Mack Ave., Detroit
Near-nightly food pop-ups and a luscious setting have helped the east side's newest tiki bar quickly become one of the hottest spots in the city. Even when it seems like winter will never end, Lost River's tropical rum drinks remind us that summer may someday come.
Photo courtesy of Lost River
Nightcap
220 S. Main St., Ann Arbor
Sleek, industrial, and polished, Nightcap is the big-brother banker to downstairs neighbor Lo-Fi. The cocktails are every bit as refined, making Nightcap a popular date spot.
Photo courtesy of @the.tailored.pour

Nightcap


220 S. Main St., Ann Arbor
Sleek, industrial, and polished, Nightcap is the big-brother banker to downstairs neighbor Lo-Fi. The cocktails are every bit as refined, making Nightcap a popular date spot.
Photo courtesy of @the.tailored.pour
Second Best
42 Watson St., Detroit
Unabashedly '80s, Second Best is the newest venture of sophisticated neighbor Grey Ghost's creators. If anyone can pull off Gummy Bear shots translated into cocktails in a coupe, it's the same people who managed to create their very own version of Zima.
Photo courtesy of @secondbestdetroit

Second Best


42 Watson St., Detroit
Unabashedly '80s, Second Best is the newest venture of sophisticated neighbor Grey Ghost's creators. If anyone can pull off Gummy Bear shots translated into cocktails in a coupe, it's the same people who managed to create their very own version of Zima.
Photo courtesy of @secondbestdetroit