Whiskey bar

Whiskey Watch: In Search of Detroit’s Best Whiskey Bar | Food and Drinks | Detroit

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  • Tom perkins
  • The beautiful lady’s selection of whiskey

Chris Perry, a Michigan Bourbon Club member, calls it “Schrodinger’s Bourbon”: it’s that bottle of bourbon you’re afraid to open because it’s rare or precious. You worry that it won’t be worth your money or, worse yet, that it will be so good that you will cry when you realize you can’t take it anymore. With bourbons becoming more and more popular – yes, always – as well as more and more specialized, it can be difficult to decide what to splurge on and what to throw away with a Stroh’s hunter.

We assume you have your favorite shooting spot. So we chatted with fanatics and whiskey suppliers about the best bars and shops to visit for that unicorn bottle. Since each has their own unique character, we don’t rank them like we did in our quest for the best chicken wings. In many cases, you will end up with a unique casting at this location. Most of the places on this list have individual store choices – a barrel or part of a barrel found only at that location.

The distillation, aging, bottling and distribution of American whiskey is an incredibly complex business. Sometimes it’s not easy to see why one bottle costs $ 30 and tastes great, while another costs $ 2,000 and tastes… great, but more intensely. All of the recommendations here are presented as a general overview, and we will never pretend to dictate individual preferences. Some like a buttery, caramel, and peppercorn whiskey with more corn, and others prefer a high-rye, woody bourbon that bites you. To each his own. Whatever your preference, if you are a whiskey drinker, you will find something you love at each of these places.

We’ve listed a few below and, as always, your bartender knows their stock best. We’ve also rounded up the best stores to visit, in case you feel like sipping in solitude, Ron Swanson style.

Detroit Townhouse
500 Woodward Avenue, Detroit; 313-723-1000; Eatattownhouse.com

If you’re ready to open your wallet, this chic downtown spot has plenty to choose from. Owner Jeremy Sasson has spent years collecting whiskey privately, and it shows in the huge number of rare bottles, from Barterhouse to Bookers. If you’re looking for that ‘I’ve always wanted to try’ whiskey, they’ll have it. You can just find a new favorite.

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The authors' bar - MICKEY LYONS

  • Mickey lyon
  • The author’s bar

The salon of the beautiful lady
2930 Jacob St., Hamtramck; 313-874-2991

Quite possibly the antithesis of Townhouse, the Painted Lady is a stripped down bar with an occasional loud band and whiskey bottles crammed into every nook and cranny. Owner Andrew Dow frequently travels to Kentucky to sample barrels and pick up bottles you can’t get in Michigan. Their current barrel choice is a solid Buffalo Trace Single Barrel, and like all the other castings out there it’s incredibly cheap, so please don’t tell anyone you don’t like or you’ll ruin it for the rest of us.


The sugar house

2130 Michigan Avenue, Detroit; 313-962-0123; Sugarhousedetroit.com

Corktown’s favorite cocktail club also has a solid selection of whiskey. If you’re in the company of someone who prefers not to take their nectar pure, Sugar House can offer enough for both of you. It’s evident that Dave Kwiatkowski and his team put as much work into preparing their whiskey stock as they did perfecting the cocktails, and they’ve collaborated with several Michigan distillers for unique Michigan choices including Long Road and Traverse. Town distillery company.

Ale Mary’s brewery
316 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-268-1939; alemarysbeer.com

It might be a little misleading, but paired with Ale Mary’s beer selection, American bourbon-free whiskey selection is solid and as well regarded as their beer list. The whiskey menu covers a wide range of taste profiles and distillation processes, from Speyside Scotch to Colorado Rye. Dark non-bourbons are a specialty, and they also stock standards. Reasonable prices mean you can try this odd looking bottle without losing a fortune too.

Butter fair
27626 Harper Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-675-2115; butterrun.com

This St. Clair Shores bar has a printable list of whiskeys to try, and you just have to look at it to get drunk. Here’s an example: Do you like Jefferson’s Reserve? Awesome, they have 11 different expressions, from the standard shelf to Presidential Select 18. Deciding what to drink can be both terrifying and exhilarating, so allow time (and maybe a designated driver) in case you fall in love with more than one couple.

Oakland
201 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-291-5295; theoaklandferndale.com

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Four roses in the Oakland - COURTESY PHOTO

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  • Four roses in the Oakland

Didn’t know that Ferndale’s speakeasy-style cocktail bar also offers ultra-rare spirits? You’re not alone. Sandy Levine of Oakland takes pride in her ability to get the old stuff out. He has an Old Weller older than most of his clients. Old Weller of sorts in fact, and for a lot less than the Pappy who still wishes it as good as the original Old Weller. If you’re not quite ready for this unique pour, ask what Four Roses Barrel Picks are in them. There are usually a few around the house, which makes for a really good impromptu tasting menu.

City of Detroit Distillery
2462 rue Riopelle, Detroit; 313-338-3760; detroitcitydistillery.com

Two minds James
2445 Michigan Avenue, Detroit; 313-964-4800; deuxjames.com

City gasoline engine
325 E. Fourth Street, Royal Oak; 248-599-1427; motorcitygas.com

Valentin Distilling Co.
161 Vester Avenue, Ferndale; 248-629-9951; valentinedistilling.com

If you fancy buying local, try out the latest in one of these great places. The service staff of the four distilleries never fails to impress with their knowledge of the whiskey-making process. While each tasting room has its own unique vibe, these are all great places to spend a random afternoon.

The last word
301 W. Huron St., Ann Arbor

Aisle bar
112 W. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-662-8757; alleybarannarbor.com

Both spots are owned by Robben Schulz, and his staff cook up an average cocktail and a neat pour with flying colors. If you find yourself this way, be sure to stop by.

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Tony at Wine Garden - MICKEY LYONS

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  • Tony at the Wine Garden

The Wine Garden
22425 Harper Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-777-4198; thewinegardenscs.com

Tony Batou knows his stuff and prides himself on stocking the best American whiskeys on this side of Ann Arbor. He easily makes 30 or 40 trips a year to Kentucky, to sample the varieties of his incredible selections in store. Tony is also friendly and more than willing to talk about filtration and mashing bills with anyone from novice to expert. A recent trip left us poorer in cash but in possession of a bulletproof 1792 single barrel that is heavenly.

The Wine Palace
13971 Middlebelt Rd., Livonia; 734-522-4400; winepalace.net

There must be something about the name “Wine” in a liquor store that signals dedicated whiskey nuts. Cliff and Kelly stock all the usual suspects, along with some hard-to-find beer and a few different store choices.

Kakos Market
1555 E. 14 Mile Rd., Birmingham; 248-644-1916

They organize whiskey bottle autographs, frequent tastings, and they don’t increase the prices exorbitantly. Beyond that, there isn’t much more you need to know, is there?

Tippins Market
4845 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd., Ann Arbor; 734-665-3690

Dominic Aprea is Michigan’s King of the Four Roses. Its store reflects this, with rare bottles galore and staff eager to discuss the Byzantine subtleties that make up the brand’s different taste profiles. Later this month, it will host legendary Four Roses brand ambassador, Al Young, for signings and a major bottle release.


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