Reaching new heights in creativity
By Alexandra Fluegel

Craft cocktails are making major waves across the nation, leading some to describe the current era as a modern-day Golden Age. With fresh ingredients and innovative techniques, bartenders are guiding guests’ experiences and ushering in a new appreciation for the craft. While some may call it a comeback in Michigan, where spirits have a long and storied history of support, it’s more like a revival.

When Dave Kwiatkowski opened Sugar House in Detroit in 2011, he said no one had any idea what he was trying to do. Inspired by pioneering cocktail bars, such as Milk & Honey in Manhattan, Kwiatkowski set out to create a “pre-Prohibition era craft cocktail bar,” where the drink menu paid homage to the classics while creatively embarking on new territory inspired by the bounty of resources found across the state.

“Every drink is inspired by Michigan produce as much as possible,” he said, and the bar’s name is a tip of the hat to the Sugar House Gang, better known as Detroit’s Purple Gang, who ran bootlegging operations during Prohibition.

Following the footsteps of the craft movement in the culinary world, one that reveres locavorism and farm-to-table, the cocktail movement emphasizes the “made from scratch” mantra.


Top right: lThis classic Tiki cocktail is called a Zombie. Fresh mint and burnt cinnamon produce visual and aromatic enhancements. Above: Drinks from Grey Ghost.

“We’ve always taken the time to care about the food, and now that’s transitioning into bar programs,” said Joe Giacomino, the chef/owner of Grey Ghost, a steakhouse and cocktail bar that opened in Detroit’s Brush Park neighborhood in July 2016.

Grey Ghost enlisted the expertise of industry veteran Will Lee, who serves as beverage director, responsible for creating new drinks and guiding the identity of the bar program.

“Learning the classics is great, but what Will’s been able to do with the depth of flavors is amazing. The house-infused liquors he’s making have really taken things to the next level,” Giacomino said.

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