What’s in a cocktail? It depends on who you ask, especially in Washtenaw County, where some of the area’s most creative and innovative bartenders thrive. From kombucha to Green Chartreuse to rosemary, bitters and local honey, these local mixologists concoct fresh and unconventional drinks worth pouring over.
Dolores Mexican Restaurant
6 S. Washington St., Ypsilanti.
Advice for home bartenders:
Life is too short to drink a cocktail without fresh citrus! The fresher the better!
Treat ice as an important ingredient in the drink. Good ice equals good cocktails.
Ice should be the final step when mixing a drink. Adding ice to your tin or glass last helps control how much water is in the drink.
- 1 oz. Gardener syrup*
- 1 oz. lime
- 2 oz. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
Shake hard with ice and strain into a cold coupe glass.
*The Gardener syrup is a not-so-simple syrup with a kick. To make it, combine 25 oz. simple syrup with 60g cilantro, 25g peeled ginger and 12g Serrano pepper. Blend well and strain.
216 S. State St., Ann Arbor.
734-623-2233 | savasannarbor.com
What makes your cocktails and drink selection unique? We get the opportunity to bring each bartender’s creativity to the table when designing our cocktails while incorporating unique and scratch-made ingredients in our cocktails. Individual taste, experience, ideas, and passions are combined to create a drink selection that remains open-minded to each customer’s personal preference.
What’s your favorite Prohibition-era cocktail? Old Fashioned. The cocktail survived the prohibition, as it still remains a popular choice. Its old age gave space for creative takes on the drink, allowing for the cocktail to have its own special characteristics based on the bartender creating it.
What’s your favorite uncommon liquor or spirit to use in a cocktail? Green Chartreuse. While it is recognized in a select few cocktails, its floral and herbal notes can be paired with most other liquors to give cocktails a more complex and memorable flavor.
What herbal or botanical ingredient inspires you the most? Lavender. It can be intensely or delicately infused into ingredients such as simple syrup, adding nose and flavor to any cocktail.
What’s your best piece of advice for budding bartenders? Indulge yourself in everything— try every cocktail you or another bartender makes, compare spirits to each other to pick out defining qualities and play around with ingredients and flavors. The more comfort and confidence you have, the easier it will be to create exciting cocktails for your guests.
The Rumpus Room
510 N. Main St., Chelsea, MI.
734-626-6646 | Rumpusroombeer.com
What makes your cocktails and drink selection unique? Our beer selection sets us apart in our community. With 47 to choose from, we are very proud of how the craft beer scene has taken our state by storm. We love being a great place for beer lovers. Our cocktail congeries range from classics to creatives like our favored Hippie Punch.
What’s your favorite Prohibition-era cocktail? Bee’s Knees! What’s not to enjoy when you shake up a simple build of good gin with lemon juice and honey?
What’s your best piece of advice for budding bartenders? Ask questions. For example, why is the person you’re watching stirring that Manhattan instead of shaking it? Or ask why they are slapping the mint. Don’t just follow.
What was the best cocktail you ever had? A classic Old Fashioned with bourbon like Woodford Reserve. They’re my go-to cocktails.
Are there any up-and-coming cocktail trends that readers should keep an eye out for? Gimlets are making a comeback from the 1950s.
110 S. Main St., Ann Arbor.
734-222-9841 | Vinologya2.com
Monday-Thursday: Dinner 4-10pm, close at 11pm.
Friday: Dinner 4-11pm, close at midnight.
Saturday: Brunch 10am-3pm and dinner 4-11pm, close at midnight.
Sunday: Brunch 10am-3pm and dinner 4-9pm, close at 10pm.
Tips for crafting home botanicals:
Keep a well-stocked bar.
Make your own infusions, they are easy to make. Simply add herbs to your alcohol of choice.
Some fantastic combinations: rosemary and/or sage with vermouth, and lemongrass and/or thyme with gin.
Clean quart-sized mason jars work well. Wash the ingredients, cut them if needed, place them inside the jar, and fill it with liquor. Seal tightly with a lid and shake the jar a few times. It only needs 3-5 days.
Consider dividing your liquor into smaller jars and experiment with a few infusions at one time.
(Made in honor of his grandmother, Lela Youngs, who had the most infectious laugh and zest for life)
Hendricks Gin, Rose Water, Pamplemousse, and Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
Unity Vibration Kombucha Beer and Tea
93 Ecorse Rd., Ypsilanti.
734-277-4063 | Unityvibrationkombucha.com
Brewery Business Hours: 9am-4pm, Monday-Friday.
Tasting Room Hours: 5-11pm, Friday-Saturday.
What makes your cocktails and drink selection unique? We are a Kombucha Brewery and do only kombucha-based cocktails.
What’s your favorite Prohibition-era cocktail? Gin Rickey. My tastes change all the time though!
What’s your favorite uncommon liquor or spirit to use in a cocktail? Amer Picon.
What herbal or botanical ingredient inspires you the most? Anything I can wildcraft and pick I live to mix, cook or formulate with will inspire me the most!! Fennel, Cat nip, Chicory, May Apples— each inspire there own creation!
What’s your best piece of advice for budding bartenders? Specialize in what you love to drink.
What’s the most overrated, and most underrated, liquor? Overrated: Tito’s Vodka. Underrated: Sloe Gin.
What was the best cocktail you ever had? My Gramma’s 5:00pm Beefeater Martini because this where I first learned to make a real drink and the company was unmatched! I love sentiment.
Are there any up-and-coming cocktail trends that readers should keep an eye out for? Low Alcohol— believe it or not!
What is the most eccentric garnish or flavor you’re ever made a cocktail with? Sisho syrup, that I made myself, and spicy Asian greens.
Current cocktail trends— tell us one you love and one that you hate. I love that “healthish” is in style and I dislike complicated cocktails with more then five ingredients.
If you could make a drink for any Washtenaw County resident from history, who would it be and what would you make? I would love to make a good strong cocktail for Shelly Byron Hutchinson. He was a maverick in Ypsilanti and made and lost a fortune in a little over a decade. Tragic but very interesting and he left a gorgeous landmark— The Hutchinson Mansion. I would make him an Apple Thyme Kombucha Old Fashioned! Something old, something new.
- 2oz. Clover Kombucha Tea
- 2 dashes of Angostura
- Orange Bitters
- 8oz. Bourbon Peach Kombucha Beer
- 5oz. ice
Shaken then poured over ice.
Nicely served in a pint-sized Ball jar with a clover flower or mint sprig.
115 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor.
734-327-2312 | logan-restaurant.com
To make a saline solution, mix salt with water till salty like the sea, just like pasta water.
To toast a rosemary sprig, you could use a propane torch or a gas stove burner. It’s best to toast each sprig as you make your drink so it’s smoky fresh for each cocktail.
For best results with any cocktail, always use fresh-squeezed juice.
An adaptation of a Detroit Prohibition Era cocktail called the Last Word. This variation was created to showcase as many local ingredients as possible.
- ¾ oz of Norden Aquavit
- ¾ oz of Water Hill Cherry Liqueur
- ¾ oz of Green Chartreuse
- ¾ oz of fresh-squeezed lime juice
- 2-3 drops of saline solution
Strain into a coupe or martini glass.
Top with a toasted rosemary sprig.
216 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor.
734-369-3153 | Aventuraannarbor.com
Restaurant hours: 3pm-midnight, Monday-Saturday.
Happy hour: 3-6pm, Monday-Thursday. 3-5pm, Friday. 10pm-midnight, Sunday-Thursday (at the bar only).
What makes your cocktails and drinks selection unique? We change our cocktail list twice a year at Aventura and require each new drink to be tied back to Spain through ingredients, inspiration, or story. Whether it be a Spanish gin that they’ve never heard of or an introduction to the complex world of sherry, we pride ourselves on creating new experiences for our guests. Our current best-selling drink takes presentational inspiration from Picasso’s ‘Les Repos’. It’s a challenge each cocktail flip to make everything up to our standard but once it’s finished, my job is made easy having confidence in our menu.
If you could make a drink for any Washtenaw County resident from history, who would it be and what would you make? I would love to make a virgin mule for Madonna when she was a student at the University of Michigan in the 70s so that I could claim I was the inspiration for her future hit single.
What’s your favorite Prohibition-era cocktail? Corpse Reviver #2 has everything I need in a cocktail. Complex, medicinal, and a good hangover cure! There are some beliefs that the corpse revivers originate before the 1920s but the prohibition era solidified the original and #2 as classics.
What herbal or botanical ingredient inspires you the most? The first cocktail of my creation that made it onto a menu had gin, yellow chartreuse, lime, and freshly muddled basil; it’s been my favorite herb ever since.
What’s your best piece of advice for budding bartenders? Master the classics. There are drinks that have lasted decades for a reason. It’s easier to make a small tweak on a drink that you already know is a hit, as opposed to starting from scratch and trying to reinvent the wheel.
What was the best cocktail you ever had? I had the opportunity to travel around Japan, China, Thailand, and the Philippines for three months, and I will never forget my experience at Bar Gen Yamamoto in Tokyo. It’s an 8-guest bar that only provides a coursed cocktail tasting. The menu changes weekly and is created from seasonal fresh produce and really amazing liquor. The best drink I have ever had is what I call ‘Yamamoto #6’: Nikki Apple Brandy, chestnut, milk, and green tea. It was rich, warm, and the chestnut provided this really wild texture that I will never forget.
Are there any up-and-coming cocktail trends that readers should keep an eye out for? Cocktail trends tend to match culinary trends and one of the more popular foods coming up is Filipino food! I could not be more excited about how trendy Filipino food is right now having grown up with it from my Filipino mother and Lola. So if you happen to be at a cocktail bar and find ‘ube’ in the list, try it! Ube is a sweet purple yam used almost exclusively for dessert in the Philippines. Most of the cocktails made with it have a blend of dark, rums as the main spirit.