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7 drinks to make at home when you’re missing Detro...

7 drinks to make at home when you’re missing Detroit bars

Stuck at home wishing you were at a Detroit happy hour? DIY it.

painkiller cocktail

For a bit of a Mutiny Bar vibe… make a painkiller cocktail

By Lauren Daniels


If there was ever a year that made you think, “man, I could use a drink,” 2020 is it. And we’re all apparently indulging in that feeling: alcohol sales have been up during the pandemic, with a spike as we coped with election anxiety — one booze delivery company reported a 75% jump in sales last Tuesday. 

But with COVID-19 cases making their own surge in Michigan and colder weather making patio drinking less and less appealing, the drinking out options are dwindling. And that’s what we really miss, right? The barstools we have dibs on at our local dives, our favorite bartenders who serve up craft cocktails as good as the advice and, of course, the people. Winding down with a glass of wine at home is all well and good, but it’s no substitute for happy hour with your colleagues, weekend day drinking with the crew, long talks with a BFF or new Tinder match until last call or even the chance run-ins with acquaintances and strangers out on a Friday night.    

So if you’re missing your favorite bar, we feel you — and we’ve got you. Here are 7 simple drinks easy enough for anyone to whip up at home, to remind you of your home away from home. 

Before you get started mixing drinks:

Set the mood. Turn down the overhead lights, put on a playlist (or eight hours of bar background noise) for ambience, and make a drink inspired by some of the bars we’re missing most right now. Then serve to your housemates, play bartender for a masked, distanced and small gathering, “bring” one to a virtual event or plan a signature drink for your next Zoom happy hour (our prediction: virtual hangs will be coming back with a vengeance this winter). 

Don’t sweat it: 

If you’re missing an ingredient. Get loose! Substitute! For an at-home mixologist, creativity is paramount. Swap in prosecco for champagne, bourbon for whiskey, skip the garnish if you don’t want to buy a whole pineapple, use whatever glasses are clean — the list goes on. For the most part, these are recipes that can be endlessly tweaked and reinterpreted, whether you’re intentionally experimenting or your liquor cabinet is looking bare.

And it’s fine if you don’t have a cocktail shaker. They’re handy, but in a pinch, you can use a travel mug or even a sealed jar strained into a colander.

But it is worth being a little particular:

When you’re measuring. Unless you’ve got a bartender’s experience, eyeballing it is a great way to make drinks that taste really off or are way too strong, and shot glasses vary in size. If you don’t have a jigger, 1 Tbsp is equal to ½ oz.    

You really can taste the difference if you don’t squeeze your own lemon and lime juice. It’s worth the extra step. And bitters, vermouth and simple syrup might not be staples on the casual drinker’s bar cart, but they’re easy enough to find at most liquor stores (or make at home, for simple syrup). They’re essential enough to seek out. 

Happy mixing!

Detroit City Distillery

Somehow, DCD manages to be pretty laid-back for a bar that makes their own spirits — all the proof you need that you can still make classy cocktails, even if you’re just planning to drink in front of your latest Netflix binge. Detroit City Distillery makes small-batch whiskey, gin and vodka in-house with locally-sourced ingredients. Buy a bottle for yourself at their Whiskey Factory in Eastern Market.

Missing Detroit City Distillery? Try this Detroit-style French 75.

Ingredients: 1 oz. DCD Railroad Gin, ½ oz. lemon juice, 1 cup sugar, splash of champagne, lemon peel, ice. 

First, make your batch of simple syrup. You won’t mind having extra — use it for sweetening iced coffee, jazzing up your soda water or, duh, more cocktails. Bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil in a small saucepan and let sugar dissolve completely, about three minutes. Let cool completely — that’s it! Store in a glass container (or recycled and washed plastic bottle, no judgment) in the fridge for up to a month.

On to the drink… add gin, lemon juice, ½ oz. simple syrup and ice to a shaker, shake away, then strain into highball glass or champagne flute. add splash of champagne and garnish with lemon peel. 

Still venturing out? Detroit City Distillery’s Tasting Room is open Wednesday and Thursday from 6-11 p.m., Friday from 6 p.m.-12 a.m., Saturday from 11 a.m.-12 a.m. and Sunday from 12-6 p.m.  

Your living room might not look like this… but a pink scarf thrown over a lampshade works wonders. Via Candy Bar

Candy Bar

Sigh, Candy Bar. In the era of perpetual sweatpants, it’s hard not to long for the intimate ambiance and Old Hollywood glam of the downtown spot, a perfect place to wear your favorite dress and red lipstick. Also, a perfect place for a rich and special cocktail — and a girls’ night out.

Missing Candy Bar? You should make a homemade version of a signature Candy Bar cocktail, The Dark Arts, for a classic girls night in. The Dark Arts riffs on the Irish Coffee at Lady of the House — here’s a version that you can recreate at home, even if your home isn’t a stunning pink cocktail lounge.

Ingredients: 1.5 oz reposado tequila, 1oz. espresso coffee (cooled), ⅔ oz. amaretto or coffee liqueur, .5 oz bitter amaro (like Fernet Branca), whipped cream.

Whip out that espresso machine you don’t have time for in the mornings — an ounce of good espresso (chilled) gives this signature Candy Bar cocktail plenty of body. Chill your martini glass ahead of time. Add tequila, amaro, amaretto and coffee to shaker, then add ice. Shake til cold and strain into glass. Add a kiss of whipped cream on top for that “mwa” feeling.

Still venturing out? Candy Bar is open by reservation with limited seating Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 4-10 p.m, Friday and Saturday 4 p.m.-12 a.m.

Mutiny Bar

This Southwest bar is truly a Detroit gem. It’s the perfect tiki-style bar that will make you feel like you’re in a tropical paradise. They’re known for their island-inspired cocktails that will transport you right to a (figurative) beach vacay.

Missing Mutiny Bar? You should make the Painkiller cocktail – smooth, tasty and easy to prepare. Spring for fresh pineapple and orange juices if you can  — it makes a big difference.

Ingredients: 2 oz. dark rum, 4 oz. pineapple juice, 1 oz. orange juice, 1 oz. cream of coconut (can sub coconut milk), ice. Nutmeg and pineapple wedge for garnish.

Mix ingredients in a shaker with ice, then strain into your most tropical glass, over crushed ice if you have it. Garnish with nutmeg and pineapple. Turn on tiki playlist. Smile.

Still venturing out? Mutiny Bar is open at 50% capacity Sunday, Monday and Thursday, 5 p.m. -12 a.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m.-2 a.m.

The Block

A newish staple in Midtown for all types, The Block is a great spot to bring your family for brunch or kick it with your friends for happy hour. They are known for their tasty bites and their Block Punch.

Missing The Block? You should make a Lemon Drop Slushie. Because frozen is better, right?!

Ingredients: 2 oz. citrus vodka, 1 oz. lemon juice, 2 tsp. sugar, ½ oz. triple sec, 1 cup ice, lemon wedge and additional sugar for garnish. Rub lemon on the rim of your glass, then dunk into a bowl of sugar. Blend vodka, 1 oz. lemon juice, 2 tsp. sugar, triple sec and ice, then serve in sugar-rimmed glass and add lemon wedge. Now’s the time to break out the margarita glasses if you have ‘em, and it’s easy to double or quadruple the recipe to blend up a full pitcher.  

Still venturing out? The Block is open Wednesday and Thursday from 12-8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 12-9 p.m.

Class up your Zoom happy hour with a Manhattan in hand.

Sugar House

Sugar House is a cocktail lover’s dream. This Corktown bar is known for their large cocktail selection ranging from the classics to in-house specialties. One of the first craft cocktail destinations in Detroit during the more recent resurgence, Sugar House has that fun Prohibition vibe with a little accompanying snootiness — which they more than make up for with the expert pours. Get in the spirit (heh) by dressing the part and practicing your mixologist moves.

Missing Sugar House? You should make a Manhattan. This classic cocktail never goes out of style. For the true Sugar House feel, invest in a fine whiskey (go local with a bottle of Two James Catcher’s Rye Whiskey). And don’t just settle for that old bottle of vermouth at the gas station — these herbaceous fortified wines really impact the character of your cocktail. Try a Carpano Antico with a strong bourbon or whiskey, or Cocchi Vermouth di Torino pairs well with a mellow spirit (both often available at fine liquor and grocery stores).

Ingredients: 2 oz. whiskey, 1 oz. red vermouth, a couple dashes of maraschino and Angostura or other flavored bitters, ice and maraschino cherries for garnish. 

Chill your glass ahead of time. Half fill your shaker with ice, whiskey, vermouth and bitters. Shake til cold then strain into glass. Finish off with a cherry or two. 

Don’t wanna do the work yourself? Pick up a cocktail to go. Still venturing out? Sugar House is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 p.m.-12 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m.-2 a.m. 

Taqueria Mi Pueblo

What we’re really missing from Mi Pueblo, the Southwest mainstay. is bringing a group and splitting a loaded-up botana. Whether you can whip up the real thing or tend more towards nachos that come together with just chips and shredded cheese in the microwave, you’ve gotta pair with margaritas. 

Missing Taqueria Mi Pueblo? Try a Mango Margarita

Ingredients: 1.5 oz. tequila, 1 oz. triple sec, ½ oz. lime juice, 1 oz. mango puree, ice. For garnish: salt or sugar and lime wedge. 

Coat the rim of a tumbler or whatever glass you’re using with lime, then dip in salt or sugar and gently fill with ice. Shake other ingredients together with additional ice, pour into glass and add lime wedge. Make it spicy: add a dash of hot sauce to your shaker, and add chili powder to the rim of your glass. 

Still venturing out? Taqueria Mi Pueblo is open Monday-Sunday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Nemo’s

Recreating the crowded, jubilant scene of a timeless Corktown bar on game day might actually be the simplest DIY. Order yourself (from yourself) a Stroh’s and a shot of Jameson, or your basics of choice. Better yet, get a second round now so you don’t have to wait at the bar get up from your couch twice. 

Missing Nemo’s? Fix yourself a beer and a shot. (This one also works well for Donovan’s, Whiskey in the Jar, the Bronx… really any no-frills or sports bar you’re longing for.)

Ingredients: A six pack and whatever liquor’s available. 

Remove 1 bottle, open. Pour 1.5 oz of whiskey into a small glass. Don’t mix, but do drink responsibly. 

Still venturing out? Nemo’s is open everyday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.


Lauren Daniels is a corporate maverick turned serial entrepreneur who is passionate about community, education, and collaboration. She is the founder and CEO of Sumptuous Spirits, a bartending company and lifestyle brand that curates bar services and digital content to amplify the cocktail experience.


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