Atwater Brewery Michelada

Maker: Atwater/McClure’s, Detroit, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-11-02-11.58.52.jpg.jpeg

Style: Lager with Bloody Mary mix.

ABV: 5.2%

Price: $7.50/4 Pint cans (Holiday Market)

Appearance: Moderately foamy, soapy looking head. Hazy orange.

Nose: Sweet and malty. Tomato, tabasco sauce, celery salt.

Palate: Full bodied and mildly effervescent. Spicy, sweet, tomato juice, pickle juice, pickled jalapenos, salt.

Finish: Sweet, then briny.

Parting words: A Michelada is a beer cocktail. It’s served all over Mexico in different local styles, but it usually includes tomato juice, lime juice and often Worcestershire Sauce, hot sauce and/or soy sauce. In the US it often takes the form of a Bloody Mary made with beer, which isn’t really too far off after all.

This is a joint project from Atwater Brewery and McClure’s pickle factory. After consolidating their operations in Detroit, they branched out to other non-pickle products. They have three varieties of pickle-flavored potato chips, they sell jars of their brine and they also have a Bloody Mary mix. The Bloody Mary mix has lots of fans, but I am not really one of them. There is way too much pickle juice in the mix, rendering it undrinkable (to me anyway) except when cut with V8.

The can describes this products as “the world’s first craft Michelada”. It also recommends that it be served in a salt-rimmed glass or sipped right out of the can. I drank three out of the four cans in a standard 12 oz glass. It did just fine that way. I tried the fourth one in a salt-rimmed glass. It tasted ok, but I’m not sure if the salt added anything.

I usually don’t purchase premade cocktails, but this one intrigued me and got a recommendation from a friend so I picked it up. I was not disappointed. The beer cuts the briny mix perfectly. It pairs nicely with greasy brunch food and Mexican food. The price is fair, and the cans are really cool looking. Atwater’s Michelada is recommended.

Sugar House Bar

Address: 2130 Michigan Ave., Detroit, Michigan (next to Slow’s BBQ)

Hours: Sun-Thurs. 5 pm- midnight. Fri-Sat 5 pm- 2 am

Type: Cocktail Bar

Appearance/atmosphere: On the outside and inside, The Sugar House Bar is contemporary and appealing, if a little dull. Dark paint and exposed brick on the inside. The bar itself is nice and spacious, although the dazzling array of bottles behind it steal the show. Tables are also available. Bathrooms were clean and matched the muted contemporary décor of the rest of the establishment, but they had those weird waterless urinals. For reasons I can’t explain, they give me the creeps. My friend reported that the women’s bathroom was nice.

The atmosphere is fun and casual. It was fairly easy to hear my drinking companion and the bartender.

Service: Service was excellent. Brandon was our bartender and he did an excellent job of suggesting cocktails for both of us. One of Sugar Bar’s specialties is building a drink around whatever mixer or liquor

Menu/Selection:  The drinks menu was nice, and most of my friend’s drinks came off it, while mine were all time-honored standards. I had the three classic whiskey drinks: Manhattan, Sazerac and an Old Fashioned. I took notes on what my friend had but a toddler walked out with them. From what I recall, she had two flip-type drinks and one called a Petruchio. She is in no way shrewish, but she loved it (you’re welcome English majors). She even loved the ones I had, despite repeatedly stating how she doesn’t care for whiskey (due to a HS experience involving Black Velvet and Grape Faygo).

The selection of mixers and liquors behind the bar was impressive. The bourbon and rye was most impressive of all. Just about every major label rye on the market was there: Sazerac, Rittenhouse, Beam, Wild Turkey, Bulleit, the new Woodford Reserve ryes, and even a four year old Willet rye (used to make my Sazerac cocktail). The bourbon selection was vast as well with plenty of sipping and mixing bourbons. There was also a good selection of Mezcal and Islay Single Malts. Not to mention a truly bewildering selection of liqueurs and other mixers including house-made ones.

Prices: The drinks are pretty expensive, most of them being in the low double digits price-wise, but these are craft cocktails and damn good ones. No complaints. We got what we paid for and more.

Transportation: We went on a weeknight, but it still seemed like there would be plenty of parking on Michigan Ave. on a weekend, although a multi-block walk might be in required. The 37 DDOT bus runs the length of Michigan Avenue and is a good option for those in Detroit or even Dearborn. From Dearborn and points west the 200 SMART bus goes down Michigan. Transit from the north is more of a challenge, but if timed right, a transfer or even a walk from one of the Woodward SMART stops should do the trick. Taxis are also an option, of course.

Parting Words: My friend and I had a great experience. Great service, fantastic drinks and good service. The Sugar House Bar gets a big recommendation.

The Oakland Art Novelty Company (aka The Oakland Bar)

Address: 201 W 9 mile Rd, Ferndale, Michigan, USA

Hours: Wed-Sat 5 pm-1:30 am, Sun 5-12:30. Closed Mon-Tues. It is highly recommended that you call an hour ahead of time and get your name on the list, especially if going on a weekend.

Type: Cocktail Bar

Appearance/atmosphere: The concept for The Oakland is of a 1920s speakeasy, inspired by The Violet Hour cocktail bar in the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago, according to our bartender. The appearance of the place reflects all this. It is very plain on the outside and easy to miss just walking by. Inside the walls and décor are all very dark, punctuated by ornate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

The Oakland is fairly new, so there are not many reviews of it online yet, but the few negative reviews I have read all have a common theme. The reviewers don’t like the rules of the place. They complain about the ban on cell phone use, the music, the length of time it takes to make the complicated drinks, the limited seating inside and the “no standing” rule. What the club-hopping D-bags and D-baggettes hated about the Oakland’s atmosphere is what I loved about it. The house rules create a calm¸relaxed atmosphere where conversation and cocktails take the lead, not techno and taking someone home. I was able to sit at the bar without being squashed by sweaty people in tight jeans. I could talk to my friend, my bartender and Sandy the manager without having to shout. The Oakland is a place for civilized drinking. If you seek jagerbombs, seek them elsewhere.

Service: The service was excellent. I didn’t get her name, but our bartender was very friendly and knowledgeable and well-dressed, as was the rest of the staff. She noticed that my friend was wearing an embroidered Four Roses shirt and struck up a conversation about Four Roses with us. Sandy and I had communicated over twitter about whiskey and we had a conversation about the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) during which the sentence “Nobody gives a rat’s ass about Eagle Rare 17,” passed my lips. The conversation was followed up with a complementary ounce or two of 2011 George T. Stagg. Our drinks did take a while to prepare, but they were prepared right in front of us with a hint of flare. Very good service all the way around.

Menu/Selection: All selections on their cocktail menu are spins on classic cocktails. My friend ordered a manhattan (not on the paper menu). It was prepared very well. They also have a “by request” menu (available by request, oddly enough) populated largely with barrel-aged or otherwise enhanced versions of the cocktails on their menu.

My friend started with a manhattan and followed it with their version of a Martinez, a classic cocktail that is alleged to be an ancestor of the Martini. She enjoyed them both quite a bit. I had two items off the “by request” menu. My first was a barrel-aged version of their cocktail On the Night You Were Born, complete with singed orange rind. The barrel aging added some nice depth. My second one was a fun riff on a tiki drink called the Base Clearing Double. Both were very good. On the weekends they also have a nightly punch available after 8. Check their Facebook page for details on those.

The bar is fairly well-stocked, but built for cocktails. Single malts are few and fine sipping rums, brandies or tequilas are few. The bourbon and rye selections are more extensive and include the BTAC and a couple Pappies. Ryes include Handy, Sazerac, Wild Turkey and Jefferson’s Rye (coming soon).

The only food served (that I remember anyway) was popcorn for $2 an order. More snacks might have been nice, maybe some smoked almonds or pretzels, but it’s not like there’s no place to get food in downtown Ferndale. If you’re feeling peckish, try to work The Oakland in before or after a meal. Or both.

Prices: All standard cocktails are $9. Selections from the “by request” menu are a few dollars more.

Transportation: Parking on a weekend in downtown Ferndale is a PITA no matter how you look at it. If you go early, you might be able to find parking in the lots west of Woodward on either side of 9 mile, but we had to park on the other side of Woodward and walk. Getting to The Oakland via the Woodward or 9 mile SMART bus lines should be fairly easy, and Ferndale does have pretty good taxi service.

Parting Words: I had a great time at The Oakland and I plan to go back again as soon as I can. Not much else to say but The Oakland is highly recommended!