For more of the best places to drink, check out our other City Guides.
Once centered around its downtown, Detroit’s drinks scene has shifted dramatically in recent years and is spreading to all corners of the city. Beyond cocktail bars and beer-and-shot joints, the city’s bars are proving to be just as diverse as its population. Breweries and distilleries are popping up in pockets all over town, and innovative drinking spots add to Detroit’s appeal as a tourism destination.
If you’re a newcomer, the widespread geography of the city can be intimidating, and it can be tough to choose just one neighborhood to visit. Our advice? Don’t limit yourself to downtown. Explore each corner of the city to find hidden gems, or trek to new population centers for historic trend-setters.
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Where to Get Drinks With a First Date: Cata Vino Detroit
As the sister bar to Midtown’s La Féria, Cata Vino boasts an expansive wine list consisting mostly of Spanish wines, as well as a few American and South American gems. Share a bottle or swap glasses with your date, and get to know each other over tapas. Play it safe by ordering a simple glass of Albariño and some olives, or get intimate quickly by diving into an anchovy and stinky cheese pairing, topped off with a bottle of house sherry.
Address: 4130 Cass Ave., Detroit, Mich. 48201
Where to Get Drinks Before a Concert or Game: Second Best
A block from Little Caesars Arena, two blocks from the Masonic Temple, and just a few minutes’ walk from Comerica Park, Second Best takes top honors for its low-key cool vibes and clever drinks menu. Enjoy frozen summer cocktails or grab your friends and share a bucket or pitcher of beer. The staff at Second Best has high-volume pre-gaming down to a science, so it’s a good bet for large groups.
Tip Jar: Go ahead, treat yourself. Order a High Life 40 and get a bucket of ice and Champagne glasses.
Address: 42 Watson St., Detroit, Mich. 48201
Where to Experience a Tropical Paradise When It’s 20 Degrees Outside: Lost River
Let’s face it: Detroit winters are brutal. They’re frigid, colorless, and eternally drab — but there’s no better way to beat the winter blues than to sip on a Painkiller at this tropical-themed bar on the East Side. Lost River hosts movie nights, food trucks, and other special events, but it’s equally fun to watch a simulated thunderstorm, complete with mist, roll through the bar at random times.
Tip Jar: Lost River has the most extensive rum collection in the state. Guests can savor one of more than 200 rums that range from floral to funky, representing a wide variety of flavor profiles and production methods.
Address: 15421 Mack Ave., Detroit, Mich. 48224
Where to Experience History Over a Drink: The Congregation
The Congregation is housed in a historic church and continues to function as a central gathering point for the neighborhood, which was at the epicenter of the 1967 unrest. The church was boarded up for years but has been lovingly restored and retrofitted as a cafe and bar. Large tables indoors and an expansive patio and lawn with picnic tables encourage conversations between strangers. The Congregation serves coffee, cocktails, wine, and beer with creative and considered selection, without being too precious about itself.
Address: 9321 Rosa Parks Blvd., Detroit, Mich. 48206
Where to Go With Out-of-Town Visitors: Vivio’s Food & Spirits
It’s a Detroit rite of passage: fighting the Saturday morning crowds to procure the freshest produce and meat at the historic Eastern Market before rewarding yourself by snagging a much-coveted stool at the bar of Vivio’s to gloat over your triumphs. From there, you can watch the crowds hustle by and get your day drinking on while surrounded by bright, vivid colors and the banter of buskers and costermongers.
Tip Jar: Don’t second guess it: There’s a reason Vivio’s Bloody Mary mix is used at bars all over town. Whether it’s the 8 Mile Stretch with Better Made chips and Dearborn sausage or the Insanity Habanero, choose from more than a dozen variations on the house specialty.
Address: 2460 Market St., Detroit, Mich. 48207
Where to Feel Like You’re in an Enchanted Forest: Willow
Tucked into an alley behind downtown’s Savannah Blue restaurant, Willow Bar is far more than a cocktail bar or speakeasy. It celebrates the city’s rich Black history, with photos on the wall of family picnics from the historic Idlewild Resort, which served as an oasis for wealthy Black Detroiters for more than a hundred years. Cocktails are inspired by Tom Bullock’s 1917 book “The Ideal Bartender,” as well as by the owner and head bartender’s family recipes for sweet tea and other drinks. The bar is dominated by a faerie-light-strewn imitation willow tree that transforms the space into a magical and mysterious wonderland.
Address: 1431 Times Square, Detroit, Mich. 48226
Where to Drink With a Group: Batch Brewing Company
In 2020 the Fauci Fieldhouse (the brewery’s outdoor space) opened to accommodate al fresco drinking while protecting guests from Michigan’s fickle weather. Next up is a full music stage. On a sunny summer Saturday, post-brunching over gose and stout with a group is a great way to kick off a Corktown bar crawl.
Address: 1400 Porter St., Detroit, Mich. 48216
Where to Feel Like You’re in an ‘I Love Lucy’ Episode: Time Will Tell
Mildly kitschy, homey, and quirky, New Center’s Time Will Tell is retro in all the right ways. From the floral wallpaper to the sherbet-hued banquettes, the cozy space feels like your grandma’s living room, if your grandma was cool enough to have a neon jukebox and pink velvet curtains. Make it an Instagram-worthy occasion by donning your best spats or crinolines and cozy up to the honey-colored bar for an Old Fashioned.
Tip jar: Milwaukee Junction is becoming a great bar-hopping destination. When you’ve finished at TWT, pop around the corner to Dragonfly and Kiesling for more great cocktails.
Address: 6408 Woodward Ave., Detroit, Mich. 48202
Where to Go to End a Big Night Out: Checker Bar
After a long night of bar-hopping, dancing, frolicking, and carousing, sometimes you just want a beer, a shot, and a burger. Checker Bar fits that bill, with downtown’s latest-serving kitchen and a well-stocked bar with local and international beers on tap. It’s that familiar, cozy bar you can find in every decent-sized town, with tin ceilings, random items plastered to the walls and an eclectic crowd of late-night revelers. Checker’s bartenders have seen their fair share of late-night shenanigans, so go ahead and spin the shot roulette wheel to find out if you’re drinking Tully, Fernet, or Malort!
Address: 124 Cadillac Square, Detroit, Mich. 48226