You may be familiar with the Ann Arbor area for its phenomenal dining or its thought-provoking arts. Only in Ann Arbor could these two passions blend into an enchanting (and delicious) craft cocktail scene. In addition to this overview of the local craft cocktail options — we invite you to enter the Toast of Ann Arbor Sweepstakes!
Artini, an annual martini crawl and fundraiser for the Ann Arbor Art Center, crowned The Ravens Club its 2016 winner. The winning cocktail was incredibly imaginative, giving a nod to classic flip cocktails. The silky and foamy creation (imagine a texture similar to a latte), blended house-made, pistachio-infused vodka with an egg white and served it in a glass rimmed with crushed pistachios and salt. While this cocktail was only available during Artini, it’s a great example of the characteristic craft cocktail goodness available at The Ravens Club. The menu updates seasonally, or you can make it timeless with The Original Hand-pulled Old Fashioned (available year-round).
The Last Word is another destination where cocktail glasses serve as artists’ canvases. Tucked behind an unmarked door, this lower-level bar is reminiscent of clandestine speakeasies. The most likely candidate for the title of Signature Cocktail at The Last Word is “The Osborn” created by principal bartender, Giancarlo Aversa. This fresh and flavorful gin-based cocktail blends fresh pineapple, jalapeno, lime and ginger beer for an effervescent beverage — with just a bit of a kick. On Thursdays, you’ll find Giancarlo behind the piano instead of the bar performing jazz and lounge music with his band, The Pherotones.
If you’re looking to experience the Spanish gin & tonic craze a little closer to home, Aventura is your destination and its house-made tonic is a must. If you’ve never had hand-made tonic before, the house tonic will likely shatter your expectations. When made from scratch, tonics take on a different hue than the mass produced options. In addition to being a bit darker, the flavor profile will vary due to the natural sweeteners used at Aventura (versus high-fructose corn syrup used in most of the national brands). Aventura’s signature gin & tonic, The Otoño, is prepared using classic Spanish methods and dressed with fresh ingredients — blood orange, sage and Angostura bitters.
If you’re interested in learning the art of craft cocktails, there are two locations providing hands-on classes. First, Zingerman’s Cornman Farms offers monthly themed classes focusing on either a specific spirit or ingredients. Classes are from 7-9:30 on Thursday nights — making it the perfect start to a long weekend in the Ann Arbor area. Another option is the classes at the Ann Arbor Distilling Co. where students will incorporate local, seasonal ingredients into their creations. So raise your glass, and let’s toast the creative minds behind the Ann Arbor area’s craft cocktail scene!