Detroit bartender blends her love for cocktails and literature

Raven Love and follow mixologist Brian Edwards have created the Double Strained Collective to shine a spotlight on the city's minority bartenders and other service industry professionals

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

"If you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison' it is certain to disagree with you sooner or later," Lewis Carroll wrote in "Alice in Wonderland." 

The drinks served Tuesday at the Whiskey Parlor are sure to agree 100% with both cocktail enthusiasts and fans of the tale of young Alice, however. Detroit bartender Raven Love is hosting "Cocktails & Confections," an "Alice in Wonderland" themed event with build-your-own cupcakes from baker Luis Basurto of Cakes 'n' Bakes. 

Craft cocktail bartender Raven Love

Love calls herself a "superfan" of the book and has created a drink menu that pays homage to the disorientating classic. Tuesday at the Whiskey Parlor (located upstairs from Grand Trunk on Woodward near Campus Martius) guests can sip on drinks named "Cheshire Grin," "Jabberwocky," "Knave of Hearts" and "Golden Afternoon."

"It is a little bit more on the savory side," she said of the latter. "It's a gin cocktail, it's going to have carrot juice, garam masala honey with earthy notes of sweetness, there’s a celery shrub and then the drink is going to be garnished with some Himalayan pink salt and celery ribbons."

Golden Afternoon cocktail will be part of the Cocktails and Confections event at Whiskey Parlor on Tuesday in downtown Detroit.

Love, who has an English degree from Wayne State University, says each drink is just $8, a reasonable price for craft cocktails in downtown Detroit. There is one punch-style beverage meant for a group that runs $20. The party is sponsored by Sazerac Company, which helps keep costs down. 

Oftentimes when thinking of a craft cocktail bartender, one may imagine a white man with a fun mustache, a crisp button-up shirt and maybe a vest. 

In reality, of course, bar staffs around here can be as diverse as the city itself. Love wanted to expand on this concept, so she and fellow bartender Brian Edwards have launched the Double Strained Collective.

An idea about a year in the works, their first public project was this month's feature called "29 Days of Black Bartenders," a series of social media posts in which they shine a light on an African-American service industry workers employed mainly behind the stick in celebration of Black History Month. 

"You think about a city like Detroit, which is overwhelmingly populated by people of color, but when you think about the service industry and a lot of the higher-end cocktail boars, that is not the image that you think of," said Love, who works weekends as a bartender at the elegant Willis Show Bar in Cass Corridor. She said it's not just about the bartenders, either, but also aiming to frame Black customers in a different light, too.

She says some people of color don't feel comfortable going into the city's new hip cocktail lounges because of stereotypes they feel people may have against minorities regarding what drinks they like or how they may tip. 

"It's really just trying to normalize the image of black and brown bartenders and different food and beverage workers in the industry and also make it a more level experience for everyone to go into these places, get the same service, and maybe learn something new." 

After the "Alice in Wonderland Party," Love's next cocktail pop-up is at Barter in Hamtramck, where Edwards works. Love will team up with Detroit bartender Melanie Mack to present a beverage menu that exalting the "Star Trek" franchise using ingredients from Grand Rapids' Eastern Kille Distillery. Costumes are encouraged, but not required

In a way, Love says this is also a Black History Month project. 

"Lieutenant Uhura, who was played by Nichelle Nichols, was the first African-American and African-American woman to be in a main role on a network TV show that wasn’t a menial, like maid position," she said. "Martin Luther King Jr. was a big Trekkie, too, and I thought it would be fun, right after Black History month to do that and have the collective behind it."

Next week is not only the last week of Black History Month, but Monday is also World Bartender Day, a global celebration of drink-makers and one of those recent holidays that seemed to be created out of thin air. 

"I feel like 20 years ago it wouldn’t be a thing," says Love, adding that the job has seen so much evolution over the past few years. "This is a career, this is a skill that takes years to master, let’s celebrate it."

Raven Love is hosting an "Alice in Wonderland"-themed cocktail event Tuesday.

Cocktails & Confections: An Alice Inspired Cocktail Party

with DIY cupcake bar from Cakes N' Bakes

7-10 p.m. Tuesday

The Whiskey Parlor

608 Woodward, Floor 2, Detroit 

No cover

Star Trek Pop-Up

Hosted by Raven Love and Melanie Mack

5 p.m.-midnight March 5


11601 Jos Campau, Hamtramck

No cover

Twitter: @melodybaetens

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