You're the bartender now: Detroit's craft cocktails made at home

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

After six days at home, I was ready for a drink. 

Not a glass of wine or a whiskey and Vernors; I had those. I was thinking of something more crafty. The absolutely necessary stay-at-home order means that the pleasure of taking a seat at your favorite watering hole and having a skilled bartender mix you a drink with your spirit of choice is on hold for the moment while the country waits out the coronavirus pandemic. 

You're the bartender now. 

Luckily, booze is easier to get than toilet paper, at least for now, and liquor stores remain reasonably stocked. Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

Martini for your quarantini

Ferndale's Valentine Distillery has some helpful how-to videos at The award-winning vodka, bourbon and gin manufacture distributes across Michigan and to 11 other states. It can be found in many grocery stores as and well-stocked liquor and wine shops. Customers can also order online. 

If you've got even a mostly-empty jar of olives in your fridge and a bottle of Valentine Vodka — winner of World’s Best Vodka in the 2016 World Vodka Awards — then you can make a dirty martini according to their recipe using just a half an ounce of olive brine, no vermouth necessary. 

The "Detroit Dirty" version of a martini is also listed on their website and has just two ingredients: 2.5 ounces of Valentine Vodka and 3/4 ounce of brine from McClure's Spicy Dill Pickles, which are found at specialty markets or online at Shake them together with ice and double strain into your favorite glass. 

(For any recipe that calls for a shaker, at home you can use a pint glass and a smaller cup fitted into the top and pour through a small mesh strainer.)  

Valentine Distilling has teamed up with Griffin Claw Brewing Company to assist the Birmingham beer makers with their santizer-making efforts. Valentine is supplying addition alcohol to Griffin Claw, which also makes spirits, to help them meet the demand for  ethanol-based hand sanitizer. 

Make a Perfect Manhattan at home with Detroit City Distillery's Homegrown Rye whiskey

Perfect Manhattan for an imperfect situation

Two James Spirits in Corktown and Detroit City Distillery in Eastern Market have also started producing hand sanitizer to aid in the effort. The latter shared with me their recipe for a Perfect Manhattan using their Homegrown Rye, which is in stores or available online at

2 ounces Homegrown Rye Whiskey

1/2 ounce sweet vermouth

1/2 ounce dry vermouth

3 dashes of orange bitters (look for it in the spirit aisle of Meijer or other grocery store)

Stir all ingredients in a glass with ice, and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice and garnish with a lemon peel. 

Downtown cocktail lounge Standby gets creative

On Friday Standby cocktail lounge in downtown Detroit is selling an e-book with recipes from throughout the bar's short history that have been modified for the novice or intermediate craft cocktail mixologist.

The book comes with illustrations and is yours to download with a minimum donation of $15. Proceeds from the book will to toward Standby's staff. Order at

Standby cocktail lounge in downtown Detroit is releasing an e-book this week full of sophisticated drink recipes. It's available for a minimum donation of $15, which will benefit the restaurant's staff, which is currently out-of-work due to the coronavirus.

One of the ingredients in the book is for the La Joya cocktail. This is Standby's version of a Bijou, a gin-based cocktail from the early 20th century. This is for someone looking for a more complex, intricate drink. 

1 1/2 ounces Del Maguey Vida Mezcal

3/4 ounce Green Chartreuse

3/4 ounce Pedro Ximénez Sherry (Standby uses El Maestro Sierra)

6 dashes of hopped grapefruit bitters

Add all ingredients in to a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a "nick and nora" glass, a small 5- or 6-ounce martini glass. Express a grapefruit peel's oils over the top of the drink and discard the rind. 

Tip your bartender virtually 

While you're at home mixing your own nightcaps, your favorite bartender is possibly doing the same instead of working. Restaurants are struggling to make ends meet with carryout and delivery service, but bars that just sell drinks are out of luck until at least April 13. 

Fortunately, area cocktail blog has created a website,, which is a collection of out-of-work bartenders from across the country. The site lists the bar workers by state and alphabetically. 

When you make your drink at home, share your handiwork with a photo on social media using the hashtag #gotipem. (That part is optional; just for fun.) Then look for your favorite bartender on the site, or pick one randomly and send them a tip via their preferred mobile payment app like PayPal, Vemo or Cash App. 

One last thing: Now is the time to pull out that unique bottle of wine you got during a winery tour on your last vacation, or the liter of expensive Scotch someone was saving for a rainy day. What were you saving it for, if not a weeks-long directive from the government to stay home? Cheers.

Twitter: @melodybaetens