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New season, new drinks to welcome in spring

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

It was quite a winter, but we made it through. Why not celebrate the first day of spring tomorrow with a cool beverage?

Longtime Detroit bartender Chris Housholder says some products that scream spring to him are lighter beers like Bell’s Oarsman Ale.

“You can just sit on the patio and pound those all day long,” says Housholder, who is a beverage manager at Detroit’s Punch Bowl Social. While many people associate Bell’s Oberon with the start of spring (it’s released in March), Housholder likes to suggest the Oarsman because it’s refreshing and has a lower alcohol content.

“It’s a German wheat and it’s really light, but it has enough flavor, it doesn’t just fall off the palette,” he says of the Michigan beer. “As soon as everyone’s patios start opening, you just want to sit outside and drink a beer, and Oarsman is a beer you can drink for two or three hours and it’s not going to knock you out.”

This spring at Punch Bowl Social, Housholder says he’ll be using pisco, a South American brandy, in some cocktails. He says the clear spirit doesn’t have the same flavors people are used to from familiar brandy labels like Christian Brothers or E & J.

“It’s a really cool spirit. It’s clear, so it has less of that age on it.”

He recommends mixing it with lemon and lime and simple syrup to make a pisco sour. He also has a cocktail on the menu using pisco and mezcal with lemon juice, lavender syrup and muddled ginger.

“It’s two spirits that people aren’t necessarily familiar with, but as soon as they have it they’re like ‘that works perfect.’ The ginger and smoke from the mezcal marry perfect together.”

Salted Caramel Apple Shot

1 ounce Baileys Salted Caramel Irish Cream Liqueur

1/2 ounce Crown Royal Regal Apple Flavored Whisky

Caramel sauce for Rim

Apple slice for Garnish

Add Baileys and whiskey to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled shot glass rimmed with caramel sauce. Garnish with an apple slice.

Ray of Sun

3 ounces Owl’s Brew Classic

1.5 ounces your favorite tequila

Dash of sparkling water

Squeeze of grapefruit

Mix ingredients together with ice and strain over fresh rocks. Recipe courtesy of

New stuff

Here’s a look at some local and nationally-available products that are new on the market now. Ask for them while dining out, or enjoy at home:

Griffin Claw’s Mr. Blue Sky: Brewed with coriander and grapefruit peel, this spring seasonal comes in a pint-sized can and is outfitted with original artwork from Birmingham high school student Hannah LePage. If you’re wondering why a teenager would design a beer can label, Hannah’s grandmother, Bonnie LePage, is one of Griffin Claw Brewing Company’s owners. Mr. Blue Sky is available at bars, restaurants and grocery stores around the state.

Baileys Salted Caramel: The newest flavor in Baileys Irish Cream’s expanding line, this salted caramel-flavored liqueur can be mixed with whiskey or vodka, or added to coffee. Try it with Crown Royal’s new Regal Apple flavored whiskey for a salted caramel apple shot.

Red Bull Yellow: Not a hard beverage, but Red Bull is often used to make cocktails. One of the brand’s newest flavors is Yellow, which has a nice tropical, mango taste to it. Red Bull also recently released sugar-free wild cherry and sugar-free orange flavors.

Patrón Extra Añejo 7 Años: For something new, rare and expensive, look to Patrón’s limited-edition release of extra añejo tequila that’s been aged for seven years in French oak barrels. They produced fewer than 700 bottles, so it makes sense that the price tag is $299 retail. In a release, Patrón’s master distiller, Francisco Alcaraz, likens the spirit to a rare 50-year Scotch.

Oculto: Brewed with blue agave, this Budweiser product debuted nationwide Friday. The beer, which doesn’t actually have tequila in it, is six percent alcohol by volume. It’s marketed as a high-end brew and aims to combine “the social invitation of beer with the exciting nature associated with tequila,” according to a press release. Sounds promising, but we’re getting flashbacks of Tequiza, Anheuser-Busch’s weird late ’90s effort to compete with the Mexican beer market.

Detroit City Distillery Railroad Gin: Released in December, this 88-proof spirit is made with Michigan corn and barley. The London-style gin joins the distillery’s other products: Gilded Age Vodka, Two-Faced Bourbon and Bloodline Whiskey. The distillery, in Eastern Market, opened in the summer.

Angry Orchard Hop’n Mad Apple: The most recent label from Angry Orchard’s cider line is made with American apples and hops from France and Australia. The dry-hopped cider is sweet with a floral aftertaste.

Owl’s Brew: Another nonalcoholic beverage on our spring beverage roundup, this artisanal tea is marketed as a cocktail mixer. It comes in three flavors. The Coco-lada is brewed with black tea, chai spices and tropical fruits and is recommended for mixing with spiced rum, champagne, mezcal or stout. The Pink & Black is made with black tea, strawberries, lemon and hibiscus and can be paired with tequila, whiskey, amber ale or white wine. For something less sweet, the Classic flavor is an English breakfast tea that mixes well with vodka, tequila, gin or wheat beer. Look for it at Westborn Market or Crate & Barrel, or online at

Pitagora Red Wine: Can’t forget vino. This new Sonoma Country wine from Francis Ford Coppola Winery was inspired by the philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, so they released it on March 14, which was National Pi Day (because it’s 3.14, get it?). Pitagora has notes of blackberries, plum and currants.

Lucky Girl Brewing Company: Brewed in Pennsylvania, but based in Michigan, this beer brand markets to the straight male demographic with its all-American branding and pin-up girl logo. Look for Lucky Girl India Pale Ale, Black Lager, Golden Lager and Pale Ale in Michigan Meijer stores on April 1.