Don’t even think about ordering anything as pedestrian as a gin and tonic at the Sugar House, an artisanal cocktail bar named for a famous Detroit-area bootlegger hangout. Unique, handcrafted adult beverages are the name of the game here. Mixologist Dave Kwiatkowski is the brains behind the operation, a small downtown storefront in a historic brick building next door to Slows Bar-B-Q.
The speakeasyish Sugar House is outfitted in dark wood, taxidermy, heavy drapes, exposed brick and brass chandeliers. Cafe tables adjoin a strapping wooden bar fronting bartenders dressed in natty double-breasted vests, rolled-sleeve shirts and skinny ties. The staff prides itself on vast knowledge of all types of alcohol; only truly savvy customers will be able to decipher the complex drink ingredients and flavorings, many made in-house.
Kwiatkowski strives to re-create a “pre-Prohibition-style cocktail bar." In keeping with this motif, the cocktails boast poetic and obscure names—Famous Last Words, The Gun Show and What She’s Having, for example—and incorporate unusual building blocks like rhubarb bitters, demerara and vinegar shrub. Flamboyantly mixed and served in period-appropriate glassware, the drinks (most $8 to $12 apiece) are fun in a theatrical way, like the Sugar House itself. For less adventurous imbibers, there’s a short, well-curated wine and beer list. The extensive bar menu changes seasonally, showcasing locally sourced small plates ($9 and up) of charcuterie, cheese and pickled vegetables. Jazz quartets crowd the tiny stage late at night.