Historically known as the “Paris of the Midwest,” Detroit’s elegance and charm defined the Michigan city in the 1920s and ‘30s. Now, as Detroit continues to bounce back following bankruptcy and a financial crisis, the city is leaning into its timeless feel with the addition of speakeasies. Many are housed in some of Detroit’s iconic decades-old structures, which have been renovated and, in some cases, rebuilt entirely.
These bars harken back to the Detroit that existed nearly a century ago, embracing a retro, intimate look complete with plush, velvet furniture, dimmed lights, and craft cocktails mixed just right. Perfect for date nights, work outings, and more, here are eight of Detroit’s best speakeasies.
1. Bad Luck Bar
Known for its signature $200 cocktail, The Admiral, which includes a pour of a 1970 vintage Black Tot rum, Bad Luck Bar houses some of the rarest liquors in the world. A dark, intimate setting gives this upscale bar an underground feel, but Bad Luck Bar’s carefully-trained bartenders whip up seriously clever creations. Drinks are paired with small bites of chocolate and other goodies, and each cocktail is a work of art. Located in an alleyway with a door that remains locked, visitors are instructed to knock or call for admittance.
2. The Sugar House
A staple of Detroit’s blossoming Corktown neighborhood, The Sugar House is hailed for its vast menu of craft cocktails. Dozens of unique combinations make up this speakeasy’s offerings, which include everything from classics such as amaretto sours to coffee cocktails made with Cognac and egg. Don’t feel limited to the menu, though: Sugar House’s mixologists are well-versed in making custom drinks on the fly, thanks to their wide array of ingredients and liquors. The bar also offers ready-to-drink cocktails to-go—they just need a glass and a pour.
3. The Shelby
Cozy and intimate, The Shelby serves up a mix of inventive cocktails and shared plates. Located in Detroit’s financial district—in the basement of a restored bank vault—The Shelby retains original metal and stone architectural details (with seating inside of the vault). Rich navy blue velvet-backed bar chairs accent the industrial look, and the cocktails are a mix of classics and original creations.
4. Candy Bar
Detroit’s Candy Bar is, quite literally, a candy bar brought to life. Decked out in every shade of pink and red from floor to ceiling, the glamorous Candy Bar feels like an Old Hollywood speakeasy. Located at The Siren Hotel, this bright and colorful bar is defined by its expansive crystal chandelier, illuminated disco ball, and pink and gold booths. The theme doesn’t stop with just the look: Even the craft cocktails are glamorous and candy-themed.
Tucked away in an inconspicuous alleyway, Standby prides itself on serving up modern cocktails and locally-sourced dishes in an old-school setting. At this intimate speakeasy and James Beard semifinalist, a rotating cocktail menu changes with the seasons. Standby’s expansive selection features creations made out of brandy, vodka, agave, whiskey, rum, gin, and more, including a selection of delicious mocktails.
6. Ghostbar at the Whitney
Long known as one of Detroit’s most iconic buildings, the Whitney mansion—former home of lumber baron David Whitney—now offers one of the city’s most unique dining and drinking experiences. Nestled inside the Whitney is Ghostbar, celebrated for its famous Witching Hour Martini, a clever mix of Valentine white blossom vodka, limoncello, Chambord, and fresh lemon. Expansive wooden walls paired with a gorgeous bar give this speakeasy a timeless look.
7. Evening Bar
Detroit’s Shinola Hotel, a boutique lodging option located on iconic Woodward Avenue, is home to one of the city’s newest speakeasies. Evening Bar encompasses all of the classic traits of a traditional speakeasy, complete with low lighting, artisan cocktails, and cozy seating. In the bar’s inventive drink creations, guests can find ingredients like mango, house-made strawberry shrub, and Michigan-cherry-infused bourbon. With cocktails and dishes that pay homage to Detroit and the surrounding area, Evening Bar is all about the city where it’s found.
8. Willis Show Bar
Midtown’s Willis Show Bar serves as not only a speakeasy but a gorgeous cabaret that feels like you’ve stepped back into the 1940s. Combining entertainment and craft cocktails, this bar features weekly performances, live music, DJs, and burlesque shows. Formerly operating as a jazz club in the mid-1900s, Willis Show Bar was revived in its original art moderne style. With two separate cocktail menus—one for classics and another for house mixes—this speakeasy boasts a diverse drink selection often served in vintage punch bowls.