Here's something you couldn't do a few years ago: Assemble a badass bar of locally made spirits and mixers. Several factors are at play here: the loosening of distilling rules, the lowering of licensing costs, and a helping hand from the excellent distilling program at Michigan State University, among others. What it means for the home drinker, however, is that one can drink as locally as one lives. Here's are some good buys for the truly local yokel.
Detroit City Distillery
The newest distillery in town, Detroit City Distillery operates a tasting room in the Eastern Market area, where they serve whiskey, bourbon, vodka, and, soon, gin. The distillery's Bloodline Whiskey is produced in small batches using Michigan barley, winter wheat, and specialty malts, and then aged for a year "with oak staves in reused cooperage."
New Holland Brewing Company
For rum, we have to leave the immediate area, but not the state. We just need to buy Freshwater Michigan Rum from New Holland out west. It's a barrel-aged amber rum, with a caramel color and plenty of body, from the same company that produces the fantastic Full Circle beer.
Two James Distillery
Two James' Grass Widow Bourbon is a lot of fun. They're the high-rye mash bill, the traces of hazelnut, dried raisins, and spices. At 91 proof, its flavors might be better brought out with some ice or water. Also, it's a beautiful bottle that's sure to draw attention.
More distilleries are making gin, but Valentine Distilling is a step ahead, producing barrel-aged gin, such as Liberator Old Tom Gin. This sort of spirit was a more common sight in the 19th century than the 20th, though cask gin is making a comeback out in the Pacific Northwest. Expect the usual aroma of juniper and pine, along with hints of oak, spices, citrus, cardamom, and cinnamon.
While Rifino Valentine of Valentine Distilling has been making vodka for years, we'd like to include Our/Detroit for a few reasons. It's locally made, female-owned, and comes in a charming little bottle with a cap. That's OK; it's why flip-cap pourers were made.
McClary Bros Drinking Vinegars
We're locally fortunate to have husband-and-wife team Josh and Jess McClary resurrecting this bit of colonial-era drinking history. These "drinking vinegars," thanks to their preservative qualities, wound up in alcoholic drinks and punches until the invention of electric refrigeration. Get the three-bottle set that includes "Michigan Cherry," "Michigan Basil," and "Michigan Apple Pie."