Building Cocktail Culture at Mash in Ann Arbor


Craft cocktails are hot stuff right now. We recently spoke with Julia Barden, bar manager of Ann Arbor’s Mash, about what goes into a superior cocktail bar.

Ann Arbor's Mash has a Prohibition-era feel to it.

The setting: Barden says the bar is “low-ceilinged with lots of brickwork, vintage Edison light bulbs, and chalkboard walls for patrons to ‘leave their mark.’” She likens Mash to “some sort of secret prohibition-era lair. Large groups are welcomed by the lounge area and long, low tables available for celebrating anything and everything.

Mixing protocols: Craft cocktails at Mash are made with quality and (when possible) local ingredients, says Julia Barden, bar manager at Mash. This gives bartenders the chance to treat drinkers with unique and perhaps unfamiliar flavors. For instance, Mash offers in-house infused bourbons with cherry, orange and rosemary, and lemon. A newfound favorite among patrons is the Ginger Mash cocktail with “muddled fresh strawberries and oranges with bourbon, ginger beer and smoked ice.” Smoked ice? Sounds like some top-shelf mixology!

On educating drinkers: From time to time, Mash holds bourbon tastings and classes, with hopes of more in the future. While Barden says that social media help spread the word in general, it’s best to educate one customer at a time. Their barkeeps share a love and passion for their work, and pass it onto their guests, Barden says, “then those guests bring five friends, those friends come back and bring their friends.” It’s this type of thinking that builds a strong and supportive customer base for years to come.

A visit to Mash will plunge you into another era — one with great cocktails.

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