Booze review: Bartenders guild throws one helluva garden party


  • Photo by Serena Maria Daniels

So, what do bartenders do when they're not serving behind the counter? Why, get tipsy themselves, of course. And might I add, they do it in style. That's what went down at the Scarab Club Monday night (for those of you who don't know, Mondays are usually the only days off for folks in the service industry, if they're lucky) as the Detroit chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild throw a swanky drink fest, its first-ever Garden Gala, for its members.

Some of the most-respected mixologists in the city, including, Nate Bonkowski of Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails, Jason Leinart of Sugar House, Dorothy Elizabeth of Republic and Marlowe Johnson from Detroit City Distillery, were all in attendance to let loose.

If you think that these guys and gals get all dressed up like Wild West saloon keeps solely for the purpose of fitting in with the vibes at these uber chic cocktail bars and distilleries, you are mistaken. The look - the expertly trimmed beards, the twisty 'staches, the old-school sailor tattoos - are just as much part of their lifestyles as their professions in mixing craft drinks. These are not your artsy bartenders who serve at divey joints in Hamtramck (sorry guys, still love ya!). For many in attendance at the gala, it's an esteemed career.

  • Photo by Serena Maria Daniels

The evening was a blend of teeny shots of mixed drinks from the guild's sponsors, heaping plastic cups of mac 'n cheese from Rock City Eatery, DJ Rod P (who during his set switched over to play an electric violin at the top of the steps leading down to the garden) and the Scarab's visually stunning artwork on display - all making for an elegant night. In all, the event raised about $3,200 in raffle ticket sales and new member sign-ups, Shane "Bang" McGrath, president of the local chapter, tells us. Part of that money will go to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. Following the shindig, the real party carried on at Old Miami. That portion was sponsored by Patron, which gave guests a virtual reality tour of the agave fields in Mexico.

The Detroit chapter of the guild formed about two years ago and has quickly grown to one of the top 10 chapters in the country, with more than 150 members, McGrath tells us. Perhaps it's that labor union ethos that embodies Detroit that has given the local traction. Maybe it's the growing interest in craft spirits that has more bartenders taking the profession seriously. Whatever the case, the guild and its members are making a mark in the city... Plus, they sure know how to throw a party.

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