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Cheers! An all-Michigan cocktail from Detroit's Sugar House

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
The Sassafras Old Fashioned from the Fall Harvest menu at Sugar House in Detroit.

One of the constants in our series on cocktails is having a Michigan theme. A Detroit bar is offering a new menu of drinks that features Michigan ingredients. Sugar House in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit is offering a Fall Harvest menu which uses Michigan produce and Michigan spirits.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Tammy Coxen talking to owner Dave Kwiatkowski at Sugar House about the latest menu at the craft cocktail bar.

Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings arranged a Stateside visit with owner Dave Kwiatkowski and asked him to mix us a drink.

“Today, I’m going to make my personal favorite (on the menu) which is the Sassafras Old Fashioned. This is a 100% Michigan cocktail,” Kwiatkowski said.

Because it uses some proprietary ingredients made in-house at Sugar House, we can list the ingredients, but to taste the real thing, you’ll have to visit the bar.


It starts with two ounces of Wheat Whisky from Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids. However, Sugar House is using a 125 proof version rather than the 93 proof usually sold by Long Road. On its website, here’s how the distiller describes the spirit: “Fermented and distilled from 100% Michigan Red Winter Wheat for a sweet, lingering taste and an incredibly smooth finish. Long Road Wheat Whisky, at 93 proof, is easy to drink with aromas and flavors of vanilla, butterscotch, and just enough color and flavor from the barrel.”


Add ¾ ounce of the in-house made buckwheat sassafras honey syrup. It’s a sassafras tea mixed with a Michigan buckwheat honey.


Add several good dashes of the bar's own Michigan triple-cherry bitters. It took Kwiatkowski two years to develop the bitters. No, you may not have the recipe. Joking. Well, no, you really can’t have the recipe. It’s secret.

From the online Fall Harvest menu at Sugar House.

Stir the ingredients with ice in a tin for a very long time to dilute it. Then strain it over a large cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with hyacinth flowers.

“This drink is exceptionally boozy,” Kwiatkowski said, adding that the bar limits customers to just one.

Tammy Coxen says the drink doesn’t seem boozy because it’s so well-balanced. Don’t let that fool you.

You can find the other drinks on the Sugar House Fall Harvest menu online here.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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