When the Fanwife turned me down an obscure back alley in Detroit, I thought the next time you all would hear about me would be on an episode of Dateline. Instead, she was guiding me to one of the best cocktail experiences I’ve ever had.
There is no frontage to Bad Luck Bar. In the middle of a littered alleyway, you’ll find a snake emblazoned door marking the only entrance. A small greeting space awaits inside with a single attendant ready escort you to the dimly lit bar. Well, that is, if there’s space. To my untrained eye, there looked to be less than 20 seats. Bad Luck Bar doesn’t take reservations, but they do accept same day call aheads. Unless you’re heading there just after they open, it’s best to give them a ring to secure a spot.
If you can, saddle up to the bar. These are the best seats in any serious cocktail bar. The mixologists at Bad Luck put on a damn show. They aren’t flair bartenders, juggling plastic bottles like a warmup circus act. The crew here are absolute artists, slowly and carefully crafting libations with which you’ll want to flood your Instagram feed.
A wide selection of spirits is available and they’ll be able to whip up anything you request, but on an initial visit, I’d stick with one out of the menu. While pricey, they’re worth every penny. Most will run you between $18 and $30, but the flagship drink, The Admiral, can be had for a hefty $200.
Being a bourbon and rye fan, I ordered The Hammer, a smoke-infused rye concoction. The intensely smokey pre-sip scent transitioned nicely into a sweet and savory sippable. Fanwife enjoyed The Comet. The flavors were outstanding, but the true marvel was the, for lack of a better term, enhanced ice, shaven and prepared to look like a comet impact on top of the glass. The menu is full of similarly inventive options.
Some public reviews of Bad Luck railed against its pretentious nature. I don’t agree with those sentiments. Is it upscale? Absolutely. Expensive? You bet. Pretentious? Not in the slightest. Every staff member was welcoming and kind. Midway through our visit, a pair of bewildered middle-aged women sat next to us. They questioned virtually every drink on the menu, inquiring about potential modifications and substitutions. The bartender patiently explained menu choices and offered alternative options.
To me, Bad Luck Bar is representative of some of the many hidden gems in Detroit. You’ll have to trudge through some architectural blight, but the short journey is well worth the gem awaiting you. If you’re a midwestern mixology enthusiast, Bad Luck Bar alone is worth a road trip to the Motor City.