By Jake "Donnie" Miller & Jake "Reggie" Darmofal

Detroit is fortunate to be awash in great cocktails.  The passion for craft that has taken root among the bartenders in the city has produced some truly amazing drinking experiences.  Bars and restaurants that just a few years back would have been pumping juice out of guns, or crushing bottles of sour mix, are now proudly offering drinks made with quality ingredients.  Spirits knowledge is on the rise, and home bartenders everywhere are spreading the gospel to friends and neighbors that mixing proper drinks also happens to be FUN AF.  While we love to experiment with the latest trends and techniques in the cocktail kingdom, we thought it would be fun to take a step back and highlight some of the original classics, the drinks that underpin the whole modern craft cocktail movement.  They are called classics for a reason.

The Pegu Club


"The Pegu Club is the self-titled signature cocktail of the British officer’s club that opened around 1870 in British occupied Rangoon. Refreshing, yet complex, this classic cocktail reigning from Southeast Asia is made to break the heat. The base of the drink is gin, the beloved spirit of every homesick Englishmen.  The recipe was first seen in print in the Savoy Cocktail Book of 1930, by famous English mixologist Henry Craddock. After making this drink for the first time for a guest I instantly started recommending it because I felt it was too good of a drink to be overlooked on the classics menu. What would seem to be a variation of a classic Margarita, the wet and brisk Pegu Club would later influence the classic Picador 50 years later." - Donnie

The St. Charles Punch


"Named after the late St. Charles hotel in New Orleans, this popular punch was a straight up hotel bar classic during its heyday. Like many New Orleans style cocktails it starts with cognac as the base spirit.  The addition of port, lemon, and sugar add a nice, balanced sweetness to this underrated drink.  One thing that immediately caught my eye when I first found my passion for cocktails was the early influence that New Orleans had, actually developing my favorite classic cocktail - the Sazerac.  That naturally led me to be interested in the St. Charley's punch, yet another great classic built around a culture many of us admire." - Reggie

The Royal Hawaiian


"One of the most popular of all the classic cocktails right now at the Sugar House is the Royal Hawaiian. The cocktail was first served at The Royal Hawaiian Resort in Honolulu around 1948. It appeared in Ted Saucier’s book Bottoms up in 1951. The cocktail is thought to have been first created by Trader Vic but no one really can say for sure. As popular as Tiki culture was in the 1950’s, I can imagine the martini still reigned supreme in most bars around Hawaii. The Royal Hawaiian Cocktail was first created for those martini drinkers that’s didn’t want a Pina Colada, but something spirit forward with a twist. Having lived in Hawaii for close to 12 years my nickname Donnie graduated to Aloha Donnie during last summer’s Tiki menu and this drink’s nickname became the “Royal Donnie” shortly after. I love drinking gin in the summer while embracing the tiki culture so this drink had to make the list." - Aloha Donnie

The Presbyterian

"The name Presbyterian comes from a Latin word that translates to ‘Elder’ and is used over seventy times in the New Testament.  Cocktail historians believe the cocktail was first made with Scotch whisky in the late 1800’s and probably named in honor of the Presbyterian church of Scotland. Served tall, this spritzer has spicy ginger and vanilla notes with a nice creamy yet effervescent mouthfeel. These days young folk forget that malt whisky exists, so I like to recommend this to any simple man needing a tall refresher. To those that drink whisky all year round, this one's for you no matter what you believe in." - Donnie

The Scofflaw

"Scofflaw: a noun coined during the prohibition era to mean a person who drinks illegally."

"I usually find myself sipping rye whiskey neat on most occasions. However, I’m always on the lookout for a citrusy and balanced rye drink that allows me to change up old habit.  The scofflaw is exactly that - a slightly sweet, yet refreshing cocktail that combines rye, dry vermouth, lemon, and grenadine to make a real beaut for us rye drinkers. The combination of grenadine and lemon make for a really refreshing start, but the dry vermouth helps bring it all back and leaves you with a balanced dry finish." - Reggie

The Painkiller


"The Painkiller is one of those cocktails that will grab the love and affection of anyone that wants to be transported to a tropical island. One of the earliest versions of this astonishing blend of rum, pineapple, and orange came from Daphne Henderson at the Soggy Dollar Bar, on the island of Jost Van Dyke in the Virgin Islands. The island had no dock so people from all over the world would wade onto the island from their boats to imbibe at the six-seat bar. Later the purveyors of Pusser’s Rum tweaked her recipe and trademarked the drink calling it their own.  Being the only classic cocktail with coconut creme this concoction of fresh fruit and rum become my favorite drink to share with thirsty Detroiters looking for something with a large depth of fresh flavors. Pirates or not, we add a bit of blackstrap rum on top to add an extra depth of rich caramel and molasses. The painkiller is the only smooth criminal that transports you to a tropical island." - Donnie

The El Diablo

el diablo

"This is the first tequila cocktail that I was introduced to at the Sugar House.  Although the origin of this tequila masterpiece is unknown, it still makes for a refreshing, slightly spicy, no brainer cocktail for the summer.  The first known mention occurred in 1946 in a book by Trader Vic (suprise!), a recipe known as the Mexican El Diablo. It combines fresh lime, ginger, tequila and creme de cassis to provide the perfect refreshment for any tequila fan. Served tall over ice this is the perfect cocktail that will take you “away” to that vacation you've been dreaming about during that long work week. Bonus, this cocktail also led me to something I really love...mezcal!" - Reggie

The Mint Julep

"I couldn’t make a list of cocktails to drink this summer and not include the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.  Although it is associated with the derby, the mint julep has been around for much longer. In the 18th century it is believed that the mint julep was a drink for the elite because ice was a rarity and this cocktail calls for lots of it.  Served in a silver tin, this cocktail was designed for someone with great wealth and passion for a great drink.  Fortunately, you don’t need to be wealthy anymore to put back a few of these important summer sippers.  I can't think of many things better than a mint julep on the Sugar House patio in its beautiful tin with its tiny, chilled water droplets racing down the side." - Reggie

The Twelve Mile Limit

"During the beginning of Prohibition, the United States only had jurisdiction of up to three miles off of coastal waters. Therefore Americans found ways to drink off the coast whether it was private boats or gambling ships like the Rex, which was parked off the coast of Santa Monica during the noble experiment. A cocktail was then created called the three-mile limit. Let's be honest, bartenders in the twentieth century created a LOT of cocktails based on historical events which are cool to think about.  When the Federal Government learned of these illegal actions they extended the limit to twelve miles. Therefore a new, much stronger cocktail must be made. This cocktail sips like a very complex Hawaiian punch that doesn't hold back. It was a cocktail that immediately stuck to be because of its symbolic history and use of Wray and Nephew Jamaican rum." - Donnie

The Corn 'N' Oil

"The "oil" in corn ‘n’ oil most likely refers to the unctuous texture of blackstrap rum in this cocktail. The Sugar House version is an homage to the original with its classic ratios of falernum and blackstrap rum. It is said that this cocktail was created on the Caribbean island of Barbados, a cocktail that was very falernum heavy and very refreshing for the hot summer island days. However, many bars and enthusiasts have started going rum-heavy and allowed falernum to take a back seat. I want to keep this cocktail a classic and bring it to you as you would have enjoyed years ago while relaxing on a Caribbean island. I have to admit one reason I push for this cocktail in so many instances is due to the fact I love blackstrap rum.  Maybe it's because it's one of kind, or just because it tastes so damn good." - Reggie