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craft cocktail

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You can’t go to your favorite cocktail bar. It's closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak. But, you might have a few bottles in your house. What can you make with what you have?

Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings thinks it’s time to improvise a little. To put her idea to the test, she put a selection on her table and asked Lester Graham to choose some of them and she’d make a drink.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There's a bracing herbal, minty, chocolaty, funky, bitter Italian liqueur (an amaro) called Fernet Branca. It became wildly popular among people who work at bars. It's often used in cocktails, but if you're a bartender visiting another bar, your colleague might pour you a shot as a greeting, a bartender's handshake. During these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, let's call it a "bartender's elbow bump."

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You might know New Holland Brewing for its beer, but New Holland also is a distiller. Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings and I visited New Holland’s Grand Rapids brewpub called the Knickerbocker where the company also distills gin.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings and I visited the Grand Rapids distillers at Eastern Kille Distillery. If that name is not familiar to you, you might know it by its old name: Gray Skies.

Brandon Voorhees greeted us in the tasting room which has been described as “industrial chic.” We asked about the name change.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There is so much to catch your eye: Tiki statues, tiki mugs, tiki décor of every description, and more than a dash of 1960s living room kitsch. Max’s South Seas Hideaway is the newest tiki bar in Grand Rapids and the epitome of a “tiki palace” in Michigan.

Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings sat down with co-owner Mark Sellers in a cozy little corner filled with tiki art and mid-century suburban furniture to talk to him about the two-story tiki bar and restaurant.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Thanksgiving is less than a week away. Yikes!

So what do you offer your guests to drink?

“You'll see a lot of guides of what wine to pair with Thanksgiving dinner. And there's no right answer, right? Because the Thanksgiving table is so diverse, there's so many different food items on it, you're never going to have a perfect pairing. So cocktails can be a different way to go,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The woman was using her muddler like a weapon, smashing something to bits in her tin mixing cup.

“I had some frustrations to work out, Lester,” said Tammy Coxen with Tammy's Tastings.

It turns out she was pounding diced up beet pieces, making mush of them.

“How do you feel about beets,” she asked me.

She already knew the answer. I despise the taste of beets.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

When I walked in, I could see a bottle of rye on the counter. “I can't think that this is going to go badly,” I said to Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings.

“We do both like rye,” she laughed. The name of the cocktail she was getting ready to mix is The Long Arm of the Law.

The craft cocktail scene in Michigan is flourishing, with dozens of new distilleries and craft cocktail bars, as well as mixologists with a passion for creating drinks using these Michigan-made spirits. 

Join the hosts of Michigan Radio’s popular Cheers segment, Lester Graham and Tammy Coxen, as we celebrate Michigan’s craft cocktail movement and the publication of their new book, "Cheers to Michigan: A Celebration of Cocktail Culture and Craft Distillers" on Thursday, December 12 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at The Circ Bar in Ann Arbor.