(Part two from Thursday night – see part one here)
When I lived in Michigan before, the Alley Bar was a slightly different establishment than it is today. First of all, when I came to know it, it was called Babs’. It looked, in my opinion, exactly how a bar called “Babs” should look – red walls, beat-up booths, and SUPER smoky. The manager – Babs – then moved on to open Babs’ Underground Lounge around the corner, and I think that’s when the former Babs’ became the Alley Bar, although we continued to call it “the old Babs’.”
Fast forward a few years – the Alley Bar – while still having no visible signage and retaining the red walls – has cleaned up a LOT and now has a reputation as the place to go in Ann Arbor for craft cocktails. I’m not talking about appletinis and junk like that – I’m talking about classic cocktails (Manhattans, Negronis), creative spins on classics (cucumber gimlet), and a great selection of whisky. Oh, and PBR in a can.
The cocktails are made with fresh fruit, herbs, and mixers and the bartenders take the time to make sure it’s done right. One more point – the bartenders are not snide and snobby like you might expect a “mixologist” to be (and I did not hear either of them refer to themselves as mixologists, FYI – that was a bar patron who called them that).
While waiting for the wine tasting (part three – coming tomorrow), I ordered the cucumber gimlet. Bartender Robbie muddled up some fresh cucumber in the glass, which really put a crisp, refreshing edge on the gin and fresh lime. Yum. Jess ordered the pear martini, which at another bar might just be cheap pear vodka and mixers but here was made with Grey Goose Poire, actual pear puree and fresh lemon. It tasted like a pear, not like sugar syrup.
We didn’t order a second round because the wine tasting started, but we were very pleased with our first. I love the combination of the dive bar look/feel with the really well-made cocktails. Alley Bar – we’ll be back!