Best Microbrewery – Royal Oak Brewery
With a readership as thirsty as RDW's, best microbrewery honors are a badge of honor. And to think, all it took to win this year is for a microbrewery to have a steady stable of consistent and high-quality drafts, an A-list rotation of seasonal brews, great atmosphere, a strong menu and solid beer minds at the helm. From the cordial drinkability of the Northern Light, to the rich, hearty Royal Oak Red, the people have spoken. Go see what they're talking about.
Best Microbrew – Dragonmead
Tucked away along a service drive in Warren are makers of RDW's Best Microbrew. While the location is unassuming, the delights coming from the beer vats inside are not. Dragonmead's variety is surpassed only by its rich flavor and expert craftsmanship. Their beer lineup has all of the diversity of an old Benetton ad; ales from America, England, Germany, Scotland, Norway, Belgium and Russia; as well as lagers inspired by the Germans. Visit their cozy location for any number of custom-made drafts and great company. But, arguably, one of the best things you can pick up in finer beer stores in metro Detroit is a Dragonmead four-pack. Take your pick and you'll never be disappointed. From the rich and fruity flavor of their signature brew, Final Absolution; to the hearty, full-bodied taste of their Under The Kilt Wee Heavy Scottish ales, this microbrew proves, with each sip, why it's Detroit's best.
Best Domestic Beer – Budweiser
Anheuser-Busch's signature lager makes the top of the list for domestic brews this time. Just think of the Clydesdales as they used to deliver this crisp, refreshing beer to the masses. Of course, now it's all done by a large truck. No matter how it gets to you, though, we know you'll appreciate it in a responsible manner. Over and over again. And next time you see a truck driver delivering your favorite booze, thank him.
Best Imported Beer – Labatt Blue
There is no doubt that, among other things, there are two things Canadians know well: beer and hockey. While they invented hockey, they've also figured out how to make a fine brew. As a tribute to that, Labatt Blue takes the honors as the best imported beer around. Let's salute our neighbors to the north for their outstanding achievement in beer. Forget about how much you dislike Canadian bacon and remember how excellent their beer is.
Best Michigan Made Wine - Leelenau Wine Cellars
California threw in the towel long ago, and the French (oui, les Frogs!) are taking nervous notice now of the splendid array of wines being made in the northern part of the Mitten. The soil is right, the weather is perfect, and a new generation of vintners is taking advantage of a domestic market growing every month and year. The 90 acres cultivated by the Leelenau Wine Cellars have proven especially fruitful. They've produced over 30 varieties and each one is a veritable kiss from heaven.
Best Michigan Made Spirit – Hard Luck Candy Vodka
And now you can scratch Idaho off the list. Born inside the Hard Luck Lounge in Grosse Pointe Park, this flavor-infused vodka is now a popular staple on the market and proved a major winner with the Valentine's Day crowd this year. Red Fish is swimming to the finish line as the most popular entry, but Root Beer Barrel was the one that really won our hearts at the office. Each has there own unique pairings. Try Red Fish with sprite for the ultimate sweet finish; or mix Root Beer Barrel with vanilla stoli for the ulimate root beer float shot. You can thank us later.
Best Shot – Jäger
I had my first shot of Jäger in college and from then on, it's been a torrid love affair. Dark and caramel-like, Jäger is one really delicious shot. It's licorice-y, anise flavor leaves your insides warm and tingling long after you've downed a shot or two. Hell, pair it with some red bull to really get the fire going. Whatever you do, make sure it's chilled so it goes down smoothly and with every intention of getting you toasty.
Best Flavored Vodka – Three Olives
We're willing to bet that there's been only a few big advancements in the taste of vodka over the last 100 years: the introduction of flavor. Three Olives has 17 intoxicating flavors that lend itself to countless cocktail combinations, which means this stuff is anything but boring. Its Web site has a variety of recipes to try and try again; or you can mix any of these delicious liquors with whatever your heart desires and come up with your own favorite concoction. Want a delicious martini? Three Olives is the cornerstone of flavor for the finest martinis you can get your hands on. Regardless of what bar you're in or what corner store you frequent, it's a sure bet they'll have enough flavors of Three Olives to keep everyone at your shindig satisfied, or just yourself.
Best Vodka – Grey Goose
Ah, vodka – the potent potable from the potato! Always a charmer and (as any Polish blonde will tell you) a warm source of solace in the winter. We're especially fond of Grey Goose, a premium French import that has an impeccable taste and solid integrity of flavor in mixed company. Whether you choose to pair it with traditional cranberry juice or sip it on the rocks, this smooth-as-a-baby's-bottom liquor will do the trick.
Best Bourbon – Jim Beam
Head north of Tennessee and another kind of whiskey takes the gold for Detroit's best bourbon: Jim Beam, made in Clermont, Kentucky. Seven generations of the Beam family have been distilling their distinct brand of bourbon for 215 years. That means they know what they're doing. They've survived several major wars, a couple of depressions and numerous recessions. Now an American family's tradition has become the world's best-selling bourbon. Cheers.
Best Whiskey – Jack Daniel's
While this classic sour mash whiskey is made in a dry county in Tennessee, that won't stop people here in Detroit from indulging. Try that as an icebreaker at the bar. There's no guarantee it'll work, but maybe a piece offering over a Jack and Coke will. It's no surprise Mr. Daniel's trademark whiskey was voted number one. The next day, though, the shocker will be when you realize what you did the night before.
Best Scotch – Dewars
What put the Brave in the Heart of Caledonia? With all due respect to Mel and Hollywood, proper credit should always go to "the water of life" that our Pictish pals have sworn by for centuries. And John Dewar and Sons have been doing it the proper and familial way for almost as long. We still maintain that novices should enjoy it in a sequential fashion – neat, on the rocks, and then with a proper and polite dash of soda. The class system is dead in Europe, but there's still real nobility to be found in certain bottles.
Best Tequila – 1800
If "Detective Fitch" ever decides that solving Motor City homicides isn't a demanding enough job for him, he can always turn to marketing. That TV spot merely reinforced our already high opinion of this exceptional tequila – and frankly we think 1800 may have saved us when a sudden snowstorm and spinning wheels prompted us to bring our half-frozen carcasses inside a Detroit restaurant on Bagley. Maybe Casa Cuervo can strike a deal with those guys who run St. Bernard kennels over in Switzerland.
Best Rum – Bacardi
You really want to salsa better? Drink Bacardi. You really want to talk like a pirate? Drink Bacardi. You really want to experience the timeless perfection of a Cuba Libre? Pour Bacardi into that glass and enjoy the rich history of a fabled rum. From Spain to Cuba to Puerto Rico to Bermuda to here and the rest of the planet. No passport required.
Best Gin – Bombay Sapphire
To their immense credit, the folks at Bacardi have a respectful regard for gin as well. This winning entry (the joyous union of no less than ten carefully chosen and crucial ingredients) got its equally flavorful name after a major Madison Avenue talent competition. The name and the designed label are meant to evoke every facet of that jewel in the crown; the taste alone is worthy of a rajah's notice; and last we heard, Gunga Din was filling his canteen for a BYOB in Mumbai.
Best Spirit to Mix With Red Bull – Absolut Vodka
Double the pleasure and double the delivery of that crimson charger by sweetening it with the Swedish sizzle known as Absolut. That's not only a perfect example of extemporaneous alliteration; it's a time-proven formula in any bar you'll find in the Detroit area. Plus, with a variety of flavors to choose from, Absolut gives the imbiber a chance to experiment until the absolutely perfect one for him or for her is found.
Best After Dinner Drink – Disoronna Amaretto
The meal is over, the night is young, and your lovely guest for the evening doesn't seem to be in any hurry to leave. What now? Well, we suggest you find two glasses and start pouring this delightful and romantically inclined Italian liqueur before you escort her into the living room. It complements the repast; it eases one into a relaxed mood; it makes conversations sparkle; and it certainly helps Cupid aim that arrow.
Best Priced Beer – Pabst Blue Ribbon
PBR is not only a refreshing beverage, it's also a wallet friendly quaff in the neighborhood bar. Chalk that up to smart owners taking note of demographic information, statistical data, marketing projections and (possibly) their own customers making their wishes known. Oh, and we wanted to include that great Dennis Hopper exclamation from BLUE VELVET, but ... well, you know.
Best Wine Selection (retail) – Red Wagon
With enough wine selection to challenge France and Italy combined, Red Wagon Wine Shoppe in Troy (and its new sister location, Off The Wagon, in Clawson) expertly guides customers through the landscape that is all things vino. With seemingly never-ending walls of any variety you can imagine, you'll find no greater selection in metro Detroit. The Troy location boasts the best selection in the state, with 3,000-plus brands from more than 30 different countries. From malbecs and syrahs, to pinot grigios and chardonnays, a wine expert is always on hand to answer questions and help guide you through your purchase. In-house tastings are held throughout the year, and Red Wagon will also deliver (just give them two days' notice). The staff at Red Wagon takes the guesswork out of wine selection, removes the snob element and helps put the right bottle in your hands.
Best Energy Drink – Monster
Monster's giving other energy drinks a run for their money by gaining in variety, flavor and popularity in Motown. With a delightfully spooky design on the can and a kick that wakes your ass up, this beverage is a bona fide vessel to jump start, or continue, your day. You can also mix it with some booze for an extra kick at night. Forget other energy concoctions and their commercials, we'll stick with Monster and enjoy the next 16 ounces of liquid, energy-producing gold.
Best Booze to Carry Around in a Brown Paper Bag – Colt .45
Yes, carry it around to your car, drive carefully home, enter your domicile – and THEN open the bag and the beverage for a relaxing and safe interlude in front of the hearth and TV. This malt liquor is (let's face it) a perennial charmer and one that should always be treated with respect. Why? We think Aretha knows the answer to that question.