Detroit was pretty active in the rum running business back then, in case you didn't know. There are tunnels under houses all along the river, even in the city I live in, that go back to the Volstead Act. Everyone has heard the legends of running alcohol across the Detroit river from Canada, winter or summer, by boat, or by car travelling across the ice! No thank you on that one! There was organized crime as well, a gang called The Purple Gang.
Recently, the craft beer and cocktail culture in Detroit has been growing, with different breweries popping up here and there in the city. But Two James is the first of its kind - and is appropriately located in Corktown, the old Irish area of Detroit. And we weren't going to let a little snow and ice stop us from going!
Our first stop however was dinner, since you can't drink on an empty stomach! My brother has been wanting to try Supino Pizza, located in the Eastern Market area of Detroit, which services all the food warehouses and the big farmers market. My sister-in-law, who desperately hates the cold and whom I call "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown" since seeing the book with that title, said " There is not much worth going out for in this horrible cold, but pizza is one of those things."
Supino is a little place, with a few scarred up wooden tables and chairs, most of them looking like like they came out of an old school somewhere, but this is all part of the charm. The entryway is loosely closed off from the door by a hanging curtain that doesn't like to stay closed, allowing in the horrendously cold air, and there are groups of people scattered about, waiting for their pizza or a table or both. We lucked out, and walked right up to the register to order. The cold had made us ravenously hungry, so we ended up ordering two large pizzas for four people. We took a seat at one of the taller tables, this one more like a butcher block table than an elementary desk table, and waited. The cashier told us it would be about 30 minutes, so we sat and chatted, all the while our stomachs grumbled from seeing the warm and gooey pizzas fly past us on the way to their destinations. The scent of cooking pizza, basil, oregano wafted from the back kitchen on little puffs of heat, warming us up just a little as well.
In no time at all it seemed our pizzas arrived. My brother and his wife ordered the Supino pizza, which is chunks of roasted garlic, black olives, chili oil, ricotta, and mozzarella. Billy and I ordered the Verdue e Funghi, which has parsley, basil, mushrooms, mozzarella, smoked gouda, and parmigiano.
Our pizza. I didn't get a shot of the other pizza.
It was amazing. The crust was perfect, thin and crispy, the cheese was perfect, and the slices wide. We all folded them in half to eat them, and I have to say we ate almost all of it. After trading pieces between all of us, I hate to say, but we essentially demolished them both. Only one piece of the Supino was left, two of the mushroom. That was it. In my opinion, the Supino pizza was just a bit better than our mushroom one, but I think I need that sharp tangy salty olive taste on my pizza. This place has been added to my favorite places, and I will be going again. Maybe sooner than later.
From Supino, we headed directly to Two James. We lucked out with a close parking spot, and entered the old warehouse/distillery. We arrived pretty early, and there were not many people there yet. There is a big circle bar in the very center of the room, with just a few tables, maybe three off against one wall, so seating is limited. It was decorated in a minimal fashion, in shades of brown and huge art pieces on the wall. The best feature are the barrels that line practically a whole wall; through them (and glass) you can see into the actual distillery on the other side. It has that new feel, that unbroken in feel, still, only having been opened a few months.
We took a seat at the bar and ordered. Chrissy and I ordered their Moscow Mules, made from their own 28 Island Vodka. The weather outside was making me think of Moscow in winter, and the drink felt appropriate. It was pretty good, and had that breathtaking quality I love in them from the ginger. Devin ordered a Corktown Flip, while Billy ordered the Sazerac. The don't have a cocktail menu online yet, and I don't remember what was in Devin's, so I apologize.
By the next round, the place was really filling up. A woman came in with a bakery box, and took a seat at the bar. Our bartender went over to talk to her, and came back with slices of fresh baked brownie. The woman had loved their Grass Widow Bourbon so much, that she was inspired to incorporate it into her brownies. They were delicious! Two James should consider adding them to the menu. The bartender also heard me say that I didn't like gin drinks, and presented me with a shot glass full of their own Old Cockney Gin. And I have to say, it wasn't bad! I hate gin usually, its like swallowing a Christmas tree, but their version was much smoother and distilled from heavy juniper. It could almost make me a gin drinker!
Springtime for Hoffa
This time, I went crazy and ordered the Springtime for Hoffa. It was made with their Grass Widow Bourbon, their limited reserve Apple Brandy, and currant jam, notably. It was amazing and maybe one of the best drinks I have had ever. The Apple Brandy was from a small batch they had distilled from local apples, and was a tester type batch. I hope they make more of it next year, because it was good! At this point, the bar was packed full. The auto show is going on in Detroit, so we have a lot of people in town for the show. I ended up talking to a man from South Africa who works for Honda; he asked advice on what drink to get. I emphatically recommended the Springtime for Hoffa. He took my suggestion, and he and everyone in his group loved it too.
The distillery offers their own brand of vodka, bourbon, gin and rye whiskey currently. They also make their own vinegars and shrubs, such as beet and carrot, apple pie, and fig. You can visit on a weekend and drink in their tasting room, or you can opt to sign up for a tour. We will for sure be signing up for a tour in the future. Two James was a great place to spend a few hours on a cold night! They have great drinks, some pricey while others are less so, but not much seating, and it is hard to get service at times in the night due to how busy it gets. Overall it was a great experience, and a win for Detroit!