CLAWSON, Mich. – It’s dark, yet fresh. Elegant, yet whimsical. Elaborate, yet effortless. Weiss Distilling Co. has done it again.
Following a spooky and sultry Halloween-inspired makeover for its “Halloweiss Takeover,” the freshman tasting room in Downtown Clawson has once again transformed its decor and menu, this time to celebrate the winter season. As of Friday, Nov. 25, the speakeasy-style bar has temporarily rebranded itself as a “grown-up winter wonderland,” offering cool new cocktails in a unique, wintry setting.
The bar’s new Weiss on Ice program is more of an ode to winter in Michigan than it is to the approaching winter holidays. The only real holiday-related structures inside are two giant nutcrackers (with electronic moving eyes, in typical weird Weiss fashion) -- but, otherwise, the room is decked out in tasteful whites and blues.
Reusing some of the beautiful arrangements from the Halloween makeover, white and blue flowers adorn the ceiling, with sheer fabrics draped around (which will eventually project snowflakes falling, according to Weiss General Manager Shane Bang). The room also features a snowy wall, snow-dusted trees, fur pelts lining the booths and cool blue lights throughout.
A few drinks from the Halloween menu also made their way onto the Weiss on Ice menu -- though some have been reworked or renamed to fit the winter theme. Going even further back, some cocktails on the new menu are actually summertime favorites that are making a reappearance, bar manager Lucy Bondy told us.
The mix-and-match menu, which does include several new cocktails, perfectly represents the collaborative nature among the small staff at Weiss. Together, four of the eight people running the tasting room pitch ideas for new drinks, and their favorites are added to the combined menu for all to try.
And, let me just say, they did not disappoint.
I had the pleasure of tasting the Weiss on Ice menu on Friday just as it launched. As always, I was beyond pleased with the drink options, the service, and the delicious final products made by the hard workers behind that massive u-shaped bar.
On their menu, Weiss lists their cocktails by spirit type, which include: rum, gin, absinthe, apple brandy, vodka, Weiss Lightning (moonshine), non-alcoholic drinks and mixed shots. I tasted some of the new and returning cocktails -- here were a few of my favorites (you can check out the full Weiss on Ice menu at the bottom of the article):
- A.B. Toddy (new): A take on a hot toddy with apple brandy as the base spirit. It is served warm and was delicious and sweet, complete with all of the warm spices associated with the season.
- Violent Violet (new): A juicy, fruity, sweet gin cocktail that somehow felt light -- and ended up being one of my favorites.
- Nog Nog Who’s There (new): This one’s for the white Russian lovers. It’s creamy and rich, and tastes like boozy egg nog.
- Fairies Wear Boots (returning): An absinthe cocktail with some sweetness, some warmth, some bitterness, some sourness -- everything I could want in a drink. For someone who isn’t sure how they feel about absinthe, this drink was an easy introduction to the spirit. You’re able to taste it on its own before mixing the absinthe into the rest of the cocktail, which is a fun tasting experience. It’s different, and I’d definitely recommend it.
- Gotcha Matcha (new): A gin drink that tastes and feels like a boozy matcha latte. It’s creamy and not very sweet with that soft tea flavor you’d expect. I had to try it because it has a mushroom tincture in it, which weirded me out. It provides a slight umami flavor that was delicious. Unique and worth trying!
- Fog Machine (returning): Weiss isn’t a whiskey/bourbon bar, but they really did nail the whiskey flavor in this one. It feels like sipping on a smooth, smokey whiskey, but it’s actually a rum cocktail. I don’t know how they did it, but it was great and classic.
- To Grandmother’s We Go (new): One of three new mixed shots featured on the menu. This shot is made with gin, mulling spices and pomegranate. It’s sweet, syrupy and almost tastes like a cola -- delicious.
Some of the new cocktails I didn’t get a chance to try yet include: Krampus, Winter Break, Honey Bunny, Vylette and Umbrellas of Cherbourg, among a few others. (If you get a chance to try them, let me know what you think!)
The staff say they are working on offering more non-alcoholic options, especially around the holidays.
As a craft cocktail lover, I cannot speak highly enough about the quality and flavors of the drinks at Weiss. Even more impressive, though, is the knowledge that each staff member has about the ingredients that go into every cocktail. They’re perfectly able to describe how a drink tastes and feels, and can help you choose something to try based on what your preferences are.
It feels like each drink the bar staff makes is specifically tailored for you, even if it’s not. The staff truly provide a personalized experience, which creates such a special and friendly atmosphere for everyone in the room.
What’s next for Weiss
I was lucky enough to spend some time chatting with GM Bang, who told me about an upcoming project that Weiss is excited to launch.
While the tasting room buzzes downstairs, there is actually an upstairs at Weiss that is currently being transformed into a theater/event space. Part of that upstairs includes a full kitchen, in which a chef prepares the small bites offered at Weiss (as well as the “family dinners” that the staff share each evening before opening).
I got to tour the upstairs space, and was impressed by the layout, the plans and the stunning vampy theater -- despite it still being under construction. Bang says the space will allow them to carry out their own programming, as well as invite the community to host events and share their ideas for programming, as well.
Bang, who has worked with and opened what seems like dozens of high-end bars and lounges in the Detroit area, is carrying out a vision that hopes to cultivate an inclusive, multi-use community-driven space in, perhaps, an unfamiliar area to the Detroit native.
That community-driven focus is already in play and evident at Weiss’ tasting room, which has only been open for 10 months. It’ll be exciting to see what’s in store for the venue when everything is executed as planned.
As for the changing seasonal menus, the staff teased that there may be something fun in the tasting room for Valentine’s Day. Here’s hoping their seasonal menu trend continues.
The Weiss on Ice menu can be found below.