Old City Soda to Open Old City Libations in Detroit Shoreway


Mike Gulley (left) and Sean Adkins - PHOTO BY JAMES DOUGLAS
  • Photo by James Douglas
  • Mike Gulley (left) and Sean Adkins
From the start, Old City Sodas have been geared to the high-end cocktail market. Founder Mike Gulley, a veteran bartender, saw the need for better mixers to go along with the burgeoning craft cocktail scene so he began formulating them. While they can be enjoyed right out of the bottle or tap, Old City Ginger Beer, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime and Hibiscus sodas seem to come alive in cocktails.

That’s why the group's forthcoming “soda bar,” Old City Libations, makes perfect sense. When it opens later this month, the 2,500-square-foot storefront space (6706 Detroit Ave.) in the Near West Lofts building in Detroit Shoreway will offer draft sodas, draft cocktails and draft beer brewed with Old City Soda.

“We feel like we’re doing something totally different,” says co-owner Sean Adkins. “We aren’t trying to be your typical shot-and-a-beer bar. You’re not going to walk in and find every bottle known to man. Everything we serve will be wrapped around Old City Soda.”

Adkins describes the look and feel of the space as “old meets new,” a modern representation of old industrial in a hip and upscale way. While there, guests can enjoy a ginger beer-based Moscow Mule, or an Old City 75, a twist on the French 75 cocktail.

“The Old City 75 is a nod to the classic French 75, but we are infusing some of our German heritage by using a crisp London dry gin, German Gewürztraminer, and Old City lemon soda,” Gulley says. “We are pouring this one on draft so even though we are using a still wine the composite cocktail will be carbonated just as if we assembled it with sparkling wine.”

Another draft cocktail is the Pete Rose, a take on the classic Jack Rose with apple brandy, bourbon, Old City Grenadine, Old City Lime soda and aromatic bitters. Draft beers like Platform’s Orange Blossom Gose, a collaboration with Old City Soda, will join other new collaborative brews. Customers will be able to purchase Old City Sodas to go in bottle form, but also growlers filled with cocktail-ready sodas.

For eats, Old City Libations will have a kitchen preparing Bavarian-style pretzels and deep-fried pretzel bites served with gourmet dipping sauces. The menu will expand down the road.

“'Old city' is a direct translation of our mothers’ maiden name, Altstadt,” Adkins explains. “We decided to represent that German heritage through the food by wrapping the concept around gourmet Bavarian pretzels.”

The retail shop is not an effort on the part of Gulley and Adkins to step away from the wholesale side of the business. In fact, it is designed to bolster it by serving as Old City Soda’s HQ and marketing center, says Adkins.

“We can bring in restaurant groups and show them our interpretation of high-end fast-casual cocktails using our soda-based cocktail mixes,” he notes. “There is still a strong focus on us promoting our Old City Soda brand as a ready-to-drink soda on a regional and national basis in restaurant and bar locations.”

Currently, Old City Soda makes its way in kegs and bottles to 65 different accounts in Northeast Ohio and Columbus. It is still made the old-fashioned way with all-natural fruit juices and pure cane sugar and without corn syrup, preservatives or anything artificial or processed. For now, Gulley whips up his refreshing elixirs in a 5,000-square-foot production facility in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood, but that might be changing in the future.

All of this progress and growth is surprising given that Gulley first began brewing his soda in small batches in his apartment just three years ago. Now, on Saturday, August 20th, he and Adkins will officially launch Old City Libations at an invite-only soft opening. They will close for a week to fine tune the operation and open to the public on Saturday, August 27th.

“This concept was always part of the plan and to see it come to fruition is great,” Adkins says.

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