Quick ÔÇö think of one of the most diverse neighborhoods in metro Detroit. One where more than 1 in 4 residents were born in another country and thereÔÇÖs a booming nightlife. What did you think of? Hamtramck? Ann Arbor? Troy?
What about Windsor, Ontario? Our neighbor to the south prides itself on its multiculturalism. Numerous different groups bring a wealth of cultural influences to the drinking and dining scene in the city of 313,700. Add to this a historic rum-running tradition and the largest whisky distillery in North America. If a jaunt over to Windsor isnÔÇÖt on your to-do list yet, it should be.
Adriano Ciotoli at knows a thing or two about the drinks scene in town. He founded the group in 2004 as an online dining guide, and since then, his company has evolved to cover bike and scooter tours, bar hops, and a dive bar crawl from Windsor to Detroit.
In 2022, WindsorEats got its very own space, a no-frills but eminently Instagrammable spot in the cityÔÇÖs historic Little Italy. The venue has themed events, which have included CiotoliÔÇÖs dogÔÇÖs Sweet 16 party, Caribbean Nights, a Taylor Swift-themed extravaganza, and regular occurrences like trivia nights. A bar menu filled with what Ciotoli calls ÔÇťapproachable craft cocktails for individualsÔÇŁ includes margarita and mojito flights.
The Windsor approach to drinks is familiar to Detroiters used to laid-back Midwest sensibilities.
ÔÇťHigh-end cocktails that have 17 different ingredients can be intimidating to a lot of people that donÔÇÖt normally go out for a drink,ÔÇŁ Ciotoli says. Most Windsor bars, even if theyÔÇÖre billed as craft cocktail spots, are ÔÇťvery laid-back, very approachable, so itÔÇÖs not something to be afraid of. WeÔÇÖre CanadaÔÇÖs south, so thatÔÇÖs our Southern charm.ÔÇŁ
Traditional taverns are a part of drinking culture in Windsor. Operating as a hotel since 1859 and a tavern since 1878, is an old-school roadhouse with a storied past of rumored Prohibition-era rum-running.
is a cozy wood-lined neighborhood bar with darts and live music; itÔÇÖs where Henry Ford signed the contract in 1904 to begin manufacturing in Canada.
Among WindsorÔÇÖs elevated craft cocktail bars, is a relative newcomer, arriving on the scene in 2019, but it quickly cemented its reputation by serving up classics like the aviation, vieux carre, and paper plane alongside creative and balanced house inventions and a full wine selection.
Drinks can be consumed on-site or ordered for takeout. is similarly crafty with a rapidly rotating cocktail menu and eye-popping drinks.
set the standard for craft cocktails in Windsor during the the cocktail revival and has expanded its empire.╠ř now has three more spots: and on the same street (Wyandotte) and on Devonshire Road.
At WindsorÔÇÖs cocktail bars, bartenders are drawing from their multicultural backgrounds as inspiration for drinks. Think espresso martinis with mole sauce-infused vodka; cocktails made with arak, a Middle Eastern spirit; and drinks celebrating Niagara wine or Italian aperitivos. Recently, a surge of Ukrainian immigrants has added to the ethnic mosaic that informs the drinks scene in Windsor.
ÔÇťItÔÇÖs all those little things that are happening across the world that you think are in some faraway land but are actually influencing our little pocket of the world,ÔÇŁ Ciotoli says.
Another immigrant of sorts to Windsor, albeit a historical one, has had an oversize influence on the beverage landscape of the city.
Walkerville, a historic neighborhood and popular nighttime spot, was founded by Detroiter Hiram Walker in 1858 when he moved his whisky distillery across the river to take advantage of laid-back liquor laws, later changing the brandÔÇÖs name to Canadian Club. Today, Walkerville is home to the largest distillery in North America and a burgeoning drinks scene.
Tours of the historic, run by the J.P. WiserÔÇÖs Experience, offer visitors a chance to sample and shop for rare and legacy-release whiskies. Several nearby bars and breweries round out the experience in the historic district.
Like Walker, who moved his business to Windsor but took the ferry from his Detroit home every day, many Windsorites and Detroiters consider the border a formality rather than an obstacle.
ÔÇťWe look at Detroit as a neighborhood of Windsor,ÔÇŁ Ciotoli says. ÔÇťDetroit is a massive part of life in Windsor.ÔÇŁ For smart and adventurous Detroiters looking for a new set of classic hangouts, Windsor should be the next neighborhood hot spot.
This story is from the November 2023┬áissue of ┴˝┴źav╣┘═°. Read more in our digital edition.╠ř