The patio at Maiden Lane Wine & Spirits was our first ‘social stop’ once Windsor entered phase two, and the calm energy from the streets being closed with little, buzzing, pockets of activity scattered throughout downtown was electric. Now that the pandemic has thrown us into a world with limited choices for entertainment, we’re more grateful than ever to have this fantastic option that caters to working professionals, like the three of us.
We’ve always had a deep appreciation for the type of bartender that owner, Mark Dutka is. Together with Sommelier co-owner, Sarah Dewar, they’ve crafted an experience inspired by the regimented and precise, Japanese-style cocktail culture, with a carefully selected list of wines that can’t be found at any LCBO. It’s no surprise that the locals have been showing love for their business since they opened in Spring 2019, but for us, it’s even more exciting to hear that they’ve been attracting a steady stream of tourists as well; many of them from our neighbours to the North, who are curious enough to make the trip, even though they have a well-known cocktail culture of their own.
It’s no surprise to us that Mark & Sarah were met with some heavy opposition when they chose the location (fairly close to the downtown mission) and went through the process of changing the zoning from retail to food and beverage. The concept of a craft cocktail bar seemed far-fetched to those who remembered downtown solely for kiddy bars, “vodka crans”and Sweet Home Alabama. Thankfully these owners knew we all deserved something better, and if Windsorites will happily walk downtown Detroit, our residents should understand (after a small mental shift) that population density is what downtown needs – when you want a city to change, spend more time in urban areas, at special places like this!
Mark’s commitment to his elevated standards is as permanent as his ‘Death Before Sour Mix’ tattoo. He’s deeply entrenched in the local bartending scene and is the president of the bartender’s guild, where like-minded members get together monthly to share ideas. We actually had no idea how deep this subculture runs until our afternoon chat with Mark. For example, we now know that a ‘bartender’s handshake’ is an unspoken ritual of many a hospitality industry vet: a revered go-to drink from one barkeep to another. It’s equal parts secret password, insider’s wink, and sign of solidarity. In Windsor you’ll end up with a shot of Fernet Branca, and pre-covid they were going through about a bottle a day.
Maiden Lane Wine & Spirits‘ commitment to excellence doesn’t stop at their cocktails and higher-end wine, either. They cure their own meats and stock a healthy supply of tinned seafood from Spain (among many other local and exotic treats), which makes for killer charcuterie and happy hour tapas. They also have a low and non-alcoholic menu for the ‘sober curious’ among us. Their patio is open weekly, seats 20-30 people and as of now no reservations are required. Follow them on their socials for changes and updates to their hours and offerings.