Low Bar, Traverse City’s New Speakeasy

Always do sober what you say you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.
~ Ernest Hemingway (via the Low Bar menu)

Evan Mixes It Up

Evan Mixes It Up

We had a chance to sit down at the new Low Bar with Matt Cozzens and Jim Smolak to talk about their new venture. Matt & Jim own 7 Monks Taproom and on December 5, 2013, the 80th anniversary of the end of prohibition, they opened a speakeasy-style establishment in the basement just next door to 7 Monks.

“I’m big on atmosphere when it comes to bars,” explains Jim. “We wanted to create something completely different down here.” 

They have done just that. Low Bar is quiet & candlelit with no TVs, windows or distractions, the perfect place for conversation and appreciation of their outstanding beverage selection developed by Executive Chef Joe Hess, bar manager Evan McKolay and mixologist Mickey Humpula. You’ll never hear a blender, and in addition to an impressive selection of top shelf bourbons, scotches and other spirits and a full range of classic 30s era cocktails – Cosmopolitan, Old Fashioned, Side Car, Hemingway – the Low Bar drink menu features a number of custom drinks.

Joe Starts on a Concoction

Joe Starts on a Concoction

“We locked the guys in Low Bar to see what they could come up with and they delivered!” Matt says. “These are epicurean drinks. We call them “Concoctions” and hope they can help you break the mold of settling for a rum and coke.”

For example, consider the Kentucky Jam. It’s named for the pumpkin beer jelly made by Matt’s mom that is shaken with Four Roses Bourbon, Carpano Vermouth, Merlet Brothers Cognac and house-made Hop Bitters. The result is a unique flavor you won’t find anywhere. It’s just one of many on a menu that the plan to grow to 100 drinks or more as they continue to study, experiment and develop new drink recipes.

Low Bar has a food menu that features cheeses, charcuterie and other small plates including fresh oysters that contribute to the tasting vibe. With plans for spirit tastings, seasonal cocktails and even mixology classes, it’s sure to be a hot destination.

Quiet Comfort

Quiet Comfort

Right now the 80 seat Low Bar is open Wednesday – Saturday from 5-midnight. To get in, just see the hostess through the nondescript door to the right of 7 Monks (126 S Union). They don’t take reservations, but if they’re full when you get there you can leave your name and a textable number with the hostess and warm up at 7 Monks. Find them at lowbartc.com or on Facebook.

Jim says, “Low Bar about the locals – that’s why we didn’t try to open in the summer. I hope people find that they can get lost down here.”

If our experience is any guide, you should be able to do exactly that.

We hope you will enjoy this slideshow featuring photos from the Low Bar along with some great Prohibition era photos from the archives at the History Center of Traverse City. TIP: Use the arrow key on your computer to move through the slideshow.