Think313 had the opportunity to sit down with one of the owners of restaurant Grey Ghost, Will Lee. Having opened their doors in July 2016, Grey Ghost has already made a prominent name for themselves in the Detroit scene. Besides their contemporary, ever changing menu- their cocktail menu offers both Grey Ghost classics as well as new alcoholic beverages in collaboration with their dishes.
How did this all start?
Will Lee, starting with an artistic dream of creating commercials, was attending school at CCS studying advertising and graphic design. It was during this time he took on a job as a bar back in his early teens and found himself entranced with the fineness of bartending. “It’s a form of art. It’s a creative outlet,” says Lee. Originally being entered into competing by his manager, he would later continue on to enter in multiple national cocktail competitions for years to come. During a pop up event in Rochester, he met one of his partners and from there (in addition to a little bit of time), came the birth of Grey Ghost.
So why is it called Grey Ghost?
Grey Ghost was a rum smuggling pirate back in the 1920s, who spent his leisure in ransacking merchants along the Detroit River. A mysterious, faceless man only known by his grey mask, ran barrels of alcohol back and forth from Detroit and Canada during the Prohibition era. Until this day, Grey Ghost’s identity still remains a mystery.
In the case of Grey Ghost – Detroit, the man behind the booze is a frequently recognized face. Besides from spending majority of his time ensuring the restaurant is a running one, owner and inspiring serial restaurateur, craftsman Will Lee spends the rest of his time as a prodigious specialist behind the bar. With his extensive history in competing in national cocktail competitions and originating from other well-known locations such as Wright and Co. and Selden Standard, Will has developed the ability to grasp his inspirations from just about anything.
What really inspires his drinks?
“I get inspiration from everything. A couple of the drinks, I’ve just wandered through the walk in, the dry storage, or the spice shelf. I find an ingredient and I just roll with it. For instance, one of our drinks on the menu started with a sea salt that I found in Germack. The salt was an Applewood smoked sea salt from a valley in Washington. Since I thought it was really cool, I built everything around that but inspiration comes from everything.” – Will Lee
The particular drink, Strange Clouds, is a take on an Old Fashioned. Mainly consisting of Irish whisky, paired with notes of smoky maple syrup, walnut bitters and the addition of Scotch whisky, features the slight introduction of the Applewood sea salt. This savory, smoky, bittersweet concoction is made of ingredients made in house by the master bartender and something you must try yourself. If you’re not into this type of taste, there’s a variety of craft drinks from spirits to (sometimes local but always good) beers allowing anyone to find their preferred libation.
To check out Will’s craft for yourself, catch him over at Grey Ghost Detroit on 47 E Watson Street in Brush Park or check out the drink menu here.
By Victoria Tsai
Social Media Coordinator at JMJ Phillip Group