Dorothy Elizabeth made a name for herself in Detroit, behind and beyond, the bar of downtown’s favorite Standby. She made waves when press announced that she would be heading up The Siren Hotel’s Candy Bar. And broke hearts when she declared she was leaving.
Sometimes you need to break away.
We caught up with Dorothy from her new home in NYC.
CV Henriette: You tried to open a space in Detroit, but it didn’t work out. How’d New York get you?
Dorothy Elizabeth: I cannot say that I “tried to open a space in Detroit” because I didn’t. I was very fortunate to realize that I didn’t want to work with the Siren Hotel the same week my potential involvement was leaked to the press. Lessons were learned, but I had almost nothing to do with that space.
New York, on the other hand, is kind of a hilarious story. I think I was wine drunk with Ashton Swinton, and we were having this “WTF are we doing with our lives” moment. I think I looked at him and said “we should be in New York trying to get Michelin stars,” and then I sent some drunk emails. The rest kind of fell into place. My family is all based off the East Coast, so the move came naturally.
CVh: Has distance given you a new perspective on Detroit?
DE: Absolutely. There are so many things we do right from a food & beverage perspective. We’re such a young market, though. It interesting seeing the aspects where we’re cutting edge—here’s looking at you, Joe Rob & James Rigato. There are, however, other areas where we’re behind (ex: TEQUILA).
I tell everyone how much I love Detroit. I know I’m opening my own spot there, but I need to get a little more street cred before I settle down.
CVh: What’d your time in Detroit teach you?
DE: There is not anybody that’s going to keep me down. All of us in Detroit knew that the odds to succeed were against us, but it didn’t stop us from trying and crushing it. It takes a certain character and will to persevere to be in Detroit. Things don’t happen overnight here, and we all have to work every day to see an inch of progress. It makes these NYC pretentious cocktail cliques seem so superficial. They’re unwelcoming assholes, but it’s fine because I know I’ll keep pushing forward.
CVh: We miss you. Think you’ll ever return?
DE: Duh. Detroit has my heart. In the short term I’ll be back for some pop-ups. In the long term, I’ve got some things cooking.
CVh: How’d you get into bartending?
DE: Out of state tuition at U of M was very expensive. Work study jobs paid like $8/hour, and I didn’t have time for that.
CVh: What keeps you in the industry?
DE: It’s really fun. It’s social and light hearted. It has the appropriate amount of neediness required, but, at the end of the day, it’s not that serious. It’s flexible, and I like to travel. When I stop being able to go to Paris on the weekends and run off to Singapore on my holiday, then maybe I’ll stop.
CVh: Think you’ll do this forever? What’s this?
DE: Bartend? Oh, hell no! I do not have that much patience, and it’s bad for my skin. But I will stick with F & B in some form until I die.
CVh: What’s next?
DE: I’m teaching a bunch of classes for Portland Cocktail Week and San Antonio Cocktail Conference, and I’m currently working with Pam Wiznitzer and Chef JJ for their new spot Henry NoMad. Outside of that, I’m working on a book and my charity pop-up series, Friends of Dorothy, where I raise money for LGBT+ youth programs.
I’m coming to Detroit this fall (nailing down a few details), so you’ll see me soon!
CVh: On a scale of 1-10—least to most—how obnoxious are these questions?
CVh: What do you eat for breakfast?
DE: Banana and peanut butter.
CVh: Party store or bodega?
CVh: What time do you wake up?
DE: Questionable. School days around 7am to get Maddie to school and do yoga. Weekends probably more like noon.
CVh: Drink of choice?
DE: Cocchi Rosa & Tonic. No garnish.
CVh: Soda or pop?
DE: Soda. Sue me. I grew up in Jersey.
CVh: Most underrated spirit?
DE: Outside of Detroit: Chartreuse. Inside Detroit: Tequila.
CVh: Do you play any musical instruments?
DE: Hahaha, no. I only play with boys’ hearts.
CVh: Favorite vegetable?
DE: Arugula—and basically all basic bitch members of the lettuce family.
CVh: Least favorite vegetable?
DE: Raw onions.
CVh: Suntan or sunburn?
DE: Freckles all day.
CVh: Sun sign?
DE: Taurus, so earth sign.
CVh: What do you miss most about Detroit?
DE: I miss hungover brunches at Selden and techno music everywhere. I would kill for a wild night at TV, then some shady after-hours, and peeling myself out of bed to eat those little hash brown balls.
CVh: Tell us about the first time you got drunk.
DE: I was a senior in high school, and I was visiting my friends from summer camp in NYC. We got shitty vodka from a bodega, Jose Cuervo margarita mix, and a drinking game from Urban Outfitters. We got lit on the the roof of some skyscraper in the Upper East Side and wound up smashing a box of Dunkin’ Donuts.
CVh: Tell us about the last time you got drunk.
DE: It was an Exotica pop-up in Midtown thrown by Garret Richards (Existing Conditions) and Jimmy Colon (Raines Law Room). Tiki drinks are strong, and I was working my way through the menu. Drunk Dorothy came out and made an impression to say the least.
CVh: Saturday night. Dinner reservations anywhere in the world. Where?
DE: Mabel Gray. Mainly because I like to harass Paul Fradeneck. It’s my favorite restaurant in the world.
DII in NYC
CVh: Where’s the spot for live music in this town?
DE: Elsewhere in Brooklyn.
CVh: I’m hungry. Where are we ordering takeout?
DE: We’ll be drunk at 3am and peeling ourselves into Great NY Noodletown in Chinatown for giant bowls of wonton soup and Cantonese noodles. Or Empanada Mama on the Lower East Side.
CVh: Let’s embark on a city adventure. Where are we going? What’s the color of the sky? What’s that smell?
DE: Okay. Start off with breakfast at Chez Oscar (Bed Stuy) then a train into the city. We’ll wander around, eating cereal ice cream from Milk Bar, and tossing back drinks at Mace. It will probably be raining since it’s always like that in the fall. Everything will smell dewy, and we’ll wind up elbow deep in some Korean barbecue.
CVh: Favorite place you never been?
DE: Walking the Brooklyn Bridge. I’ve driven over it, but never done the walk. It’s on my to-do list.
CVh: Tell us something we don’t know. Anything.
DE: I’m obsessed with puns. I also really like making ice cream at home.
CVh: What’d I forget to ask?
DE: I think you nailed it. I should be asking for forgiveness with my poor syntax and sentence structure. Language arts was never my forte. I have always been more of a numbers gal.