Empire Kitchen & Cocktails is raising the bar.

The new Detroit hotspot is not only bringing in locals who live at The Scott at Brush Park two and three times a week, but is also becoming a weekend destination for Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham suburbanites. A big reason why is the man behind the bar – Chuck Gellasch.

Chuck Gellasch


Chuck has been bartending for 24 years, most notably, opening Sugar House – where he focused on reinventing their classically inspired cocktail menu. He went on to open the Tasting Room at Detroit City Distillery in Eastern Market, has bartended at Wright & Company, opened Lady of the House, and is finally ready to settle down at Empire.


EXP: What’s your favorite cocktail to drink?

CG: I’m actually a local beer drinker. These days it’s Founders All Day IPA.


EXP: What’s your favorite cocktail to make?

CS: Right now, the Smoked Old Fashioned at Empire is popular. What makes it special is the process – you need to char a block of cedar wood, get a little smoke going, put an oversized ice cube in the glass and flip it upside down to trap the smoke. The burning wood leaves a little char on the ice itself which really absorbs the smoky flavor. When the smoke, bitters, syrup, and Rye Whiskey come together it’s magic.


Smoked Old Fashioned


EXP: What’s your go-to to eat at Empire?

CG: We have a very cool wood and gas-fired marble pizza oven that can reach 1,200 degrees. It makes the most delicious and crispy pizza crust. I always order the Empire pizza – it’s got mushrooms, green peppers, onions, and pepperoni.

Empire Pizza


EXP: Where do you eat when you’re not at Empire?

CG: I’m a fan of Roast, Selden Standard, Chartreuse, and of course The Apparatus Room. It’s nice to be in Detroit and be able to eat with a Michelin Star Chef.

Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails, The Apparatus Room, Selden Standard


EXP: What do you do on your days off?

CG: I’m a big soccer fan and Thomas Magee’s Sporting House Whiskey Bar in Eastern Market is probably the best soccer bar in the state. I take that back – it’s probably the best place in the entire Midwest to watch a soccer match. It also has an amazing whiskey selection. Not many people know that Erik Olson, the owner, named it after his two grandmother’s last names – Thomas and Magee.

Thomas Magee’s Sporting House Whiskey Bar


EXP: What’s your coolest Detroit bartender celebrity sighting?

CG: I’ve made drinks for Aretha Franklin, Michael Bolton, and Adrian Grenier twice.


EXP: What do you do for fun?

CG: Sleep. No, actually I golf – sometimes after work with buddies at Chandler Park in Detroit. I also write and perform stand-up comedy at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle. Currently I’m writing a TV show about my buddy Jerry. The working title is “Hillbilly in the Hood.”