Serving spirits past and present at Hamtramck's witchcraft cocktail bar

The shield-shaped sign hanging out front of 2764 Florian St. in Hamtramck has been lovingly restored; the craftsmanship required of which has been so well executed that those unfamiliar with the building’s past tenants would probably think it was new. Prior to its current incarnation, the sign announced its most recent tenant, a goth bar from the early to late-2000s called Mephisto’s. The sign, with its hand-painted orange flames curling up from the bottom, remained for years, and even well after Mephisto’s itself had closed.

Zoey Ashwood refurbished a 1960s-era sign for The Black Salt, a new witchcraft cocktail bar in Hamtramck.A lot of spirits have been served at 2764 Florian St. in Hamtramck, and in more ways than one. Zoey Ashwood purchased the dormant bar and has reconjured it as The Black Salt, a witchcraft cocktail bar that celebrated its opening in early March 2023. Located on Florian, a side street just off one of Hamtramck’s main drags, Jos. Campau Avenue, the building The Black Salt calls home was first built in 1917 and has hosted many a drinking establishment since then. There was Kolodziejczak Real Estate, a prohibition-era speakeasy in the 1920s and 30s; Joseph Kent Tavern in the 1950s; Club Florian in the 1960s; Michael G’s in the 1970s and 80s; Doc Z’s in the 1990s; and, of course, Mephisto’s in the first decade of the new millennium.

There’s a lot of history here, and it’s no surprise to hear Ashwood share that she’s been told plenty of stories of the building being haunted. Even the signs have ghosts.

“That sign was grandfathered in. It's part of the building, so anyone who owns the building owns the sign. I think it was put up in the 60s,” Ashwood says. “I stripped it down to its original layer and it had the ghost print of Club Florian under there.”

“I stripped (the sign) down to its original layer and it had the ghost print of Club Florian under there,” Ashwood says.That some believe 2764 Florian St. to have ghosts might scare away prospective buyers, but that certainly wasn’t the case for Ashwood. This is a witchcraft cocktail bar, after all. And while it might be easy for the uninitiated to conflate witchcraft bars with goth bars, Mephisto’s this is not. The Black Salt is decidedly and distinctly itself. The renovation work put in certainly distinguishes the bar from its previous tenants, but it’s also a new experience altogether.

“This building is really old. It has a lot of energy in it. It was Mephisto’s at one time, but we also have to consider all of the other bars that have been in here, all the other energies and spirits and people that have passed through these doors,” Ashwood says. “There's a lot of really great energy here, a lot of happy memories and I'm glad that Mephisto’s is a part of it. I’m happy that it had its goth club time; I’m very endeared to that. But, you know, those are memories, and now we're going to add on a pile of new memories.”

The Black Salt is located at 2764 Florian St. in Hamtramck.The Black Salt

Those new memories come courtesy of The Black Salt, a witchcraft cocktail bar that, depending on a customer’s inclinations, can present a more witchcraft or a more conventional craft cocktail experience. Either way, Ashwood says, there’s a great emphasis placed on the quality of ingredients that go into each drink. It’s up to the customer how they’d like it delivered.

“We’re really focused on our metaphysical homeopathic cocktails, getting into the deeper meaning of ingredients and why they’re put into cocktails. I mean, everything will taste good, but we certainly go beyond just the aesthetic choices,” she says. “I think it’s interesting. Sometimes you’re intuitively drawn towards what your body needs. So this is kind of encouraging that process, by putting a layer of information on top of it.”

2764 Florian St. before the renovations, still bearing the old Mephisto's sign.The menu includes beer, wine, and classic cocktails, like a caprice or an old-fashioned. And then there are the “spell cocktails,” an ever-growing list of cocktails that purport to encourage happenings of love, prosperity, and otherwise. Just as each spell cocktail features its own unique ingredients, so too does each come with its own unique ritual as performed by the bartender that serves it, incanting spells to achieve its desired effect.

Or not. It’s up to the customer. Ashwood wants The Black Salt to be the type of place that’s welcoming to everyone, regardless of how they feel about witchcraft and the like. They won’t host professional tarot card readings as she doesn’t want customers to feel bombarded by people offering services, but she certainly wants it to be a place where tarot card readers feel comfortable to come and have a drink.

“For me, it's about consent. I don't want anyone walking in and engaging in a process that they're not comfortable with when they're just here to check it out. So it begins with our coasters: one side of our coaster has a pointed star on it and the other side has our logo,” Ashwood says. Put the coaster logo-up, and the bartender will deliver the drink as one might expect from a more typical neighborhood bar. But put the coaster star-up, and the bartender will deliver your cocktail with its corresponding spell.

“The bartender is a part of the ritual that they perform while they're preparing the cocktail. And that can be anything from simply stirring the drink a certain direction to a spoken incantation, or even a visualization. They place an incantation on the cocktail, and then serve the drink.”

The Black Salt’s menu also features non-alcoholic versions of their cocktails, as well as coffees, teas, sodas, and more. By keeping her focus on quality of ingredients, Ashwood hopes to appeal to a wider base of customers than just those looking for alcohol. And while the idea of a witchcraft cocktail bar might be new to some, there’s a whole community of people that’s more than ready for it, she says.

“I was worried at the beginning about introducing the idea and if it would go over people's heads or if it would even have any traction. And I have been overwhelmed with people excited to come in and try this out. They’re also just grateful that there's a space to go to that's kind of like this that’s out in the open,” Ashwood says.

“This is the place where you can come and meet other people like you. You don't have to be so hidden anymore.”

The Black Salt is located at 2764 Florian St. in Hamtramck.
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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.