By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Apr 25, 2023 at 10:02 AM

Pufferfish, the tropical drink brand which launched three years ago as a pop-up, will now be a permanent fixture on the rooftop at Hotel Metro.

The grand opening for the rooftop bar – and the big reveal of its new space, designed by Three Sixty – will take place on Friday, May 5 beginning at 5 p.m.

Pufferfish, which began its journey as a pop-up at Lost Whale, enduring a full winter on the Bay View bar's outdoor patio before popping up around town. A sold out pop-up at Hotel Metro last June earned them a six-month residency on the Downtown rooftop.

“I was humbled to see over 400 people show up to our first pop-up at Hotel Metro,” says Pufferfish owner JC Cunningham. “When the line wrapped down two flights of stairs, onto the landing and out the door, we knew immediately that we had found our home.” 

Now operating in full partnership with the hotel, Pufferfish spent the winter renovating its space, which now boasts a mid-century modern-meets-tropical look and feel, which fits the brand while paying homage to the hotel's design.

“It’s a throwback to a time forgotten, where the drinks flow easy and time stops,” says Ian Starkey, Pufferfish general manager.

The main bar and rentable private event space, “The Fish Tank," will remain open year-round. In fact, guests can look forward to regular programming in The Fish Tank, including “Flight School,” featuring spirits and cocktail classes one Tuesday each month. 

Meanwhile, two outdoor rooftop patios – one on the Southwest and the other on the Northeast – will be open seasonally and as weather warrants.

With a menu designed by local artist and MIAD graduate Christian McKillop, Pufferfish will present its trademark tropical drinks, including a frozen Pain Killer, along with a solid collection of classic cocktails, which celebrate the history of the craft. Pufferfish will also feature a small, curated food menu created in collaboration with Hotel Metro and Oggie's Chef Aaron Miles. 

“Pufferfish was birthed of necessity during a wild time when we used it as a tool to rehire our entire staff,” notes Cunningham, “I’m thankful and grateful for everyone who has supported us over the years, and can’t wait to show them what this thing can look like as a fully functioning bar.” 

Beginning May 5, PufferFish will be open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.