Two years ago, Sandy Levine revived the concept of pre-prohibition craft cocktail bars when he opened the doors to The Oakland Art and Novelty Company in Ferndale. The Oakland offers cocktails and vibe, trendiness with a dash of neighborhood bar where ‘everyone knows your name’.
Celebrating its second anniversary, Levine invited media for a behind the scenes tour and tasting, followed by two reservation-only seatings complete with a menu of hand-crafted cocktails.
What did we drink?
The Oakland starts out with the freshest premium ingredients available, including infusions, bitters and sodas that are made in-house.
I sampled the “Last Word”, a Detroit original, served in the 20s at the Detroit Athletic Club. Crafted by bartender Kaytee Querro, it’s actually a simple concoction of Plymouth English Gin, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, green Chartreuse and fresh squeezed lime juice. The chartreuse (made by monks) offers a satisfying herbal taste. Katie makes this drink slightly tart and delicious. For kicks, The Oakland also barrel ages this drink, which softens the taste, changes the mouth feel, and adds vanilla and caramel flavors. A definite ‘must-try’.
Next up was a trip out back to Honi Honi, a casual tiki bar featuring Mai Tais and other tropical favorites, where we got to bottle our own Singapore Slings.
Back inside, Mixologist Shane McGrath poured some award winning cocktails, including the “Likely Doubtful”, which he’ll be taking to Las Vegas next month for the national Bombay Sapphire cocktail competition. My favorite of the night was the “Agnostic Monk”, in which Shane pours house-made rye, Benedictine, falernum and lactart over ice, and then strains it into an empty rocks glass. Shane then takes an atomizer filled with scotch, and sprays it through an open flame to change the aroma of the cocktail. It’s part show, part amazing cocktails.
The Oakland, situated on Nine Mile in downtown Ferndale, has a continuously changing menu of classic cocktails and modern mixology, with an eye toward the booming craft cocktail movement that ended with prohibition and resurged around the year 2000. Seating is first-come, first-served, with no standing—this means you don’t have to navigate a wall of people at a crowded bar. Cellphone use is discouraged. Find The Oakland on Facebook and Twitter.
When the evening was done, I took advantage of a special promotion by Uber transportation, for a worry-free, safe and professional ride home. Find Uber at www.uber.com/cities/detroit.