In the land of the liquor store, where smashed bottles litter the streets and the promise of high class intoxication is brought to you by Napa wines, you might be wondering: why cocktails? Why not a shot of whiskey? Why not a beer? Why not a pint from the corner store? Well, as Oakland grows into its newly found status as a culinary heavyweight in the Bay Area pantheon of foodie culture, it’s only logical that the era of the cocktail is upon us. While individual spirits or glasses of wine might pair well with your $30 fried chicken dinner, there’s a vast world of liquid creativity waiting on the other side of the menu – just turn it over, and, no, not the wine section, and not the beer section, but, yes, there it is: the cocktail menu.

If you take a minute to gander at your cocktail menu, you’ll quickly realize the level of creativity and culinary mastership put into the food portion of your menu can also manifest on the cocktail menu. Esoteric ingredients, high-process cocktails, fine spirits, an attention to detail and an emphasis on accurate execution – all the thought and attention that went into preparing your meal is also going into your cocktail. So rather than overlooking yet another facet of your fine dining experience, trust in your bartender just as you trust in the chef in the kitchen. Trust in your bartender’s wide knowledge of spirits and ingredients, their apt ability to connect with guests and ascertain a drink that you, and you alone, will enjoy. Their knowledge of the food you ordered gives them a keen sense of what will pair well with your meal.

Because a cocktail is more than just a sugary version of getting drunk. It’s not just lemonade and vodka with mint leaves thrown in. There’s care in the cocktail. There’s thought in there, and the same voyage of flavor and texture that you and your rib-eye steak are going on tonight – you can go there with your cocktail, too. Your cocktail can surprise you with hidden flavors, elements of spices and herbs that are wafting subtly beneath the unassuming pink surface. There’s a world of taste and style, just sitting there in that martini glass. It’s yours if you choose to take it, and whether it manifests as a Basil Hayden’s Manhattan, a tall cocktail with crazy ingredients like Zaya rum, Luxardo Maraschino and a giant mint sprig, or that interesting looking drink that the bartender served someone else and was dubbed “Manifest Destiny” – well, ask yourself: when was the last time you tried something new? Because, best case scenario, you wind up drinking something so magnificent, so tasty that it completely changes your perspective on what a cocktail can be. Suddenly, you find a new favorite bar, a new favorite restaurant, and a drink worth crossing town to drink one a week. Worst case scenario, even if you don’t like the drink, let your bartender know. She’ll probably make you something else, and you’ll be consuming alcohol regardless of what happens. That’s the point anyways, right?

About The Author

Pilar Vree is an East Bay native who bartends at Penrose. She runs the blog Oakand Alcohol, Fuck Feast, and the Instagram account @oaklandalcohol.

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