The Oakland Art Novelty Company: Drink Crafting Just Got Serious
Ferndale's newest imbibing station brings crafted drinks and old school ambiance to downtown Ferndale.
Not all cocktails are created equal.
A well-crafted cocktail is much more than a mixture of booze and juice. It is a precisely measured blend of ingredients, which are created for balance, texture, aroma and drinkability. When taken in moderation they make you feel good all over.
For the past couple of decades, corporate brand managers have struggled to position their particular labels of flavored vodka and sweet liqueur on the ubiquitous “martini” menu filled with all sorts of bizarre, artificially flavored concoctions, and even desserts. The truth is a martini is made with gin and vermouth. And, if you're looking for a proper one, stop into Ferndale’s new speakeasy-style cocktail lounge, The Oakland Art Novelty Company.
Like an upscale restaurant that minds every fine detail that goes into a dish, The Oakland uses house made bitters, syrups, sodas, and freshly squeezed citrus to create their drinks. The emphasis here is on craft, and prices will reflect the quality ingredients and the time that goes into the delicate technique of making a cocktail of merit. If you order a Ramos Gin Fizz, expect a few minutes wait before taking your first sip. In the meantime, chat with your bartender, or munch on the varying popcorn-of-the-day flavored with elements like vanilla salt and paprika.
Capable of tying a bowtie in under a minute with no assistance, and suggestive of a young Elvis Costello, owner and manager Sandy Levine has worked in the restaurant business for 20 years. He started out waiting tables at his grandparent’s deli in Bloomfield and then moved around the country for awhile. It wasn’t until a brief spell living in Chicago and frequenting The Violet Hour; a renowned Wicker Park lounge that Levine understood his passion lay in classic cocktails.
Returning home in the mid 2000s, he improved and expanded an already decent cocktail program at Atlas Global Bistro in Detroit’s Brush Park District. Somewhat frustrated by having less influence over the cocktail programs at his next couple restaurant gigs in Birmingham, he started writing a business plan and discovered the space in Ferndale that once held Nami Sushi. He found Ferndale to have the ideal marriage of style, a government enthusiastic about small business, and a convenient location between the suburbs and city.
The vibe inside of The Oakland is mellow and dark purple soaked in the soft glow of candlelight and elegant chandeliers. The fitting soundtrack is early jazz played at a gentle level so as conversation is not a chore. This is not the type of bar where folks will stand three-deep on a Saturday night. Indeed, Levine aims to keep the bar below its capacity of 70 people, if possible. He hopes to keep everyone comfortable in one of the 55 seats.
Now that a few weeks of a soft launch to reservation-only imbibers have passed successfully, The Oakland will be open to walk-ins from 5 p.m. until 1:30 a.m., Wednesday through Sunday. The seasonal menu currently has a list of about 20 drinks, all of which cost $9. Eventually, there will be a short but thoughtful list of beer and wine for customers that desire something other than the hard stuff.
Levine’s goal with The Oakland Art Novelty Company is not only to mimic already successful bars in big cities across the country and create quality cocktails of distinction but also to be a place of innovation. A place that helps put the Detroit area back on the map as a world class drinking destination.