We felt very much out of our element walking into Oakland Juice and Co. recently. Located in the Jack London Warehouse District, this is an establishment that serves juice: a juice bar, not a bar bar. But Ms Barstool had heard about the company’s new collaboration with Verbena infusions (which do include alcohol), and decided to sample the new menu, which is billed as “OJ & Co. Cold-Pressed and Fresh-Fruit Infused Cocktails.”
As long as there are cocktails to try, we will be there. Even if “there” is a place that serves raw, cold-pressed juices by day (and night).
On the evening we made our tentative entrance, Oakland Juice & Co., in collaboration with Verbena, was introducing a number of inspired fruit-infused cocktails, which are being served Thursdays through Saturdays from 5:00 p.m-10:00 p.m.
As we tried to figure out whether to try a drink with beets in it or not, we were fortunate to have a chance to speak with bartender Bret Sylvester, the man behind Verbena. At this point, he said, “It’s a one-man company.”
Sylvester creates the grape brandy infusions himself, and is hands-on throughout the process, from choosing the height-of-the-season fruit, to highlighting the fruit flavors with the right ingredients, to creating the cocktail menu (and mixing our drinks).
Sylvester will be pouring and mixing drinks at OJ & Co. for the next several weeks to help get the new program up and running. He’s a local guy, born in Berkeley, and is passionate about his ready-to-drink product, which is now carried at Whole Foods. The tantalizing and lightly carbonated concoctions currently in rotation include: Lemon, Pomegranate, Pear, Cherry, and Meyer Lemon.
After carefully studying the menu, we requested a “What’s up Doc”: a combination of Local Love (carrot and cucumber juice), Sutton Cellar’s Vermouth, Pear Verbena, and lemon.
The idea of carrots and cucumber in a cocktail (garnished with a curl of pickled carrot), struck us as both a bit unusual and suspiciously healthy. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we tasted our first sip. Refreshing, carroty, and unlike anything we’ve ever tried. Intensely orange with a smooth texture, served in a small Mason jar (as are all the drinks we tried), this drink caused us to sit up and take notice. It doesn’t just work as a cocktail, it is a game changer for people who might shy away from the standard, boozier fare found at more traditional watering holes.
As Sylvester points out, a person can have a few of these drinks, and still feel healthy in the morning. “No hangover,” he promises.
Encouraged by our tasty foray into the world of cold-pressed juice and spirits, we had to try one more: the Avocado Daiquiri. It is, as expected, avocado green, served with a mint garnish in a Mason jar. Blended smooth, with OJ & Co.’s Hydrate (cucumber and mint), Lemon Verbena, and aloe vera, this drink nearly knocked us off our barstool. This unexpectedly delicious, frosty concoction may draw us back for another. If our bartender is correct, we might even have more than one next time.
Other new additions to the menu include a variety of bar snacks (all vegetarian): beet boats, spring pizza, tacos, and more; a selection of sweet and savory cheese boards, and a dessert (a strawberry and rhubarb crumble the night we visited.)
Carrots in a cocktail? We are convinced. Oakland Juice & Co.’s raw, cold-pressed juices and Bret Sylvester’s hand-crafted beverages are a winning combination.
The drink(s): What’s Up Doc, Avocado Daiquiri
To try next time: Mardi Gras or Cherry Sling, or both
When to come for cocktails: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings only (5:00-10:00 p.m.)
To remember: If you plan to drink the cocktails, ID is required.
The crowd: Neighborhood juice fans and curious cocktail drinkers
The Deets: Oakland Juice & Co, 202 2nd St (at Jackson), Oakland
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