Sidebar on Grand Avenue is a good neighbor. Just up the block, Children’s Fairyland is preparing for its biggest event of the year — happening today — so Sidebar owners Mark Drazek and Barbara Mulas came up with a special cocktail for the occasion, and have been donating one dollar to Fairyland for each one sold until tonight’s gala dinner.
We have fond memories of bringing the youngest members of the Barstool family to Children’s Fairyland, and we are in favor of supporting the cause. So we paid a visit to Sidebar, hoping to relax and enjoy the special cocktail on a recent mid-week evening. Although one can look out on the newly spiffed-up Lake Merritt at Sidebar if one chooses, we sat facing the bar to better observe how our cocktails were composed.
We learn from the owners that we are not the only ones with treasured memories of Fairyland. Customers have been coming in to order the special cocktail and have been sharing their stories with the staff, which seems to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy even before they have lifted a glass.
Ingredients in the Fairyland special include Cachaça (Brazilian rum made from sugarcane instead of molasses), lime, pineapple gum (an ingredient that harks back to Pre-Prohibition days), and rosemary. This cocktail is the perfect choice for a warm and breezy evening: citrusy and cool, with a subtle rosemary flavor. Savored slowly, the drink’s flavors seem to intensify. We leave nothing in our glass, except the sprig of rosemary.
On a previous visit, we had noticed the collection of cocktail recipe books in one corner of the copper bar. We also noticed that the cocktail menu includes two versions of a number of drinks — Classicist and Locavore: if you choose the Classicist version of the Manhattan, for example, you will see a reference to the source of this recipe: a bartender’s manual published in 1888. (And if you’re curious about a particular recipe, you may be able to do some research on the spot.)
These classic drinks (Martini, Manhattan, Aviation, Bee’s Knees, Tom Collins, Shanghai Buck, Corpse Reviver and Pisco Sour), when made with a locavore twist, feature housemade syrups and locally grown or produced ingredients such as Hangar One Vodka. According to owner Mark, the most popular drinks in the house are the Manhattan and the Bee’s Knees (in the classic version: gin, maraschino liqueur and lemon juice).
Hanging out at Sidebar, reminiscing about Fairyland — or just enjoying the vibe and the view of the Lake — make for a most pleasant way to spend an evening among friends and neighbors.
The Drink: Fairyland
The Vibe: Friendly, welcoming, warm and fuzzy
To Try Next Time: the Manhattan, or the Bee’s Knees— both ways
The Crowd: Folks from the neighborhood, lakeside strollers, casual diners: an Oaklandish mix
The Deets: Sidebar Oaktown, 542 Grand Ave. across from Lake Merritt
Risa Nye, aka Ms. Barstool, is a freelance writer based in Oakland. She writes the blog Zero to Sixty and Beyond.