Ever since we met one of Drexl’s ace bartenders at an Oakland event several months ago, we’d been meaning to visit this place in Oakland’s vibrant Uptown. Watching the talented Drexl bartender Marguerite Ann Regan expertly crafting four cocktails in a timed heat at the recent San Francisco Speed Rack competition further inspired us to check it out at last. After hearing the buzz about this bar for so long it was time to see — and sip — for ourselves.
When we walked inside Drexl, it felt a bit like we were entering a comfortable cave, with low lights and the concrete pillars inside. We found seats at the bar since the banquettes along the wall opposite were full of couples and groups enjoying an after-work happy hour libation. A larger group had congregated upstairs in the mezzanine, which is made available for private events. The interior has a stripped down look with an industrial edge. We noticed what looked like the remnants of long-ago colorful murals on one wall.
It’s no surprise that our fellow patrons seemed to have dropped in after a long day or a longer commute on BART, which is just a short distance away. The bar is in the middle of the action, with several large workplaces nearby and more to come. When we asked about Drexl’s patrons and regulars, our bartender told us that people who work together like to congregate there to unwind or continue a conversation, and that waves of different groups come in as the evening wears on. We also learned that we came on a night when Marguerite was off duty — this fact guaranteed a return visit for us.
As always, after observing the environs and getting comfortable on our barstool, we turned our attention to the cocktail menu. We always like to know of the crowd favorites before making a selection so that we can either go our own way or see if we agree with the popular choice. Drexl offers the option of a “dealer’s choice;” you can let the bartender know what you like and leave it up to him or her to create something unique to your taste ($12). We like this idea, but decided to order off the menu, perhaps waiting to have our signature cocktail created next time.
A couple of items on the specialty cocktail list that appealed were the It’s Gone Pear-Shaped (agricole rum, spiced pear liqueur, lemon and kölsch, a light, delicate, German ale ($12)) and the Drexl Daisy (gin, house-made grenadine, lemon and Lambrusco, a slightly sparkling, or frizzante, Italian red wine ($10)).
This time, the decision was easy. The drink we found most enticing happened to be one of two house favorites (with a great name): Rye of the Tiger #2 (rye whiskey, vermouth, Montenegro Amaro and bitters ($10)). My companion asked for the other most popular drink, named for an Uptown landmark: The Foxy Corridor (vodka, elderflower, Aperol and Prosecco ($10)).
When we commented to the bar-back about the “creamy” feel of the Rye of the Tiger, he kindly poured a small amount of the Montenegro Amaro in a shot glass for us to sip. Aha! That explained the luxurious element that brought out both the sweet and the bitter tastes we detected in our cocktail.
Drexl has a top-notch staff, offers creative and distinctive cocktails, and provides a comfortable atmosphere for friends and colleagues to meet and enjoy the beginning, or the end, of an evening together.
The crowd: Groups and couples relaxing after work. The later crowd is dominated by Uptown locals.
The drink: Rye of the Tiger #2
The one to try next time: Dealer’s Choice
When to go: Happy hour, after work, instead of a meeting, after dinner or a show.
Good to know for late-night cocktail-seekers: Open until 1:30 a.m. Sunday-Wednesday; until 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday.
Also good to know: During happy hour (4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 5-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday), all drinks are $1 off.