A classic mix
Oakland Art Novelty Company gives cocktail fans a taste of the past
Published: November 2, 2011
"I like the idea of having a place you could dress up and not feel out of place, or you could come in with shorts and flip-flops and not feel out of place," Sandy says. "We have a certain amount of service people coming in at the end of the night, and we kind of encourage that, we're casual in interaction with the guests. Most people dress up enough while they're working. When I go out, I would prefer to wear jeans and a T-shirt."
And what goes better with relaxing than a well-balanced cocktail.
"We encourage drinking. In those days of Prohibition people drank from the time they woke up until the time they went to bed, so, those drinks are really solid recipes."
Also, given the Oakland's emphasis, there are some things they cannot do.
"We can't serve dirty martinis because brine comes in a jar. For a cosmo, we don't keep cranberry — but we do make a fresh raspberry syrup. We'll mix that up instead, and most people say it was the best cosmo they ever had.
"We're trying to push people a little bit just to expose themselves to things they haven't had 1,000 times before."
And there's a certain level of trust with a bar that is determined to create the perfect cocktail. "We measure every ingredient, everything we know, to 1/16th of an ounce — but if you order a Manhattan at another bar five nights a week, it won't turn out the same. ... Consistency and quality of product, overall it makes a really big difference."
And, similar to a speakeasy, Sandy is relying on customers to spread the news.
"We've been open for three months now, and I've stuck to the plan of not doing any marketing or promotion aside from Facebook and Twitter, so we can spread through word-of-mouth. That way the people who are really interested in drinks and food are our starting crowd. ... We thought they'd be really receptive to it and we were right."
Is concentrating on quality a workable business plan?
Sandy says, "I'm not really in this to get rich. I've been in the business long enough to know better. We're operating at a profit and that's all I really care about." In fact, he takes to heart the motto of Pappy Van Winkle's bourbon: "We make a fine bourbon, at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always a fine bourbon."
If the concept's success elsewhere is any indication, the Levines indeed stand to profit by it.
The Oakland Art Novelty Company is at 201 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-291-5295. Opens at 5 p.m., closes between 12:30 a.m. and 2 a.m.; closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Credit cards and debit cards accepted; handicap accessible.
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