Back in the days of Prohibition, the Purple Gang kept the liquor flowing freely in Detroit and throughout the Midwest. Today, craft cocktails flow freely at The Oakland Art Novelty Company, better known as The Oakland in Ferndale, which takes its name from two establishments operated by the Purple Gang in the 1920s.
“The Oakland Sugar House was a speakeasy they ran on Oakland Avenue in the 6 Mile and Woodward area, and the Art Novelty Company had five or six nick knacks in the front and sold alcohol out of the back,” says Sandy Levine, owner of The Oakland.
At the Oakland, drinks are inspired from different eras and parts of the country, including the Fresca, which makes this only one of the cool things about this lush and shadowy speakeasy salon on a hot summer night.
“It’s a mutation of the Fresca Brava at Death + Company in New York City,” Levine says. “We replaced the strawberries with watermelon and the lemon with lime.”
When mixed with lime juice and yellow chartreuse, a barrel-aged liqueur made with 130 different herbs and honey, the watermelon takes on a fresh, sweet and slightly sour taste that’s akin to ruby red grapefruit.
“It’s our most popular summer drink,” Levine says.
3-4 1-inch cubes of watermelon
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
2½ ounces Don Julio Blanco tequila
Sprig of fresh mint
¾ ounce yellow chartreuse
Fill a Collins glass with crushed ice. (“Ice is a cooling method,” Levine says. “There’s a lot of liquor in this drink, and crushed ice acts as a dilution factor.”)
Muddle the watermelon cubes with the lime juice. Combine it with the tequila and shake with ice in a shaker. Pour the mixture over crushed ice.
Garnish with a watermelon spear and mint sprig. Float the yellow chartreuse on top of the drink.
The Oakland is located at 201 W. Nine Mile Road in Ferndale.
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