Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | August 24, 2010



Photo by YouthRadio on Flickr

While I was in the Bay Area last week, I did something I rarely do when I’m traveling: went to the same bar multiple times in one trip. Actually, I went to Flora three times last week. First, it was incredibly convenient to where I was staying and working. But more importantly, it was incredibly good.

Flora is located in an Art Deco building – something that is really common in that part of Oakland – and resides under a large neon sign, Oakland Flower Depot. The inside was clean and classic, carrying through the Art Deco themes.  Flora is  set up as a  traditional restaurant space – seating at tables and a large bar. In fact, when I first entered I really thought I was just going to a restaurant with a decent bar program. I did not know what was in store for me.

The first thing I usually notice when I go to a cocktail joint is there back bar. This also tends to be the thing that I look at much of the night, figuring out what I could order beyond the menu. Flora had a big, clean set of shelves, topped with Art Deco sculptures and a bad-ass but not functional Old Overholt clock. The range of spirits immediately impressed upon that I was in a good spot. Usually it is only the geekiest of cocktail joints that have Peruvian bitters, Cocchi Americano, and Amaro Montenegro.

Since I was at Flora three times, I was able to have a big range of their cocktails and have multiple bartenders serve me. Across the board, the drinks were well-made and the bartenders, especially Troy and Jessica (I failed to note the name of my third bartender), very knowledgeable.

A couple of my favorites from my time at Flora. First, probably my favorite cocktail was The Moncada. It was made with Tanqueray 10, R&W Orchard Pear, rhubarb and blood orange bitters. It has a similar profile to a Dry Martini, but is a lighter alternative and definitely worth a try if you visit Flora.

I was also, obviously, a big fan of The Peddler – made with Ransom Old Tom Gin, Cynar and Carpano Antica formula vermouth. I think every bar should have a good Negroni variation – it’s such a great cocktail with so much room for variations on it. The Peddler was rich and savory, with slightly less bitterness from a traditional Negroni, but with just as much depth and complexity.

Troy made me a drink that I had that was off the menu, but a really great cocktail worthy of mentioning: a Rum Crusta. I’ve had brandy and bourbon crustas before – they’re good cocktails, but can end up out of balance quite easily with all the sweet ingredients. Troy made his with Rhum J.M. VSOP, Luxardo Maraschino, Cointreau, and fresh lemon juice, served in a sugar-rimmed coupe glass. It was just great – well balanced and refreshing, while the high-quality JM VSOP stood out with its own complexity amidst a flurry of other potent ingredients. I’m not sure that I’m going to become a regular drinker of Rum Crustas, but when I do, I will definitely use higher-end bottlings like this.

I never sat down at Flora with the intention to write a review, so this is going to be a bit shorter and less detailed than usual. I’ll definitely be heading back in the not-too-distant future and will do so knowing I’ll enjoy great food and great drinks served by very knowledgeable bartenders.


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