Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Spice Monkey/Howden Market Launch Curbside Cocktails-to-Go

The downtown Oakland restaurant will offer spirits, wines, local beers, and DIY cocktail kits.

By S. Rufus
Wed, May 13, 2020 at 4:00 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF SPICE MONKEY
  • Photo courtesy of Spice Monkey

Downtown Oakland's Spice Monkey Restaurant is now launching an innovative new curbside beverages-to-go program.

Images started appearing today on social media, and the Spice Monkey Curbside Bottle Shop goes live this Friday, May 15 — offering spirits, wines, beers (especially local brands), hard kombuchas, ciders, bitters, tonics, and freshly made cocktails as well as DIY cocktail kits in three different sizes, containing all the ingredients to craft your own at home.

This new program was developed by Ananda Neil, founder of the Oakland-based Craft Bar Services company, which curates drinks for major festivals and sporting events.

"During my 'pandemic gig' — revamping the beer and wine department for [Spice Monkey's adjacent grocery store] Howden Market — Spice Monkey's owner Kanitha Matoury and I came up with the idea to bottle and offer a to-go menu of cocktails," explained Neil, a certified sommelier who is also the beverage director for the Oakland Pride Festival.

"The idea is to order online and then pick up the drinks at our sidewalk-accessible counter — or we will literally walk it curbside for drive-up hand-off," Neil said.

Pickup hours will be from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily. An outdoor parklet flanks the restaurant — located in the historic Howden Building, which was built in 1925 and originally housed a floor-tile manufacturer.

The pre-mixed cocktails include Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and Negronis.

Containing cups, ice, citrus garnishes, and more and available in sixteen-, 32-, and 64-ounce versions, the cocktail kits allow users to create Pineapple-Poblano Margaritas, Lavender-Cucumber Collinses, and Bourbon-Ginger Sours.

A key ingredient in the kits is Fresh Victor mixers — a local line of seven different fresh, clean-label, cold-pressed juice-based mixers that contain such elements as organic agave nectar and fresh prickly-pear purée and launched retail distribution throughout the Bay Area late last month.

Since discovering the brand through its cofounder (and his colleague) H. Joseph Ehrmann, owner of San Francisco's iconic Elixir Saloon, Neil has used Fresh Victor mixers "almost exclusively" at large events, he said, hailing their "superb quality and consistency."

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF SPICE MONKEY
  • Photo courtesy of Spice Monkey

A Cambodian immigrant who served nine years with the US Air Force, later renowned locally as a tea artisan and chef, Matoury has helmed Spice Monkey for thirteen years.

These strange days call for innovation and reinvention, so Spice Monkey — whose Comedy Oakland stage has thrice won the "Best Place for Comedy" category in the East Bay Express Readers' Poll — stages online comedy performances via Zoom and streams "socially distant performances" by local musicians.

Performing this Friday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and enjoyable online is Oakland-born singer-songwriter Jennifer Johns with a scaled-down band featuring San Francisco guitarist-composer Ben Misterka.

Johns "is one of Oakland's best artists at the moment. Her entire summer tour was cancelled," Neil said.

To place drink orders, call or text 415-264-4866 or email SpiceMonkeyToGo@gmail.com.

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