A report by Dana Eastland. We broke the news back in March that downtown Oakland is getting a new spot for tropical-inspired cocktails and spiritous adventure. It’s called LONGITUDE and comes from Suzanne Long, a tropical drink expert and rum educator who was previously the bar manager at Forbidden Island in Alameda. She’s created a very special interior with the help of Bamboo Ben, one of the best-known experts on tropical and tiki-style design. The theme of the bar is adventure, with a focus on equatorial and tropical parts of the world, and is reflected in the decor, menu, and cocktails.
First, the space. It’s a stunner, with layers of thoughtful elements that transport you to an exotic location. The bar is made of two slabs from one monkeypod tree from the big island of Hawaii, with lush green leather stools. The back bar has some beautiful stained glass, along with a woven panel, bamboo, and a backlit bottle display. Low-slung, green leather seating can be found throughout the space, along with raw wood textures, bamboo, and live plants. In one corner, a specially built East African-style hut is on a dais with animal print flooring and a unique woven canopy (this space will be available for groups to reserve). On the walls, there are art pieces from around the world, including masks from the Masai people of Kenya, and original works from Papua New Guinea, Brazil, and Indonesia.
In addition to the lush visual environment, they’ve also installed a custom sound system with 22 individually controlled speakers throughout the space. Each speaker is controlled by a unique microcomputer, and they all play actual field recordings from around the world. Because of the high-tech system, the speakers will all work together to create a layered sound. Fancy, right?
The spirits selection is expansive, with a focus on rum and whiskey from around the world. There are about 150 different bottles of each, with rums hailing from the Caribbean, of course, as well as unexpected locations like India, Paraguay, and Thailand. With the whiskey list, Long hopes to expand her audience’s view of the spirit, with choices extending far beyond Scotland and the United States (though of course they are well represented). There is a broad selection of Japanese whisky, as well as whiskeys from India, France, Belgium, and Australia. Those of you wanting to geek out can check out the full spirits list here. There will be flights available, or if you really want to go to the next level, you can sign up to try all of them in the Adventurer’s Club. Your name will be stored in a library card file, and they’ll keep track of each one you try. Anyone who tries all of them will receive a prize and VIP benefits, and of course major bragging rights.
In addition to the spirits selection is a drink list with an eye toward the classic tiki drinks of the mid-20th century, with classics like the mai tai (an Oakland native, of course) and a twist on the daiquiri, served in an ice shell. There are also some grogs, including the Navy Grog, with three different kinds of rum, lime, grapefruit, and spices served in a special glass that you can purchase to take home. Here’s the cocktail menu for your perusing pleasure.
The food comes from chef Laine Steelman, whose menu offers a few large plates inspired by classic British pub fare, like the ploughman’s lunch with cheeses, pickles, chutney, apples, and bread; or the bangers and mash (a vegetarian option is available, which is nice). Small plates dominate the menu, though, and have the same international, adventurous spirit as the rest of the endeavor. You’ll find riffs on midcentury “exotic” foods, like a housemade crab Rangoon, fried plantains, and a pupu platter with coconut shrimp, samosas, teriyaki beef skewers, and more (no rumaki, though, ha-ha). Here’s the full menu. While you’re checking out all those menus, be sure to note the illustrations of animals too. Those were drawn by Suzanne’s mom, Mary Long, who gifted them to Longitude. The originals are framed and hang in the space.
Right now, they are still ironing out some last-minute details, but Longitude should be open for business very, very soon. We’ll let you know just as soon as they do, or you can follow along on Facebook for updates! Hours will be Tue-Thu and Sun 4pm-12am, Fri-Sat 4pm-1:30am, closed Mon. 347 14th St. at Webster, 510-465-2008.