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Fancy Cocktails at Down-to-Earth Sidebar

There are a lot of things to like about grabbing a cocktail at Sidebar, a restaurant on Grand Avenue, near Lake Merritt:

• There are only eight drinks on the menu, no ridiculously long lists with paragraph descriptions of the cocktails.
• The bar is filled with a diverse crowd: age, race, etc. It's not just tattooed 30-year-olds with old-timey facial hair.
• The drinks are made with great ingredients and are well-executed by friendly bartenders.
• Each of the eight drinks can be ordered in a classic or local form.

What does that mean? Take the Aviation. Order the classic version and they'll serve a respectably traditional drink: just gin, maraschino liqueur, and lemon juice. Fancy something fancier? The "locavore" version is made with No. 209 gin distilled in the Bay Area, cherry eau de vie made by Alameda's St. George Spirits, house-made spiced violette syrup, and Meyer lemon juice. There is no wrong way to go.

542 Grand Avenue, Oakland