Every time Jessica Moncada wanted a bottle of high-quality spirits, driving into San Francisco always seemed like the only option.
“If trying to find any quality spirit that doesn’t fall into the recognizable brands like Bulleit you’d have to start looking beyond the average liquor store. While Bevmo has a wider selection, the staff knows nothing about the products and certainly couldn’t tell you how to turn it into a cocktail. The places in the city also had reliable bar tools that I could grab on my way to work,” Moncada tells us.
The idea behind Proof – Oakland’s Bottle Shop began after Moncada had been working in the restaurant industry and developed a deeper appreciation for craft cocktails and hospitality. Around this time, she began to see a shift in Oakland.
“It’s important to me as a woman of color to be on the forefront of Oakland’s business revitalization,” she says.
Photo by Neil Roche
Jessica and her father moved to Oakland in 1994 after being priced out of the city. All her grandparents including her 100-year-old great grandmother still live in San Francisco. Both her family home and business are both located in Fruitvale.
We asked Jessica, how Proof will fill a void in Oakland’s business scene. She tells us, “As a queer woman of color, I check the major diversity boxes. This is also given me a desire and know-how to create a business that is truly inclusive. I also have a long rich experience in the service and hospitality industry. In many ways, my business will be a bartender for bartenders. I know what spirit enthusiasts want because I am one.”
As a former bartender at Bourbon & Branch and after working at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, opening a bottle shop seemed to be a perfect gateway to follow in her family’s footsteps of successful Oakland business owners. Moncada also wants to fill a void that Oakland has in high-end spirits and craft beer, but keep the vintage feel of the old-school corner store.
What is her favorite spirit? Moncada says, “Oh. That’s a tough one. I really like Suntory of Japan. The 12 yr Hakashu is such a beautiful and bright expression of whiskey and very reflective of Japanese culture.”
Speaking more locally, she says “I really love all the folks over at St. George of Alameda. They have been so supportive and have made some of my favorite spirits over the years. One of my favs was the Agua Libre Agricole rum. It was so funky and distinctive of their style my mouth waters just thinking about it. I can’t wait for them to make more.”
She says of the owner and one of the master distillers, “We ended up having a long conversation about sourcing things like sugar cane in California. The drought we had here greatly affected our agriculture and that ends up being reflected in the spirits that are produced. I think folks forget that whiskey, beer, and cocktails all start with plants. A big focus of my business is to educate people about how and why spirits are made.”
Jessica compares bartending to mixing potions, “It brings out my witchy-ness.” She currently works at her father’s, Red Bay Coffee. The brewery next door, Ale Industries, uses their coffee to make their highly rated Fruitvale Grind.
We asked Jessica what an example of a spirit you would look for in Oakland, couldn’t find and have to drive into SF for? “If trying to find any quality spirit that doesn’t fall into the recognizable brands like Bulleit you’d have to start looking beyond the average liquor store. While Bevmo has a wider selection the staff knows nothing about the products and certainly couldn’t tell you how to turn it into a cocktail. The places in the city also had reliable bar tools that I could grab on my way to work.”
In addition to carrying a carefully curated selection of bourbons, whiskeys, tequilas, and mezcals, and craft beer, Proof will also sell new and vintage barware and host a variety of classes and tastings.
Through these photos, you can get a sense Proof’s welcoming vibes.
Currently using a mix of a small business loan, private investors, and crowdfunding, Moncada hopes to open Proof in Fall 2017. Located near the intersection of Broadway and Grand Avenue, “It all hinges on approval from the City of Oakland,” she says.
To help get Proof off the ground, Moncada has launched a $45,000 Kickstarter campaign, by donating you are helping support black-owned and woman-owned businesses.
You can follow Jessica and Proof – Oakland’s Bottle Shop on Instagram and Facebook.