Hello Stranger’s Oaksterdam Tastes, Smells Like Pot

The most popular drink at the trendy bar won’t get you high, because it’s full of OG Kush terpenes, not THC.


The Oaksterdam at Hello Stranger marries cocktail and cannabis culture.

Photo by Lori Eanes

Oakland is on the cutting edge of cocktail culture and cannabis connoisseurship. Yet the two scenes thrive independently  — side by side, but never intersecting. That is, until now.

Hello Stranger, a trendy new bar near Uptown, recently started featuring what might be the world’s first marijuana-flavored cocktail. Invented by bar manager and co-owner Summer-Jane Bell — who has taught seminars in avant-garde cocktail design — the “Oaksterdam” combines rye, cognac, vermouth, and “OG Kush terpenes,” which for the uninitiated requires a bit of Marijuana 101.

“‘Terpene’ is the technical name for the natural chemical compounds that impart intense flavor and aroma to certain plants,” Bell clarified. “The exact chemical structure of what gives OG Kush its unmistakable taste and smell has all been spec’d out, and so while the terpenes used in the Oaksterdam are actually derived from other plants, they replicate the flavor of OG Kush exactly.”

But what’s “OG Kush”? It’s a popular strain of potent marijuana that, according to cannabis reviewers, “carries an earthy pine and sour lemon scent with woody undertones, an aroma that has become the signature of OG Kush varieties.” It’s also famous for being just about the strongest strain of cannabis ever developed. Although the Oakserdam’s terpenes smell and taste exactly like cannabis, they contain no THC, and thus are not psychoactive. Because of this, Bell pointed out, “the Oaksterdam would be legal to serve here even if pot hadn’t been decriminalized in California.

“Some people do get disappointed when they learn that the Oaksterdam won’t actually get you high,” she added.

 “But, even so, most customers are thrilled just by the idea. I designed it as a fun cocktail that gives you the vibe of being at a really cool party. But I don’t want my guests to end up passed out on the floor.”

She’s got a point. Although the practice of cross-fading (getting drunk and stoned simultaneously) is little-researched, the few studies that have been conducted suggest that alcohol and THC somehow magnify and accelerate each other’s effects.

“This is a dance bar, after all,” Bell noted. “I’ve got to keep the energy up, not knock everyone unconscious.”

The cocktail’s name celebrates the neighborhood around Hello Stranger, dubbed Oaksterdam after the cannabis university that anchors the area.

As for that “world’s first” status: The Los Angeles bar Gracias Madre does serve a cocktail containing CBD oil, a different component of the cannabis plant, but CBD lacks the intense flavors and aromas of the terpenes that make the Oaksterdam so unique.

“Hello Stranger just gets busier and busier every night,” Bell marveled while filling yet another glass, “and the Oaksterdam is our most popular drink. It’s buzzworthy — in both senses of the term.”


Hello Stranger, 1724 Broadway, Oakland.

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