The Alembic Bar- Review

In San Francisco these days, food and drink is king. The celebrities in this town are not the actors and rock stars of LA (or at least we pretend they’re not), they’re the chefs and bartenders who are one Osso Buco or one Blood and Sand away from their own Food Network show. If you close your eyes and throw a fair sized stick you will either hit someone making perfectly bubbled and charred Neapolitan pizzas, house-infused cocktails, stellar homemade pickles or meticulously hand-crafted versions of food you usually see at state fairs. Eating local, truly organic and very well is extremely easy here; we’re a spoiled bunch, fattening up nicely and at times, a little obnoxious about our food superiority.

That said, while there are countless fantastic restaurants and dozens of cocktail temples, there are very few places that serve great food and have more than the usual 10-15 assorted whiskies. NOPA, Nihon and The Broken Record come to mind as the exceptions as does Haight-Ashbury’s The Alembic Bar, a small bastion of distilled calm at the west end of this quasi-famous neighborhood. It is pleasantly dark and urban-rustic inside with ubiquitous but still cool Edison bulbs lighting up reclaimed wood from the old Kezar Stadium, former home of the San Francisco 49’rs. The booze list over the bar reminds me of the great D.B.A in New York, while locally sourced, artfully prepared comfort food menu is all San Francisco. They have a taut bottled beer list and an ever-changing micro-brew focused draught list to compliment several pages of wine, liqueurs, sherries, meads(!) and the lesser spirits (sorry vodka, tequila and rum…but you know it’s true), but the real turn on for me are their great cocktails and very respectable whisky list.

The cocktails fall in to the classic and house-invented categories and are probably all delicious…several definitely are (The Vasco De Gama for one) and the “Vice Grip” is just deliriously good. The whisky list, while not as long as some other places in San Francisco has some real standouts: nearly 50 bourbons, 40 scotches and 15 ryes are supported by a smattering of Irish, world and other assorted American whiskies. A few of the standouts include Bowmore “Darkest”, Glenfarclas 21, Springbank 15, Pappy Van Winkle 23, Sazerac 18, and Glenmorangie’s Extra Matured range. Along side those are a few Compass Box selections, several Willets and local boys St. George Single Malt and Charbay. Prices are decent, perhaps a little less than the Nihons and Bourbon & Branches of the world. All in all, The Alembic Bar is a pretty fantastic place, I mean how can it not be, last time I was there, they were cranking Iron Maiden followed by the Sweet…if that’s not San Francisco foodie music, I don’t know what is.

The Alembic Bar
1725 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117-2807

(415) 666-0822
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4 thoughts on “The Alembic Bar- Review

  1. I enjoy Alembic, I usually go there for the beer, but it can get pretty darn crowded in there with the limited space.

  2. Hey – thanks for the reference to Broken Record. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’d never heard of it and it’s not that far from my house. Anyhow, I checked it out last night and really dug it. They have a nice menus for bourbon, rye, and scotch. A great hidden treasure.

    1. Wow…there must have been some strange Maiden-ness in the air that day (literally, doesn’t Bruce pilot jets?).

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