You know that bar you dream about where the booze selection is great, the service friendly and knowledgeable, the decor unassuming, and the chance of hanging out on a Friday night without body-crushing crowds and/or soul-crushingly awful music is actually pretty good? Well, it exists…in Berkeley, CA…next door to a post office. Located in a quaint stand-alone building on San Pablo Avenue in what I suppose could be called West Berkeley, the Acme has a selection that rivals other highfalutin’ spirits bars without feeling the need for a designer-approved interior and over-the-top, vintage-dressed cocktail “artistes”. This is basically your neighborhood corner bar with a serious booze collection/possible obsession.
Whisk(e)y-wise, they tend to focus more on the American stuff with a large range of bourbons, ryes, and craft distillers including quite a few Willets, many High West Offerings, and even Anchor’s mighty trio of Old Potrero Ryes. The smaller Scotch selection is made up of the ubiquitous (Glenfiddich, Glenlivet & Macallan 12’s) and more interesting options like Glendronach 18yo, a trio of Murray McDavid Laphroaigs, and an Old Malt Cask Port Ellen. I also spied a pair of Samaroli bottles expensively staring down at me from the top shelf. Things are rounded out by an atypically deep Irish section and a few Japanese whiskies including a couple of Nikka expressions. There’s also a tidy list of whisky cocktails featuring a reportedly delicious “Manhattan” made with Willet Bourbon, Cocchi Barolo Chinato, and bitters. The list does not stop there, however, as there’s also a very impressive selection of Tequila and Mezcal, Gin, Vodka, Bitters, Absinthe and liqueur (Fernet Branca on tap, no less), again ranging from the well-known to the smaller boutique producers. It’s an impressive if not daunting selection of booze, but in their infinite wisdom, the Acme offers flights to sample your way around. They have a list of suggested trios put together, but you can also design your own, each one served on a small wood platter with the names of each drink by the corresponding glass.
Like I said, the decor is more corner/dive bar than hyper-designed cocktail club. The smallish space has the bar in the front, tables in the back, and chalk-board lists of all the booze running nearly the entire length of the place. My last visit was on a Friday night, and while the place was populated the entire time, it never felt crowded, and the noise level never made conversation too difficult. Prices are very reasonable with the flights in particular being a darn good deal. With Lanesplitter’s Pizza being a mere 150′ feet away (and the bar allowing you to bring pizza in), The Acme is one of my favorite little gems across the bay.Acme Bar & Company 2115 San Pablo Avenue @Addison Berkeley, CA 94702