Don’t Haight on the Alembic

This weekend we went to the Haight in SF specifically in search of fancy cocktails and duck hearts from The Alembic.  We heard about Alembic from GQ magazine of all places.  I must say I was impressed and have grown to love unique bars that serve creative, hand-mixed cocktails and small plates.  Here, they have custom cocktails from the classics, with a twist, to house specialties you can’t find anywhere else.  Alembic also serves food such as pickled quail eggs and jerk spiced duck heart with pickled pineapple and thyme salt “nibbles,” as well as other “local-love” small plates.  Between seven of us, including our out of town friends, we tried five different cocktails: the popular Sazerac (rye whiskey, bitters, absinthe…), Vieux Carre (whiskey, cognac, vermouth…), Southern Exposure (gin, celery juice, mint, lime), Strawberry Alarm Clock (vermouth, strawberries, Tabasco, parsley, peppermint oil), and the Clover Club (raspberries, gin, lemon juice, egg whites…).  The four girls decided that they liked the Clover Club cocktail the best with its frothy goodness and tart kick.  The Strawberry Alarm Clock was indeed different with a sweet and bitter or fruity and savory pepper taste.

The jerk spiced duck hearts with pickled pineapple and thyme salt were pretty amazing.  The tastes complimented each other and each heart was a small bite size piece of meat.  It was the perfect season to try the Heirloom Tomatoes with burrata, Serrano ham, arugula, and Cabernet vinaigrette.  It was absolutely delicious and a good size portion.

We sat at the bar and as the bartender made the drinks in front of us, constantly pouring, shaking, and mixing, she would fill us in on what she was concocting.  She was great and down to earth but with an SF edge.  She even makes a “Take your Chances” mystery cocktail for the adventurous types, but only ask for one or two per sitting to avoid annoying her.  The atmosphere was good, with light from a skylight and music loud enough to enjoy, but soft enough to have a conversation with a group.  We found seats right away at 3-4pm but at night I am sure it gets packed!  There are only five to seven little tables to sit down and eat with about twelve or so stools at the bar.

Lesley: I loved this place and would take friends and family here for sure.  My drink, the Southern Exposure, had many diverse flavors popping out.  It was grapefruit-y in a way.  My favorite drink was the Clover Club.  The food all looks amazing and the two things I tried were scrumptious.  I would go back in a heartbeat, especially if someone else were paying for the $10 cocktails!

Zach: The lovely bartender recommended the Vieux Carre and I never turn down a recommendation.  As it so happened, it was perfect for my taste.  All of the bitter elements worked perfectly with the whiskey.  If you like bitters it is a must try.  The appetizer menu was full of delicious things but we had to give the jerk duck hearts a try.  The jerk spice was right on and it was actually really tasty.  I’ve never eaten heart before but these didn’t have any organ meat taste, which was fine with me.  I certainly wasn’t begging for more organ meat taste.  The drinks were $10 which is about standard city price, but to enjoy a couple great cocktails at the beginning of a night while you can still appreciate it is well worth the price.

John: My new standard for a craft cocktail bar is the Sazerac.  I have yet to perfect my home recipe for this drink, because when it is made right, there is an amazing transformation of flavors that occurs with each sip.  There should be a hit of rye, followed by bitters, then a hint of sugar, ending with the anise of the absinthe.  The Alembic passed with flying colors.  Since the Sazerac passed, I forced everyone in the group to give me a taste of their drinks.  My new goal, after perfecting my own Sazerac, is to recreate the taste of the Vieux Carre.  Until that time, and most likely after, I will continue to frequent The Alembic.

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