Barfly: The Alembic Bar, San Francisco

By Playboy.com Staff

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There are a few things in this life we are willing to sacrifice in exchange for top-shelf cocktails. The first, and usually the first to go, is food. For one, it encumbers a good buzz. And two, it’s rare to find a place that serves both good food and good drink.

The second is service; we’ll excuse an uppity-asshole waiter so long as the ferment flows, the cocktails keep coming.

But at Alembic in San Francisco neither is of concern; the food rivals in both quality and care a meticulously crafted cocktail menu and the service is impeccable, each member of the staff more knowledgeable than the last. This is the closest to inebriated Eden as it gets.

Located a mere block away from Golden Gate Park, Alembic is the quintessential high-end hipster neighborhood bar (quite a distinction in a city known for its nepotism toward such neighborhood bars). It is a place without oversight, a place where every facet of your experience is handled with care. Their drink menu is perhaps the most telling of this trait: at times oddly specific, at others obviously indulgent, it features such things as Southern Exposure (St. George Terroir gin, fresh mint, lime juice, a touch of sugar and a shot of fresh celery juice for “the [bar’s] population of free ‘radicals’”), Mexican Radio (Sino Reposado tequila, pineapple gomme, lime, house spirits coffee liqueur, fernet and Cardenal Mendoza) and Death in the Gulfstream (Bols Genever, lime, sugar cane syrup and Angostura bitters).

Not to be outdone, its menu proper (served daily from lunch to late night) features such delicacies as pickled quail eggs, jerk-spiced duck hearts and straight-up bone marrow with a garlic confit. It is a radical departure from the kind of bar food many have come to expect from places catering to the cocktail crowd, a dining experience in and of itself.

All told, Alembic is a must for anyone traveling in the Bay Area. It’s actually reason enough to head out there. Go West, young man.


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