The Alembic

Bar / Restaurant
The Alembic People don't go to The Alembic for Jägermeister and Red Bull, DJs and dancing, or cheap beer and bar food. Nobody plays flip-cup on the suede stools that line the mustard-colored walls, gyrates on the rustic tables, or catches... San Francisco United States 37.769371 -122.451176
4.24 10
The Alembic - Bar | Restaurant in San Francisco.
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Ratings:
Lucas
Adriana
Jonah
Emma

Party Earth Review People don’t go to The Alembic for Jägermeister and Red Bull, DJs and dancing, or cheap beer and bar food. Nobody plays flip-cup on the suede stools that line the mustard-colored walls, gyrates on the rustic tables, or... ... read full review

  • Metro:

    MUNI N Line: Carl Street‎ & Cole Street

  • Phone:

    415-666-0822

  • Links:

  • Hours:

    Daily noon–2am

  • Recommended as:

    • Day Spot
    • Night Spot

Party Earth The Alembic Review

The Scene

People don't go to The Alembic for Jägermeister and Red Bull, DJs and dancing, or cheap beer and bar food. Nobody plays flip-cup on the suede stools that line the mustard-colored walls, gyrates on the rustic tables, or catches...

People don’t go to The Alembic for Jägermeister and Red Bull, DJs and dancing, or cheap beer and bar food. Nobody plays flip-cup on the suede stools that line the mustard-colored walls, gyrates on the rustic tables, or catches the game on the non-existent TVs. Instead, this cozy little slice of hipster heaven attracts its patrons with a wide selection of craft and classic cocktails, specialty brews, and standout small plates from an ever-changing menu like spiced duck hearts and pickled quail eggs.

Couples in matching vests and horn-rimmed glasses grab a spot at the wooden bar, squinting through the dim light cast by dangling bare bulbs at a chalkboard covered with beverage options. Window-facing tables near the front provide a great spot to eyeball the never-boring Haight Street, while the larger rear dining area floods with foodies scarfing down artisan cheese plates before moving on to the beef tongue sliders – or sipping ever-popular Vice Grips, which combine liquor, wine, coffee, and beer into a single cocktail.

Since the place is always packed by 10pm, erstwhile romantics may have to wait to get a table, but thankfully a proper Old Fashioned goes down just as easily when it’s drunk standing up.

Although The Alembic’s name refers to a beaker used long ago by Greek alchemists, the venue won’t turn anything into gold – but its food and drinks do turn many visitors into regulars.

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Tip from Jonah:

Try the Poop Deck cocktail, a blend of cognac, port wine, and blackberry brandy. Just be sure to heed the menu’s warning: ‘overindulgence could send a wave up over your stern.’

  • Crowd

    Neighborhood hipsters, foodies, cocktail connoisseurs, date night couples, and older professionals, late 20s to 40s.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Ambient music.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Constantly changing menu of esoteric American cuisine like beef tongue sliders, pickled quail eggs, lamb shoulder, and bone marrow. Happy Hour M–F 5–7pm.

  • Prices

    Appetizers $2–$5, cheese plates $4–$15, entrées $12–$23, desserts $8. Beer $6–$35, cocktails $11, wine $8–$12/glass or $22–$52+/bottle, hard liquor $7–$20+. Prices may change slightly due to ever-changing menu items.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Casual to stylish: t-shirts, ripped jeans, dresses, blazers, vests, plaid, lots of sweaters.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Fridays and Saturdays after 10pm for a loud – though not rowdy – crowd, weekends during the day for a more relaxing atmosphere to sip a few mint juleps, or earlier in the week for a romantic date.

  • Close By

    Club Deluxe (1511 Haight Street) offers a respite from obscure cocktails in the form of jumping ‘n’ jiving live jazz and delectable thin-crust pizza.

The Alembic User Reviews

Average rating:
Favorite date spot. Excellent, carefully-crafted cocktails.
Lucie D. May 21, 2013
A former bartender, I am a fan of dives and places that will make me something I can't make better and cheaper at home. Alembic is the latter. The drinks menu is a pleasure to read- if a little prosaic- and the offerings are excellent. I am a particular fan of the Brown Sugar. If you can't decide, the bartenders are extremely knowledgeable, and prone to proposing something off the card. ATTENTION: they care about what they are doing and will take their time making your beverage. They also serve food that I hear is great and slightly classy, but I have never tasted it myself. As another reviewer said: go somewhere else for a quick fix. I would add: go here if you want to share cocktail tasting experiences in an intimate and comfortable setting. Oh, and sit at the bar, take advantage of the view, strike up a conversation with the bartender, it'll be worth it.
Great Mid-Week Date Night
Adrienne Z. Mar 25, 2013
This bar in Upper Haight has one of the more extensive whiskey lists in town, and bartenders really know their stuff. Drinks are a little on the pricey side, as is the food, but the small plates ("Snacks") feature very tasty slightly upscale versions of traditional bar snacks that are great to share with a friend or a date. The mood is casual and the lighting dim, not too loud, perfect for catching up with a friend during the week. It can be super crowded, especially on the weekends, as it is a narrow restaurant, but there is a standing bar in addition to the bar stools which can accomodate more people. Although this has cocktails and a whiskey selection that is every bit as impressive as other mixology bars in SF, this one is unique in its casual atmosphere and lack of pretension.
Impeccable (pretention-lite) cocktails
Lauren W. Feb 22, 2013
Tight, dark, and packed, a sanctuary from the smell of patchouli that wafts through the heart of the Haight, the Alembic is not suitable for intimate conversations or dressy dinners. But hot damn, do the folks here know their drinks. Order anything on the cocktail menu and you're bound to be impressed. With an encyclopedic knowledge of spirits, ranging from single varietals to forgotten classics like Blood and Sand to a rotating selection of new creations, the oft-tattooed and briskly friendly bartenders are experts in their field. Not sure where to start? Ask for a recommendation. A great place to throw one (or two, or three) back with friends, perched on a bar stool, enjoying some quality eavesdropping.
Whiskey Galore
Susie D. Feb 20, 2013
I love a bartender who treats his work as a craft, and the bartenders at the Alembic certainly don't disappoint. The expansive list of bourbons, scotches and other whiskeys is a bit daunting – featuring more options than you can shake a stick at – but our bartender at my first visit was more than happy to walk me through it and make some recommendations, even providing a couple of samples of varietals that really threw me off (white whiskey, huh?). Feeling pretty confident in his skills (and in my own knowledge that he could pick better than I), I opted to go with his cocktail suggestions. My only regret? Not being able to recall what I was drinking so I could go back for a repeat. Those not into whiskey shouldn't despair, though – the Alembic also has an excellent selection of wine and craft beer, even featuring some unique offerings from some of my favorite breweries like Dogfish Head and Allagash. On top of all that, the space is super inviting, providing something of a cozy oasis within the bustle of the Upper Haight during happy hour, and offers some excellent people-watching in addition to a very eclectic menu of chicharrones, bone marrow and the like.
Fine Cocktails
Rachel G. Dec 11, 2012
This is one of my favorite bars off Haight. When I use to work at Crossroads we would go here after work to slam down some delicious cocktails when we weren't walking into Club Deluxe. This is definitely a good place to go to check out the finer things in fine cocktail making. The bartenders here are so well trained and educated in wines, beers, spirits, and liquor. I have only ever gone on really busy nights like a Friday or Saturday, so to me this place is ALWAYS packed, but I could imagine it would be pretty packed any given night. This is totally a place to check out when your on Haight. Possibly for some drinks after a slice of pizza!
Just tell them to make you something.
Jayson M. Aug 12, 2012
Holy cow these drinks are good. Even the basic Old-Fashioned is incredible. I think they make it with angel souls. I’ve come to the point where I just tell the bartender to make me something special and let them blow me away. Granted, this isn’t a place for quick drink, and I think that’s why a lot of people don’t love this place like they should. Don’t come here in a rush. You want a quick beer, go to some dump in the Lower Haight. The specials are also incredible, I never know what I am going to see on the menu here and I love that.
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