The Alembic, one of the city’s original craft cocktail emporiums, has spent the past 12 years as a mainstay in its Upper Haight neighborhood. With the addition of chef Rachel Aronow nine months ago, it got an ambitious menu revamp, which Eater SF critic Rachel Levin just gave a one star review. Now, however, it’s undergoing a bigger change as ownership has been transferred to Mikha Diaz (Two Sisters Bar and Books) and Christin Evans (Booksmith, The Bindery) as of today.
Thankfully, however, that doesn’t mean it’s going to lose its identity as the Alembic. “Christin and I view this as a legacy business,” Diaz told Eater SF. “It’s one of those businesses that can have different owners but its fundamentally its own self — we’re not going in to dramatically change it, were going in to revive its best traditions.”
That includes bringing the menu back to its roots as the neighborhood bar it started out as under the ownership of Magnolia Brewery’s Dave McClean (who ceded ownership to the building’s landlords after filing for bankruptcy in 2015), with familiar bar food like sliders or wings. It’s also the end of the iconic spiced duck hearts, says Diaz, though they could return at some point. Craft cocktails will remain the focus as well, with a dual menu of classics and the seasonal classics for which the bar has always been known.
The shift in ownership also means management team will change, including the role of chef. Diaz and Evans will bring on their own team, including chef Dylan Barry (Johnston’s Saltbox in San Carlos), bar manager Katheryn Kulczyk (Two Sisters), and Brandon Cardelli (Two Sisters). Current Alembic chef Rachel Aronow will move on as part of the new concept. “We really admire what she’s done,” said Diaz. “She’s a talented young chef — we’re just doing something a little different.”
The interior will receive a “gentle refresh” at the hands of Diaz and Evans during a six-to-eight week closure. While the changes won’t be dramatic or structural (the beautiful leather banquettes aren’t going anywhere), expect new lighting fixtures and maybe some vintage wallpaper.
And, as one might expect from the team behind the Booksmith and Two Sisters Bar and Books, there will be books. Right now Diaz says the plan is create a retail component with books for purchase or enjoyment while in the restaurant. To start, books will be staff picks from the food and beverage side, with cookbooks, and cocktail books on display.
“Spaces have lives,” said Diaz. “They have personalities and ways they want to be shared with the world, and I think this one wants to be a bustling neighborhood bar.”
Stay tuned for a new menu and look to debut in mid-May. In the meantime, Diaz and Evans want to know what the neighborhood wants to see as they rejigger the Alembic, and welcome emails to alembic at booksmith dot com.