When Daniel Hyatt left the Alembic early this year, it was difficult to image how the bar would function without him. He largely defined the Upper Haight bar's innovative house cocktail style, which fits right in with the classics (much like the residents of the neighborhood).
One of the new bar managers, Danny Louie, worked extensively with Hyatt during his tenure and is keeping the place humming along with the help of Ethan Terry, formerly of AQ. The pair is adding its own touches and original creations. "My vision has always been to keep things whimsical and on edge without the pretension," says Louie. "I like to challenge the palate a little while keeping the other half [of the menu] more approachable."
Louie and Terry have created some dazzling and delicious original drinks for the menu, but their Army Navy ($11, Beefeater Gin, Small Hand Foods Orgeat, lemon, Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter Bitters) showcased their skills for us. Lightly adjusted from David A. Embury's The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, its simplicity belied the refreshing complexity of the drink. Essentially a gin sour with bitters, this cocktail is a great example of the effect fine tuning can have on classic drinks.
But just because their Army Navy is so good, it doesn't mean their more out there original cocktails should be missed. The wonderfully tropical 30 Days Notice ($11, Flor De Caña Rum, banana cordial, yellow chartreuse, lime, chili tincture) tweaked tiki style in a uniquely herbal way. Tall and served with a metal straw, the cooling effect of the drink begins with your lips.
The Nine Volt ($11, Aviation Gin, white Sichuan pepper, white grape juice, green tea) uses an obscure variety of Sichuan pepper that has a mellow intensity and lovely pine and coriander essence that complements the gin but doesn't overwhelm. The tongue tingling feeling is as electrifying as licking a nine-volt battery.