“There’s this very basic human care thing that happens when you feed another person.” – Mikha Diaz
Mikha Diaz is on a mission to save the world from its own hatred. She’s an avid reader with a passion for philosophy, which prompted her to pursue a PhD in Ethics.
“I’d gotten involved in that field of study because I wanted to understand how people could convince themselves to be so terrible to other people with the theoretical hope that if I could understand it then maybe I could change it,” explains Mikha.
After growing tired of constantly thinking without action, Mikha wanted to do something that brought her and the people she cared about more joy.
“I kind of woke up one day and decided that academia was not going to get me there. But I love taking care of people by giving them things to eat and to drink in a way that makes them feel appreciated and loved. So, I’m just going to go do that.”
And that she did. Mikha already had several positions and many years’ worth of experience in the hospitality industry and, after bouncing between a few San Francisco bars and restaurants, she and her business partner took up ownership of The Alembic.
The bar itself provides a drop-in neighborhood feel. The atmosphere is welcoming, cozy, and immediately comfortable. Mikha notes, “The bar is very familiar and warm. The bar top itself is made from the old stadium seats from Kezar Stadium which was torn down a little while ago.”
Bringing Bar Food to the Next Level
The Alembic succeeds at producing a neighborhood bar feel in addition to creating elevated twists on typical bar food and cocktails. The cocktails themselves are pieces of artistry on their own.
Mikha says, “The way that we innovate and elevate is through our ingredient choice. Not just the spirits, but how you’re working with seasonal ingredients, how you’re pulling out different flavor profiles from different cuisines or genres to create approachable cocktails. Sometimes we get a little out there and people just have to trust us and then they’re happy.”
These craft cocktails include riffs on the classics and contemporary seasonal twists. For a tried-and-true favorite like the gin sour, cucumber and lemongrass shrub is used. Or for an old fashioned, locally-sourced bourbon with browned butter.
Then there’s the seasonal cocktails that keep pushing the team’s creativity to its limits. Mikha explains, “We’ll have curries and carrot juice and aloe vera show up on the menu, for example. Our general manager and mixology-whiz Kat has an excellent palate, and she’s a very interested foodie so everything that she tries is inspiration for a cocktail eventually.”
These cocktails garnered so much attention that Mikha and her team started offering mixology classes to bring elevated cocktails into the homes of their patrons.
“We wanted people to be able to bring that level of excitement and specialness to a standard Thursday night at home with your significant other.”
The cocktail classes became more and more popular, and The Alembic’s Monday Night Mixology was born. These classes have had so much success that The Alembic now offers even more advanced classes. Mikha says, “Students who have taken a few of our regular ones can learn how to do some more fun adventurous stuff like set them on fire.”
Even though Mikha teaches people how to go from interested students to fire-wielding cocktail connoisseurs, she tends to keep it classic when it comes to her own food and drink. She loves a good cocktail, but generally likes to drink her spirits neat and with her favorite dish at The Alembic, the scotch egg.
“That was probably the first thing we put on the menu when we were getting ready to take over. It’s classic, it’s straightforward, it’s a 7-minute egg and a house made pork and sage sausage breaded and fried with house pickles and a mustard gastrique drizzle. To me it’s the epitome of perfect elevated bar food.”
The Alembic is known for its refined cocktails and creations, but it’s also equally well-praised for its compassion and kindness. Mikha, when asked about the one sentiment she wants her patrons to feel when leaving her restaurant, is very clear: “I feel cared for.”
That’s exactly where The Alembic succeeds most, in providing the highest level of hospitality it can.
The Alembic and COVID-19
The Alembic remains closed due to COVID-19, but Mikha says that they are still very lucky because of their wonderful landlord who is committed not only to the neighborhood but the success of The Alembic itself. She looks forward to opening her restaurant as soon as possible, even though she is not exactly sure when that will be.
Mikha’s first and foremost priority has always been to care for the people that she employs and serves, and she is using the utmost caution before opening up again.
“I don’t think that I can keep my guests or my team sufficiently safe,” she admits. “We can implement all mandates and protocols and more but congregating around each other right now is not a safe activity.”
She and the members of The Alembic team will continue reviewing the data on a weekly basis with the hopes of opening up the restaurant as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, they continue to offer takeout and delivery options while staying optimistic about the future.