Sampling The Alembic's Cookie Cocktails

Sampling The Alembic's Cookie Cocktails
Camden Avery/Hoodline
By Camden Avery - Published on March 15, 2014.
It's the second anniversary of our Upper Haight coverage, and to celebrate, we headed over to The Alembic to chat with bartender Larry Piaskowy about Girl Scout cookie cocktails and what's coming up for Alembic.

The Alembic, mid-way through its transformation into a beautiful, bigger bar with more seating (30 seats!) and a better kitchen, is just over a month away from its scheduled re-opening. It's also been getting its fair share of press for a new cocktail menu that pairs Girl Scout cookies with grown-up cocktails. 

Larry Piaskowy, who has been tending bar at Alembic since last summer and who was previously a chef in Chicago (until 2000) and San Francisco (since then), is behind four of the five cocktail specials. He's also the founder of Bar Jars, and has spent time mixing up tinctures, shrubs, and other drink-related goodies in the kitchen at Alembic.

If there's a flavor equivalent for perfect pitch, Larry Piaskowy at Alembic has it. We started off our birthday cocktail journalism adventure expecting to be blown away by some sugary inventions that mimicked Girl Scout cookies: three delicious sips and we'd have a headache and be well on our way to type-II diabetes.

We were wrong. What we actually found was a range of sophisticated, fresh cocktails for mature palates (no creme de menthe!): drinks that did funny, magical things when put with girl scout cookies.

Larry said the idea came about as a way to celebrate a fun time of year. Alembic has been stretching itself to provide comestibles out of a tiny makeshift kitchen while the real kitchen is under construction, and girl scout cookies, he said, suited the bill. As for finding enough cookies to supply the demand at the bar, he said, "well, we've been hunting them down."

The plan wasn't to duplicate cookie flavors, but to contrast and compliment them, the way a wine pairing might suit a dish. "They all match really well," Larry said. "I was happy with the way they came out."

The recipes, incidentally, were all put together in about an hour-and-a-half. Total. No cutesy names, Larry said, because "we chose to let the cocktails speak for themselves." Each drink is simply named for the cookie it goes with, with the exception of the Thin Mint's friend, which is called the Bunny Slope.

After some chatting, we got down to business sampling the five drinks, each with a small plate of cookies and arranged in order from simplest to busiest, with heavier flavors on the right. 

Our first cocktail was the shortbread cookies cocktail, a sour drink made with bourbon and lemon and rhubarb, and nutmeg. It looked like a glass of spiked eggnog, which made the sourness all the more surprising. "There's an egg white in it," Larry said. "It breaks up the sourness and gives it some body." Despite its complexity, when paired with the simplicity of the shortbread cookie, the cocktail comes back down to earth. It was crisp, and the nutmeg lingered.

Next came the Do-Si-Dos, oatmeal sandwich cookies with the peanut butter in the middle. Larry told us that the drink he's paired with them is basically an Old Fashioned, but with honey liqueur. "The peanut butter is a secondary flavor for the Do-Si-Do. The cookie is really all about the oatmeal." And he's right, once you start thinking about it. We were suddenly just as fascinated by the cookies as the drinks.

The Tagalong cocktail is a creamy orange color, tequila based, and it's served up, with an orange peel. Larry told us it's the most complex of the cocktails, and it shows at the first sip. Think of it as the most exciting PB&J you've ever had ... that also gets you drunk. 

Next up was the Samoa. Its corresponding cocktail is rum-based, bright fuchsia, and contains only three ingredients. For this pairing, the cocktail is simple; the cookie is complicated. This is the one that Larry did not create. He credited Mike Fleury, another mixologist at Alembic, for the combination. Larry called it a perfect cocktail, and we think he might be right. 

Finally, the big finish. To go with Thin Mints, Larry revisited the most popular cocktail from Beer Week: The Bunny Slope. It's made with a milk stout, a rye, and chartreuse, with some pear and cardamom root in there too. We asked him why it was called the Bunny Slope and he told us to take a sip and find out. The drink is a slippery slope: we had to stop ourselves from gulping it. We can see why it was so popular. 

As to what might be coming up for Alembic in the not-so-distant future, Larry said that once the full kitchen was back, we might expect some more elaborate cocktails. He said there also might be a special drinks menu in the future to celebrate opening day of baseball season, so stay tuned for more big news from the cocktail spot soon. 

Amy's Favorite: The Do-Si-Do modified Old Fashioned (Bourbon)
Camden's Favorite: Tagalongs Cocktail
Most Complex: Tagalongs Cocktail (Tequila)
Simplest: Samoa Cocktail (Rum, Red Wine Aperitif)
Most Dangerous: Thin Mints Cocktail, AKA the Bunny Slope (Rye, Milk Stout)
Most Deceptive: Shortbread Cocktail (Bourbon)
Most Drinkable: ALL