northwest exposure: in which we turn celery into a cocktail


Yes, I’m still here.  I’m crossing my fingers that the car will be done tomorrow, since school starts on Tuesday and I have to teach in Corvallis at 11.  Yikes.  But I’m trying my hardest not to suffer my remaining hours in Ol’ ‘Frisco.

Alembic in San Francisco might be my favorite bar in the whole world, well, other than The Alley in Oakland (“Of all the pretty cities she’s the lead-a / and don’t forget the tube to Al-a-meee-da”).  But that’s a whole different ball of wax.

For the past three nights, we’ve been drinking Alembic’s bar manager Daniel Hyatt’s Southern Exposures, or rather, my poor attempts thereat.  Alembic’s menu urges us to drink plenty of Southern Exposures, since, being a mix of celery juice, lime, mint and sugared gin, they are full of anti-oxidants.  Or so I am willing to believe.  This drink surprises *everyone* with its really mild notes of fresh celery, which makes the mint more herbally than mojito-ey, and the slightly sweet, punchy taste.  It makes a lovely aperitif or a brunch drink for those of us who don’t care for the heavy, sluggish tomato of a Bloody Mary.

I don’t have my camera here, or I’d take pictures of the drink, which is a gorgeous green.  You can see a small photo in the article The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran, which was really a profile on Hyatt, including the recipe for the drink.  Hyatt describes how he developed it from a classic Southside by adding the brilliant jolt of celery juice.

We were out of limes and lemons by this point in the New Year drinkfest, so I dipped into my exotic citrus stash (which I bought for marmalades once I return home) for meyer lemons.  I found that the aromatic and mild juice this lemon yields works differently from the celery, creating a more integrated flavor profile, since celery and lemon marry so well.  When compared to the lime version, though, it was clear that the drink was perfect as is: zippy and vibrant.

I experimented with Martin Miller gin, since I find it absolutely delicious with its floral, coriander, and cucumber notes.  There’s nothing at all wrong with Junipero gin, which is in the original cocktail, but the MM brings more to the party, if you ask me.  Also absolutely amazing, if you can find it, which you likely can’t: the singular celery bitters made by The Bitter Truth, a German company, that isn’t yet distributing widely in the U. S.  The company’s website can ship a bottle for 11 euros plus another 13 euros for shipping — no thanks. We found ours at Cask, just south of Market down the street from the SFMOMA, for the somewhat less financial crisis-promoting sum of $20.   Bartenders get it at trade shows.  I’ve sent unsuspecting friends on wild goose chases to find it in London and Berlin, to no avail.  Be warned.

But if you can get it, OMG.  A fantastic drink lifts off into the stratosphere of stellar.

Making the celery juice is the only real pain, but since this drink is meant to wow people, you won’t be disappointed by the effort.

Southern Exposure

Adapted from Alembic’s Daniel Hyatt

Makes one drink

  • 1.5 oz. Martin Miller 80 proof gin
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 3/4 ounce fresh celery juice
  • several mint sprigs (I use a small handful)
  • dash The Bitter Truth’s celery bitters

Make the celery juice, using the freshest, darkest celery you can find.  Cut 1/2 of a small bunch of celery (including some of the leaves) into 1-inch pieces and pulse in a food processor, adding a bit of water if necessary.  When the celery is pulped, grind out the juice in a food mill, or fold pulp into a double thickness of cheesecloth and squeeze well.  You should have several ounces of juice.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, shake vigorously for 20 seconds, then strain into a cocktail glass.  Hyatt’s original recipe says to double strain, but I like the flecks of mint that result from bruising and disintegrating the leaves when you shake with ice.

Float a single dash of celery bitters on top, and garnish with a single, tiny, perfect mint leaf.

Variation:  substitute 2/3 oz. meyer lemon juice and a single fresh lovage leaf for the lime juice.


One thought on “northwest exposure: in which we turn celery into a cocktail

  1. vp 4 January 2009 / 6:56 pm

    sounds lovely. I’d love a chance to see you on this visit but perhaps the next one would be better… drop me a line if there is a good time available!


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