Oakland’s New Spirits Shop Extraordinaire

Alchemy 3-Virginia Miller

ALCHEMY BOTTLE SHOP, Oakland (3256 Grand Avenue, temporary number: 415-553-0803)

Alchemy's upstairs art gallery

Alchemy’s upstairs art gallery

Oakland will soon have a spirits shop to delight spirits and cocktail lovers. Alchemy Bottle Shop, from Tova Herman, formerly in the wine industry, and Peter Mustacich, who quit his Financial District day job (where he frequently spent breaks at Cask) to open their Grand Avenue spirits shop, is going to be the kind of store that’s heavy on amari and unusual, small-batch spirits, one with an art gallery upstairs featuring local artists, primed for tastings and events.

As they finish the build-out, opening date is still an estimate. They are hoping for March, and with a space as airy, elegant and welcoming as this one promises to be (not to mention the prime location on busy Grand Ave.), it looks like East Bay-ers will have another spirits shop destination along with Ledger’s Liquors in Berkeley.

After my “hard hat” visit to the under-construction shop, I chatted with Tova and Peter about Alchemy. It quickly became apparent that their love and knowledge of spirits ensured we not only had plenty to talk about, but that spirits lovers can expect good things while novices will benefit from their desire to share and educate:

Virginia: Can you tell us about a few unique spirits you’re particularly excited to be stocking at Alchemy?
Tova: There are SO MANY amazing spirits that we are super excited to be carrying, but here are a few of our favorites:

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Breckenridge Bitters – An American take on Genepy, made in CO using local Alpine herbs
Firelit Coffee Liqueur – Made in CA, using beans from Blue Bottle and other local roasters. Unlike other coffee liqueurs we’ve tried, this one actually tastes like coffee! And delicious cold brew coffee at that.
OOLA Barrel Aged Gin – It is absolutely one of our favorites – partly because of their unique choice of botanicals (rose petal and black lemon!) and partly because of the amazing creaminess they get from barrel aging.
Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky – Made using a Coffey still, this is unlike other Japanese whisky because it’s a blend of grains rather than a single malt, but we love it for it’s balance and smooth, full-bodied texture.
Alchemy's elegant, white shelving

Alchemy’s elegant, white shelving

Virginia: What type of events, classes or tastings can people expect at Alchemy in your shop and art gallery?
Tova: We really want to focus on engaging our customers and teaching them about new products they might not be familiar with, so we’re hoping to bring in lots of producers who can actually talk about how their product is made and what goes into it. We also think that context is really important when it comes to spirits so rather than just tasting them straight, we really want to get into demonstrating how to mix our products into cocktails. We’re hoping once we get up and running to do a weekly series of interactive cocktails classes that people can sign up for in advance, in addition to our in-store tastings and art gallery openings.

Virginia: What will be different about Alchemy than other liquor/spirits stores?
Tova: I think the main difference we’re striving for is a higher level of interaction with our customers. There are many places that you can go if you’re simply looking to buy spirits, but for someone who is just getting into craft cocktails, or who wants to know more about some of the unique and obscure spirits we’re starting to see more of, it can be very overwhelming and intimidating. There is sometimes a certain attitude around spirits and mixology that can feel exclusive and we want to work as hard as we can to dispel that. Through our classes and tastings, we really want to engage our customers as much as possible and pass on our knowledge as well as the knowledge of all the distillers and other industry professionals that we know. We want to be a fun and accessible place that people come to learn and talk about spirits, as well as a place where you can pick up a number of great bottles.