Russell Davis Serves Up Playful Cocktails at BergeracNovember 5, 2013 By: Kristen Santoro
Russell Davis is known for captivating audiences on Spike TV’s hit show “Bar Rescue” with his unique and sometimes surprising training and bartending techniques. And his latest project, Bergerac in San Francisco’s SOMA district, encompasses a little bit of that surprise element coupled with a playful bohemian charm.
As bar director, Davis collaborated with Chef Randy Lewis, Yael Vengroff, Bruce McDonald, David Brinkley and Anderson Pugash on this latest project. With a major revolution in cocktails and the appreciation for the classics continuing to rise, this cocktail hideaway is creating quite the stir. Davis attributes this success to a couple of very important elements.
“I have a killer staff that I handpicked from around the country,” says Davis, which executes a very nontraditional cocktail menu. The menu is divided into a couple of different sections including: approachable drinks, complex drinks, high octane shots, lower-alcohol drinks and social drinks (for sharing). “I tried to inspire a new way of looking at how we approach building bar programs. I felt like the industry was building bar programs to impress other mixolgists/bartenders and not the guest.” Therefore, Davis wanted a program where no one feels bad about what they ordered. “If they want a beer and a shot, that’s what we will give them,” Davis emphasizes.
In addition, Davis paid special attention to the details when creating the cocktail menu. Everything from the particular spirits used to the ice. Ice in particular is just as important as any other ingredient. “The type of ice that someone chooses affects dilution, texture and temperature,” Davis said. “These are all important factors to consider beyond the balance a cocktail has flavor wise.”
Some cocktails that have received high recognition are the Annie Forget Your Gun, who many believe to be the best new cocktail of the year. It’s a riff on a chocolate phosphate with Branca Menta, Housemade Chocolate Syrup, Acid Phosphate, Fountain Soda and mint in a frozen glass over ice. “One of my other favorites is an Old Fashioned made with a Manhattan Project Bourbon,” says Davis. The Manhattan Project Bourbon is a concept developed with Dave Smith, distiller and blender for St. George Spirits and Darren Crawford, barman for Bourbon & Branch, where a Breaking & Entering Bourbon is placing it in a barrel that previously held a Manhattan cocktail. “It also sounds sexy - an old fashioned made with a Manhattan finished Bourbon,” says Davis.
There is also a drink on the menu that is served room temperature encompassing Aged Old Tom Gin, Mescal, Vermouth, Maraschino and Tobacco infused Moonshine, called The Unforgiven. “It’s a serious cocktail for the intrepid cocktail drinker. This is the cocktail that I would give Clint Eastwood if he was ever sitting at my bar,” states Davis.
Besides the well-crafted cocktails, drop shots and fire balls are all part of the esthetic at Bergerac. “It’s a fun place and that’s all I wanted,” explained Davis.