First Look: Cocktails (and Breathing Fire) at Bergerac in San Francisco

[Photographs: Wes Rowe]

Note: First Looks give previews of new drinks and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.

Bergerac officially opened today just down the block from Bar Agricole in SOMA. The menu from Russell Davis—who worked at Rickhouse and designed the drinks at The Ice Cream Bar, and who's currently a co-star of Spike TV's "Bar Rescue"—was designed around common customer requests. "I based these cocktails on what people ask for when you're behind the bar," said Davis. "They say, 'I want something refreshing,' or 'I don't want something too strong,' or 'I want a f*cking shot.'"

So Davis divided the menu into a few sections: approachable drinks, complex drinks ('these have funky flavors or weird stuff, and they're more about technique'), high octane shots, lower-alcohol drinks, and 'social drinks' meant for sharing, served in a large pitcher-style shaker.

It may have been awhile since you've seen a dirty shaken vodka martini at a brand-new cocktail bar, but you'll find one on the menu at Bergerac. "No one wants to touch that drink anymore. But if you do it well, that drink is good," notes Davis, who garnishes the cocktail with a dehydrated green olive and adds a little celery shrub to amp up the savory flavor. "We're trying not to make anyone feel bad about what they're ordering," he emphasizes.

Davis sprays a mezcal drink with a moonshine tobacco tincture for aroma, flavors another with a Vadouvan spice blend, and attempts to "take barrel aging too far" by serving local bourbon from St. George Spirits finished in a barrel that has aged a Manhattan cocktail. "It's kind of fun," says Davis of the experiment. "I want to give guests the best experience, and I want them to have fun—that's all I care about."


Fire-breathing step one: fill your mouth with neutral grain spirit.

To that end, you might also catch the bar team (which is headed up by national Speed Rack champion Yael Vengroff) throwing bottles or even breathing fire—Davis has a background in flair bartending.


Step two.

He did a little demo for us, and shared one important piece of advice—beyond 'really don't try this at home'—"The key is to not freak out. Don't panic ever. Even if you're on fire."

Head over to the slideshow for a peek at the cocktails, shots, and large-format punches at Bergerac »

About the Author: Maggie Hoffman is a Senior Editor at Serious Eats, based in San Francisco. She founded Serious Eats: Drinks in 2011. You can follow her on Twitter @maggiejane.