Wine country has a new cocktail destination in Fern Bar, which opened yesterday in Sebastopol’s outdoor marketplace The Barlow.
While the restaurant features appealing small plates and atmosphere, the main attraction is likely the cocktails from Sam Levy, former bar manager at three Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood.
“I always want people to feel comfortable and have drinks that taste really good with housemade ingredients. What makes me the most comfortable when I go out is seeing things that I recognize, twists on classics, drinks with recognizable ingredients but done in a way that has a great balance, is really refreshing, a little more refined, and for me, a little more acidic,” Levy says.
His favorite cocktail right now at Fern Bar illustrates this philosophy well: The Hot Blooded features tequila, mezcal, jalapeno-blood orange cordial, lime, and egg white, and is essentially a classic sour cocktail. But the housemade cordial — plus dehydrated blood orange to finish — makes it much more interesting. Other intriguing cocktails include Whiskey for Breakfast (brown butter bourbon, lemon, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup), and Grandpa’s Coffee (whiskey infused with coffee, walnut liqueur, amaro, orange bitters), but there are also a few more on tap. There’s bar manager Alec Vlastnik’s version of a Moscow Mule, for example, made with local apple cider infused with rosemary alongside housemade ginger beer. “We char the rosemary with a torch right before it goes out so it has a super savory, rich, incense-y aroma,” he says.
There are also a few non-alcoholic cocktails that look just as — or nearly just as — exciting as the boozy ones, like the Spirited Away, with makrut lime, matcha, and lemongrass-galangal syrup. It’s something Levy became known for at Meadowood, which even started offering popular mocktail pairings. He teamed up with fellow Fern Bar partner Gia Baiocchi, also owner of The Barlow’s juice and smoothie bar The Nectary, to add a health-conscious flair. Most of them use Seedlip, a non-alcoholic spirit that tastes similar to gin, so “we can make cocktails that have flavor that don’t just rely on syrups and sodas and juices,” Levy says.
The space, designed by Todd McCrea of Fine Root and Brian Anderson of Ken Fulk, Inc., is supposed to evoke the feeling of a conservatory, with its bounty of hanging greenery, fern-printed wallpaper, and vintage knick-knacks. There’s a marble-topped bar, tufted leather banquettes, and on-trend macrame accents. Live music — such as jazz or Americana — will fill the main dining room on a regular basis.
Chef-owner Joe Zobel took inspiration from both Sonoma County and his Southwestern upbringing for the menu of shareable small plates, which features the likes of chicken liver mousse with squash, apple cider, and pistachio; sopaipilla, a fried dough stuffed with rabbit, chile, and cotija; and ancient grains with mandarins and trumpets. Much of the produce will come from Fern Bar owners Lowell Sheldon and Natalie Goble’s nearby Two Belly Acre farm. The pair also own Sebastopol restaurants Handline and Lowell’s, where Zobel used to be chef.
Fern Bar is located at 6780 Depot Street, Suite 120, in Sebastopol. Hours are Thursday through Monday from 4 p.m. to midnight.
Update: An earlier version of this story credited the Moscow Mule to Sam Levy, but it was actually by Alec Vlastnik.