In the wake of 2013’s Taksim Square protests, inspired by the local activism that drew global attention to Istanbul’s newly political youth, a young Kaan Bergsen returned home to Turkey. And from his time working at Toby’s Estate Coffee in Brooklyn, in quality control, he brought with him a certain expertise in coffee — but not the kind his country is known for. “In the back of my mind, I wanted to come back to Turkey anyway, before it was too late, and give it the best five years of my life,” says Bergsen, now 26. After only two years of running his award-winning Petra Roasting Co., a production facility and cafe located inside the secluded Istanbul art space Muse Collective, he recently opened Petra Reserve, a seasonal cafe and bar in Alaçatı (a Turkish resort town that’s fast become the bohemian alternative to Bodrum). It’s become a neighborhood spot, where regulars linger outside until dawn, nursing jars of gin and tonic perfumed with the region’s famed lavender. And later this fall, he will open a bakery and breakfast program in partnership with the esteemed Akali gastropub — which, come November, will transform nightly into an intimate, reservations-only cocktail destination called Scarlet Billows.
Bergsen never professionally stirred a drink stateside, but he frequently played host to friends in the service industry at his Bleecker Street apartment. “It sounds homey, but they were proper get-togethers for 70 people,” says Bergen, who invited friends from behind some of his favorite New York bars. He was inspired by the best of their establishments — Acme’s expediency, Angel’s Share’s atmosphere, Booker & Dax’s infusions and Maison Premiere’s Sazerac (“because I drink Sazeracs, and no one can make one like them,” he says) — in creating Scarlet Billows.
Because Turkey doesn’t import the range of quality spirits offered in Bergsen’s favorite American bars, Scarlet Billows will be locally sourced by default, serving drinks like the Uzun Ada Çayı cocktail — the closest Scarlet Billows will come to serving a Long Island Iced Tea. “The name is a literal translation: ‘Uzun Ada Çay’ means ‘Long Island Tea’ while ‘Adaçayı’ also means sage, which is one of the drink’s main ingredients.” Bergsen shares the recipe below.
Uzun Ada Çay Cocktail
Yield: 1 Cocktail
2 ounces Blue Chair Bay White Rum
½ ounce dried herb syrup (recipe below)
½ ounce Cointreau
Dash Angostura bitters
Chilled sage tea to top (recipe below)
Dried herb bouquet to garnish (recipe below)
1. Begin by chilling a large rocks glass with ice and water. Pour the first four ingredients into a small Boston Shaker tin, and add ice to the larger tin. Shake, then double strain the liquid into the chilled rocks glass, packed with crushed ice.
2. Top with sage tea.
3. Garnish with the dried herb bouquet.
Dried herb syrup
2 cups sugar
2 ½ cups water
Pinch dried lavender
Pinch dried wild sage
Pinch dried wild thyme
1. In a sauce pan, combine the sugar, water and herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a rolling simmer for 15 minutes, to reduce the liquid by one third.
2. Strain the mixture, reserving the herbs for the bouquet recipe below. Let the liquid sit until it reaches room temperature, then store in the refrigerator until needed.
1. Brew one teaspoon of sage tea in one cup of water.
2. Strain after 20 minutes, and let sit until reaching room temperature, then store in the refrigerator until needed.
Dried herb bouquet
1. Arrange the leftover stems and flowers from the dried herb syrup into an assorted bundle.
2. Use thread to tie the bundle into a bouquet.