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.