Slated to open later this year, Modernist cocktail bar looks to “diversify the portfolio of options” downtown with artisan cocktails. Photo by Edward Smith.

published on July 25, 2019 - 1:12 PM
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It’ll be more than just beer on tap for Downtown Fresno’s Brewery District when a craft cocktail bar opens later this year.

Across from Zack’s Brewing and neighboring Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co., Modernist will “diversify the portfolio of options” in downtown with its broad array of artisan drinks, according to Po Tsai, one of the two owners.

The idea for Modernist began in the East Coast when Carmen Serrato, the other owner, attended New York University. Between studying for her degrees in marketing and economics, she’d tour the city, with special attention to the craft cocktail bars garnished throughout.

“Beyond just having the cocktails, it was really just observing the bartenders — how they make the drinks, asking questions,” Serrato said.


Carmen Serrato waits for construction to begin on The Modernist. Photo contributed.


The pair wants to showcase the creativity that can go into making a drink. They’ll serve all the standards, from mescal mixers to cranberry martinis. But in addition, for those who might share the same curiosity as Serrato and Tsai, they hope to incorporate techniques from around the world in making those standards.

Ingredients like butterfly pea flower tea can add deep colors to fruity cocktails. Techniques like sous vide — cooking in a plastic pouch submerged in a water bath — can add richness to syrups in infused drinks.

“Here’s a way to make a drink and present a drink that maybe you’ve never seen before,” Serrato said.

That uniqueness becomes a draw.

“It’s how you start creating that atmosphere where restaurants in the area will actually start staying open for dinner and having the nightlife there on an ongoing basis,” Serrato added.

Construction on the bar at 719 Fulton St. will begin in the next couple of months. The owners of the building left the owners a well-maintained shell and bathroom, Tsai said. The exposed brick fits nicely with the decor the duo envisioned, Serrato added. Throw in a few marble countertops and they are well on their way to completion by the end of the year, in time for holiday parties.

Aligned with the name Modernist, Tsai describes the vision for the 1,200 square foot space as modern industrial. And while the duo are keeping the concept art for Modernist close to the chest, Tsai called it a place neutral enough that someone can go and say to themselves, “yeah, I can be here.”


Po Tsai, one of the owners behind Modernist cocktail bar, snaps a photo of the space at 719 Fulton St. Photo contributed.


The goal for the duo was to make a “slick, inviting and comfortable” place that would keep people downtown after they get off work, Tsai said, much like the Tioga-Sequoia and other pubs have done in what many in the city have affectionately dubbed the “Brewery District.”

“We’re hoping to start building up a destination area where people can go to Tioga, and then they want a cocktail, and really provide that popping, walkable strip,” Serrato said.

Tsai and Serrato met in San Francisco, sharing a passion for craft cocktails that poured into the concept behind Modernist. Being a business owner was something both of them wanted, but neither thought it would happen until much later in life. But the opportunity presented itself, and now they’ve signed their lease. Serrato handles the marketing and concept while Tsai will be in charge of operations.

The duo are currently in the market for a lead bartender as well as the 10 or so staff members to operate Modernist. They make look for a “deeper bench” after opening, Serrato said, depending on how busy it gets.

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