Downtown Fresno and Fresno area social media accounts have been buzzing about one of our city’s newest, locally owned businesses, Modernist Craft Cocktail Bar, that just opened its doors this week! Modernist is located between Inyo and Mono at 719 Fulton Street in the up and coming Downtown Brewery District.
Modernist owners Carmen Serrato and Po Tsai were kind enough to spend some time answering my questions about Modernist and their Fresno roots, and I’m excited to share their story with you!
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. Where did your passion for making amazing classic and craft cocktails come from?
Modernist is a passion project on many fronts for both of us.
For Carmen, who was born in Fresno, this is a chance to re-connect with the city while paying forward all the cocktail experiences that shaped her life since leaving Fresno for college, and the early parts of her career in New York City.
Carmen has lived in NYC, London, Shanghai, and San Francisco and had the opportunity to frequent some of the world’s top bars and fell in love with the craft of cocktails. Now that she’s back in California, the recent revitalization efforts and investment in downtown have inspired her to bring together her appreciation of downtown Fresno and passion for cocktails.
Po has been similarly influenced by pivotal cocktail experiences throughout his life (usually 50/50 on the direction of “pivotal” but always memorable). Modernist stems from his passion for cocktails, social impact, and entrepreneurship.
“Modernist is an opportunity to create unique expressions of an age-old concept (bars), during a time of change (revitalization), in an unique geography (downtown Fresno), expanding the community’s offerings for natives and visitors alike.”
What factors made you decide to make Downtown Fresno’s Brewery District Modernist’s home?
Carmen is a Fresno native, who frequented the streets of downtown growing up, and graduated not too far, from Edison High School – so after seeing all the revitalization efforts happening, she knew she wanted to be part of it.
“We want to help propel downtown Fresno towards its future as a vibrant hub by bringing new experiences and new nightlife to the urban core of Fresno, through the establishment of the Modernist. Being in the Brewery District, there is an immediate opportunity to add to the developing nightlife scene with a different product offering: craft cocktails.”
How has the experience been so far getting everything going behind the scenes? Any tips for others who might be considering opening a business Downtown?
“Fresno is experiencing a wave of new bar concepts which requires time to adapt to and optimize for. The alcohol industry has historically not been one to receive much in terms of business development incentives, given the nature of the industry. Depending on the goals of the city and city planning, a streamlined process to get through permitting and processing will potentially encourage and expedite growth and development in target areas like Downtown.
On the positive side, our neighbors and the Downtown Fresno Partnership have been extremely supportive throughout the process. We feel so welcomed and encourage other businesses to continue to support each other!”
What do you hope your customers notice/appreciate when they come to Modernist?
“People are the first thing and the last thing. We are strong believers in the bond of human connection and want to provide a reason for people to connect, and an experience to do so over. We aim to provide a personable experience, where we encourage customers to engage with our bartenders to learn more about the cocktails and have them help you find the perfect one for you. We develop drinks that can cater to a range, from educating the cocktail first-timers to intriguing the long-time connoisseur – we aim to deliver a memorable experience that you want to come back for!”
For fun: what are three other Downtown businesses you love and think everyone should know about?
Carmen and Po had a hard time narrowing it down to three. But ultimately, they chose these awesome places:
Libelula – “A great farm to table spot on Broadway. Just looking at their food pics has us drooling.”
Root General – “A very stylish shop always providing a memorable experience and a huge supporter of local artisans and local designers!”
Your online menu looks fantastic – do you have a favorite drink, and has there been a signature crowd favorite so far from the pop-ups you’ve been hosting?
“Two personal favorites are the Johnny Appleseed, a spirit-forward whiskey cocktail with light apple and hints of orange, a great alternative to an Old Fashioned! And our own take on the Cloak & Dagger, a lemony cocktail whose ingredients present complexity in flavor and is topped with absinthe foam.”
Carmen continues to share, “A couple of crowd favorites have been the Barry Naught’s Farm with fruit flavors and a buttery finish, and the Hawaiian Tux made with a house pineapple tequila with a collection of flavors that are bright yet boozy with a natural sweetness. But you should try all of them and pick your own favorite. Just because it’s a crowd favorite, does not mean it will be yours ;)”
Modernist officially opened to the public on January 14th. They will be open 7 days a week:
Monday: 4pm – 12am
Tuesday: 4pm – 12am
Wednesday: 4pm – 12am
Thursday: 4pm – 12am
Friday: 4pm – 1:30am
Saturday: 12pm – 1:30am
Sunday: 12pm – 12am
For parking, street parking in the area is the way to go or use Uber/Lyft. Be sure to stop in and welcome Carmen and Po to Downtown and enjoy one of their delicious cocktails soon. You can also follow Modernist on Instagram here.