When asked whether he considers himself a bartender or a mixologist, Peter Gugni answers with a grin and a nod, “I’m a bartender. I take care of my bar.” Gugni is also the general manager of The Bedford. Once the Home Bank & Trust, the basement of 1612 West Division is now a late-night kitchen and bar. Gugni designed the bar to be “built for speed,” he explains. “I wanted to make it so you don’t have to wait fifteen minutes for a drink.” Taking a minimalist approach when creating the original cocktail list with more than a dozen options, Gugni used “the fewest ingredients—but with the most flavor.” Such strategizing allows bartenders to carefully create beverages without having to cut corners to meet a busy crowd’s requests. Yet an overwhelming grand opening and a noticeably swamped bar staff led Gugni to rethink The Bedford’s offerings. With more than thirty wine and twenty beer options, there are only three cocktails on the menu. To offer the highest and most consistent quality drinks, Gugni decided to take a step back. “I don’t want to say we are a cocktail bar,” admits Gugni, “but we are a bar that does great cocktails.”
The cocktail menu downgrade doesn’t hinder the allure of The Bedford’s bar selection. Especially dear to Gugni is the Fernet Branca on tap. The Italian digestif begins with strong cardamom and clove flavors followed by a surprising peppermint sensation and finishes with hints of zesty citrus. “The only other place in the country this stuff is on tap is in San Francisco,” says Gugni of a bar he used to manage. (Tiana Olewnick)
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