Opening a new craft cocktail bar during the uncertainty of COVID-19 may seem as unstable a proposition as building a house of straw.
But for Alex and Katie Bowman, who just launched Third Pig Bar in Sebastopol, the hope is that their new bar’s foundation of creative cocktails, affable service and playful aesthetic will ensure it’s built to last.
The Bowmans, who own Bowman Cellars winery in Graton, both have long ties to the local community. Alex, whose father founded Bowman Electric, is a third-generation Sonoma County native, and Katie’s grandparents founded the well-known Andy’s Produce Market in Sebastopol.
“In the wine industry, we’re always worried about something, whether it’s fire, the pandemic or the economy,” Alex Bowman said. “But you can’t let that deter you. You just need to know what your bottom line is and weigh your risk.”
The couple hadn’t considered opening a craft cocktail bar until a wine club member approached them about leasing a vacated space in a building the club member owned in Sebastopol on South Main Street.
Neatly tucked between Bank of the West and Sebastopol Sunshine Café, the narrow space was previously occupied by Ruin Cocktail Bar, an aptly named victim of the pandemic that had sat empty since March 2020.
While the Bowmans considered opening a second tasting room for Bowman Cellars, the idea of a cocktail bar energized them.
“We’ve witnessed a shift in Sebastopol and have seen great demand for craft cocktails,” Alex Bowman said. “There are a few great places in town, but none of them stay open past 9 p.m. We want to give people more options, so we’ll be open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.”
Coming up with a name for their new venture wasn’t easy. But he says the idea hit him one evening like a ton of bricks.
“I was staring at this pile of bricks in my yard when I suddenly thought of the Three Little Pigs,” he said. “The third little pig built a house of bricks that withstood all the trials and attempts of the Big Bad Wolf. Right now, we don’t know what to expect with everything going on in the world. So let’s build something that is going to last.”
To develop the cocktail menu and oversee back-of-the-house management, Alex Bowman sought the talents of Danielle Peters and Erin Clossey of Good Folks Hospitality, a beverage consultancy based in Sonoma County.
Formerly of (now-closed) Whisper Sisters Cocktails and Provisions in Petaluma, Peters oversees creative development and training at Third Pig Bar, while Clossey manages the back of the house.
“During the planning phase, we spent a lot of time with Alex and Katie to understand their vision and aesthetic,” Peters said. “After that, they gave us creative control.”
The cocktail menu at Third Pig Bar highlights local spirits, bitters and syrups, along with fresh seasonal ingredients from Andy’s Produce Market.
Some cocktails indulge the Three Little Pigs theme, like the tiki-inspired Piggy Punch ($14) and the dark, brooding Big Bad Wolf ($14): a rye-driven elixir with restrained undertones of bergamot and mint. Embracing a spectrum of spirits, the menu also includes classics like the sazerac and mai tai, as well as a few nonalcoholic options. Local beers and wine are also for sale.
“I’ll be the first to admit I have a lot to learn about the bar industry,” Alex Bowman said. “But Katie and I know how to be authentic, provide great hospitality and hire a great team. If you come into any Bowman establishment — whether it’s our winery, our bar or our house — you’re going to get great service and feel at home. That’s our ultimate goal.”
Third Pig Bar: 116 S. Main St., Sebastopol. Open 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. thirdpigbar.com