Raffi Jergerian has spent the better part of his career as a visionary cocktail pioneer cultivating the art of hospitality. Much of that career has been spent behind the scenes or working the back bar.

As the mastermind who developed the craft cocktail program at Fort Collins’ popular Social, a Prohibition-era inspired bar that scored the number one spot on Yelp’s ranking of speakeasies in the country last November, and as part of the team that brought Union — a riff on the American diner replete with boozy milkshakes — to life on a vacant lot on the eastern edge of Old Town, Jergerian has long been a gift to the city.

Now he’s returning that gift to patrons of his new café, Persimmon , and it’s even tied up with a bow.

The lower level at Persimmon is outfitted with plush eggplant velvet couches, sleek lounge chairs and smartly positioned cocktail tables, creating an inviting space to linger. (Credit/Emily Kemme)

Order any one of the thoughtfully designed sandwiches arranged on herbed focaccia bread baked by local artisan, The Pig and The Plow, and it arrives on a plate, neatly bound by a strip of wax paper and accessorized by a jauntily striped length of string.

His rationale for the unique presentation is this: Food is a gift he creates for his patrons.

Jergerian said he’s been a cook all his life, both as a hobby and while inventing menus for restaurants he’s worked at. But the bartender of over 20-plus years said he’s never worked at a commercial kitchen, so this undertaking is a new turn.

“Persimmon is my baby because it’s more personal to me. It’s conceptually more of an idea than me having my favorite things, like coffee, the wine list, the cocktails,” Jergerian explained. “Excellence is what drives it, but it’s the first time I’ve cooked for more than a handful of people at once.”

Raffi Jergerian, longtime Fort Collins bartender with names like Social and Union to his credit, recently opened Persimmon in Old Town Fort Collins. The café serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks, including signature cocktails. (Credit/Emily Kemme)

The menu is light, and playful, driven by fresh, healthy ingredients with a Middle Eastern focus.

“It’s food that goes well with drinking, because it’s more of a cocktail bar than a restaurant. But it’s also a daytime café — we offer breakfast, lunch and drinks,” he said.

The cafe is open until 9 p.m. most evenings, making it a great place for a light supper, too.

The space fits Persimmon’s diverse purposes, with three seating levels in a deceptively large building. Each has a distinct ambiance to it, beginning with a foyer where there’s a grab-and-go case filled with baklava and other pastries. There are also jarred cocktails and nibbles for sale.

The entrance on the first floor leads into the bar, likely the brain box for Jergerian’s oversized imagination. Find a chair at a table, or you can head upstairs to a quiet, almost studious space washed with light from windows facing Jefferson Street and adorned with a swath of leopard wallpaper worth analyzing for its artistry.

Or you can wander downstairs to below street level where you’ll find a cozy living room outfitted with plush eggplant-colored velvet couches, sleek lounge chairs, smartly positioned cocktail tables and — should you choose — rugs to stretch out on, offering a sense that you’ve stopped by your favorite brother’s house and he asked you to stay for a nosh and a nip.

The bar at Persimmon serves craft cocktails and a selection of beer and wine. (Credit/Emily Kemme)

As simple as Jergerian tries to make the menu sound, one glance at the ingredients and you’ll find it’s anything but.

Begin a meal any time of day with a selection of hearty mezze, small plate appetizers ideal for sharing, each with a flavor profile that makes it a worthy partnership for a cocktail/wine bar. Try the citrus-kissed olives and progress to beet hummus brightened with the Egyptian spice blend dukkah or savory dolma, rolled grape leaves stuffed with rice, lemon and parsley served with a dill yogurt sauce.

For non-vegans, a sumptuous chicken liver pâté served with blueberry sumac jam will tide you over until the next course, or could be a meal on its own.

Keeping with the finger food theme, order a bow-tied sandwich — the tuna, with welcome lemony hints, herbs, melted gruyère and spicy tomato relish — provides a window into Jergerian’s fruitful mind, as does a sweet fig and balsamic jam sandwich with softened brie, thinly sliced apple and greens.

The beer selections are balanced and worldly, as close to home as Zwei Dunkel Bavarian lager and as far flung as Belgium — Oude Gueuze à L’Ancienne lambic and bottle-fermented Gulden Draak dark strong ale — and lightly hopped Belgian-style beer, Kiuchi Hitachino Nest White Ale from Japan.

Wines are offered by the glass or full bottles and are mostly European, including a sparkling rosé from Provence and a fresh sparkling wine, Chéreau-Carré Louise Vices Vertus Orgueil brut made from muscadet grapes.

Leopard wallpaper sets the scene at Persimmon. (Credit/Emily Kemme)

As balanced as the wine selections are, since it is Jergerian, you’ll probably want to try the cocktails.

“The cocktails here are beyond anything I’ve ever created, with great ingredients and thoughtful flavors,” he said.

Although there are a few notable classics, like the Sazerac, the bulk of Jergerian’s new cocktail lineup skews Mediterranean, offering a vast opportunity to sip new and at times novel taste profiles.

Try the Viola, a refreshing froth of aquavit, beet juice, ginger liqueur and lemon, or the Polynesian Remedy, a twist on a beach drink with dark rum, crème de banana, smokey scotch, ginger and honey-clove syrup that will forever ruin you from returning to banana daiquiris.

The persimmon is a versatile Asian berry, which when ripened, tastes sweet, mild and rich like honey. Bright orange and welcoming, the persimmon heralds the harvest season.

In naming his baby after this succulently sweet fruit, it could be a sign that Jergerian, cocktail wizard and kitchen dabbler, has found his niche.

In so doing, he graces the Fort Collins’ community with exotic sweet gifts meant to be unwrapped, savored and celebrated.

Sandwiches at Persimmon are tied with a bow, Jergerian’s gift to his patrons. (Credit/Emily Kemme)

If you go

• What: Persimmon, 251 Jefferson St., Fort Collins

• Hours:  10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday | 10 a.m. to  3 p.m. Sunday | Closed Monday

• Contact: www.persimmongoods.com

• Other info: Coffee, kombucha, soda, pastries, craft cocktails, beer, wine, sandwiches and hearty Middle Eastern appetizers


This article was originally published in Greeley Tribune