“My mother grew up on Buffalo Avenue and Bergen Street in Brooklyn, and there was a soda shop there called Norma’s,” recalls Gina Chersevani. “They sold sodas, egg creams and floats.” This is the genesis story for Buffalo & Bergen, Chersevani’s deli, bagel shop, soda counter and cocktail bar in Washington, D.C., which debuted in Union Market in 2012 and will open in a second location near the U.S. Capitol early this year.
At the heart of each place is a vintage 1930s soda fountain (“We call it ‘the organ’—it’s got 16 pumps and two handles,” she says), which turns out sodas and cocktails using house-made syrups and flavors. But it’s not just sarsaparilla—Chersevani brings in ingredients such as beets, shiitake mushrooms and gentian root, and layers flavors together along with different styles of soda water to create drinks in a traditional manner, but that taste resolutely contemporary. “This allows me to have so much flexibility with my cocktails and sodas, because it’s being utilized in a number of ways—as a nonalcoholic drink, or if I want to tweak it into a tonic or an elixir, I can make it cocktail-focused without changing a thing,” she says.
Along with running Suburbia, a summer pop-up bar in an Airstream trailer, Chersevani is also the “resident barkeep” on the Designated Drinker Show podcast, and she’s the mom to two young daughters. “They’re my perfect cocktails—they’re wild and exciting, and sweet and soft at the end,” she says. “I’m gonna leave a legacy for them, and that’s something I’m trying to build.”
Check out the video above to learn more about Chersevani’s vision for B&B.