By Adrienne D. Capps
Photos by Michael K. Sachs
Right around 10:00 p.m. on any given Friday or Saturday night, a crowd of mainly UC Davis students dribble in a constant stream to Bar Bernardo, the bar side of Café Bernardos in Davis. This bar scene is made slightly awkward in that it is also connected to the local Best Western hotel. Normally it would not exactly be your natural go-to for more than a glass of wine and a light meal. However, Bar Bernardo has come to be known for its party-friendly, now signature, drink: the Wiki Wacky Woo.
Everyone, from groups of one to six or more, walks in the door, goes straight up to the bar, and orders the Wiki. For $8.00, the drink packs a punch more akin to a sledgehammer than a fist. Vodka, gin, rum, tequila, and triple sec fill about 80 percent of an ice-packed pint glass before a mix of orange, cranberry, and pineapple juices top it off. Next, a half-shot of Bacardi 151 rum is poured, without much accuracy, down the straw. And finally, a neon-red maraschino cherry completes the deadly cocktail. Some recent Wiki drinkers, found at Bar Bernado on a typical Saturday night, said they were a mix of undergraduate and graduate students at UC Davis. “We’re out celebrating!,” one exclaimed.
“Technically the limit is three—or less,” says Bar Bernardo manager Alex Romero. “Most people don’t get to three, but we also cut people off depending on how much they can handle the alcohol.”
The challenge to get past even one Wiki makes for an everchanging bar scene where only the hard core fans, or drinkers, are left past midnight. From the flow of people in and out of the bar early on in the night, it seems as though people use it as a starter drink. They come in with a group of friends, enjoy a Wiki (in order to get a good “head start” for the evening), and then are off within the hour. Not too many people were ordering second rounds on the observed night at Bar Bernardos. Perhaps if they did, their night would be over by 11:00 p.m. So off they go bar hopping to the next place and most likely to a less stiff drink.
Apparently, there is no one story of how the Wiki got started, but the prevailing myth is that a few bartenders in Davis were bored one night, went sifting through a drink recipe book, found the recipe, tinkered with it and the Wiki was born. Some other versions include a drinking game among the bartenders and a challenge amongst the bartenders to make a new drink. One of the more college-appropriate stories suggests a student who got a job working in the bar, spent much time experimenting with the right mix to give his friends the most alcohol for the least price. However it got started in the late 1990s, it stuck.
But apparently only in Davis. Café Bernardos has two loca tions in Sacramento: Monkey Bar, in the Café Bernardos Midtown (2726 Capitol Avenue), and Bar 15, in the Café Bernardos at R and 15th Streets (1431 R Street). Rain Woollard, a manager at Monkey Bar, said plainly, “It’s a Davis thing. It’s a novelty. We usually only serve it to people coming from Davis who ask for it.”
Chris Randone, a manager at Bar 15, concurred, “Nobody orders it here. I’ve been here for seven months and I think I can remember two orders for the Wiki.”
Davis-ites, especially UC Davis students and alumni, are definitely passionate about the drink. A Facebook page dedicated to the drink, specifying its location as Davis, boasts nearly nine hundred fans.
One such fanatic, now UC Davis graduate student alumna Jen Frase, told her favorite story about the infamous drink. “It was finals week during our first quarter of our first year. We had all grown quite close as a group of friends in these first months at school and had already had a couple late nights with the Wiki,” Jen recalled. “All of us had our last final of the quarter at 8 a.m. on a Friday. After the final, we all agreed to meet at Café Bernardo for a celebratory Wiki. What better way to finish off the quarter than with a toast with the drink we all grew to love?
“We met there around 9:30 a.m. and proceeded to have more than one Wiki each. It was sometime around 11:30 a.m., after we had consumed more than we should have, that we were actually kicked out for being too loud and ruckus.” Jen laughed, “We were standing in the street in a circle deciding what our next move was when someone said, ‘Were we just kicked out of a bar before noon?’”
Matt Scanlon, a bartender at Bar Bernardos in Davis, has been making the Wiki for last four years. “Probably 80 percent of what I make at the bar are Wikis. It’s so fun to pour when you are hung over yourself,” Matt laughed. “People rarely make it to two or three Wikis. Each one has four ounces of alcohol.”
During happy hour, Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. and on Wednesdays (dubbed Wiki Wednesdays) from 8:00 to 10:00p.m., the drink sells for a special price of $7.
Adrienne D. Capps worked in the catering and restaurant industries for more than fifteen years, but decided to keep her passion for food a hobby. For the last nine years, she has been a vegetarian and two years ago started a food blog, www.vegetarianized.com, where she turns meat dishes into vegetarian and improves vegetarian recipes suggested by the blog’s hundreds of subscribers. Adrienne teaches cooking classes for the Davis Food Co-op as well as the City of Davis. She also recently launched a social venture, Vintners Charitable Cooperative, where nonprofit supporters can drink charitably by joining a wine club that gives 50 percent of profits to charity (www.charityvintner.org).