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Former ‘Bar Rescue’ star to open Warehouse District bar, Academia

Arianna Auber
This rendering of upcoming downtown Austin bar Academia showcases the cozy, banner-clad seating area.

A mixologist and a co-host on the Spike TV show that seeks to transform failing bar concepts into successful ventures now has a bar of his own in downtown Austin. Having seen what works on “Bar Rescue,” Russell Davis is opening Academia in the Warehouse District in the next couple of weeks.

As its name suggests, the bar at 208 W. Fourth St., the former Isla space, will provide an education in cocktails — and so much more.

“Academia was designed as a figurative faculty lounge for an Ivy League university of drinking where the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson could be found,” according to a press release. “Academia incorporates the latest innovations in applied social and cognitive behavioral sciences, such as meticulously designed lighting, sound and seating to stimulate and inspire guests.”

The custom lighting, for example, has been designed by Cirque du Soleil’s technical and lighting director, “using varying colors and brightness to influence moods, trigger memories and evoke emotions,” according to the release. 

High-ceilinged and made primarily with wood, brick and iron surfaces, Academia will be adorned with banners, seals and crests, like the kind you might find at a learning institution. Chalk scrawled on the walls will nod to literary heroes like Hemingway. And there will be both lounge areas and long high-top tables with USB ports, for both work and play.

The bar program focuses primarily on cocktails; there will also be a food men of snacks, soup and salads, and sandwiches, such as the peanut butter and onion ‘wich that was apparently Hemingway’s favorite. 

Here are some of the cocktails on the opening drinks list, divided into three sections: “undergraduate” (twists on classic cocktails), “graduate” (original cocktails) and “electives” (“faculty signatures”).

  • Fresh Pressed Cosmopolitan with Wodka Vodka, house-pressed cranberry, lime, Cointreau, orange oil
  • Carbonated Negronen with Herradura Reposado Tequila, Cynar, Martini Rossi Sweet Vermouth, Sabra Liqueur
  • Waiting for Chinola with Santa Teresa Claro Rum, Uncle Billy’s Lazy Day Lager, Becherovka, Liber & Co. Passionfruit  syrup, lemon and pomegranate
  • Raw Dill with Linie Akvavit, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, saline, dill and caviar
  • Jean Harlow with Rhum J.M. Agricole, house-blended vermouth, lemon zest

Academia is the brainchild of bar consulting firm Unlimited Liabilities, made up of Davis and partner Danny Ronen, and additional partners Chris Daus and Rob Pate. Pate is the owner of French spot Peche, next-door to Academia. Look out for the official opening date of the bar on Academia’s Facebook page at