Williams was staffing an event at the local country club where he worked when a manager pulled him aside. The bartenders that had been hired for the night simply hadn’t shown up. Williams, who graduated from SM East in 1999, was under 21.
“I said, ‘You know this is illegal, right?'” he recalls. “But basically, we didn’t have any choice. I got a crash course, that’s for sure.”
It’s fair to say the evening left an impression. Because 15 years later, Williams has turned cocktails into a career, and is preparing to launch his own establishment, Julep, in Westport in April with his wife, Keely Edgington.
Williams first gained widespread recognition for his talents in the area as the head bartender at Manifesto. Julep, though, will be the first establishment where he and Edgington are calling the shots, so to speak. Julep will focus on whiskey cocktails.
“When people think whiskey, they think masculinity, so we designed the space to have a bit of a softer touch,” he said. “We don’t want people to think it’s some kind of boys club.”
And while the focus will be on whiskey, Julep will serve other spirits and have a “cold-kitchen” menu. Some things, though, will be off limits.
“I’m only going to carry things I like,” he said. “We’re not going to have Malibu, okay? They’d have to pay our rent for a year for me to even think about it. And even then still probably not.”
The opening date has not been said, but Williams expects Julep to open in mid-April at 4141 Pennsylvania, next to Port Fonda.