AM: Tell us your journey into the hospitality industry and what led you to becoming a mixologist?
WILL ELLIOTT: I started when I was nineteen years old on a little island off the coast of Maine. I was in college filling all of the front of the house roles. I was the only bartender in the only restaurant on this tiny little island for about seven years. I was also a musician and as many stories go, I started realizing that I was spending more time in restaurants than
playing music and I gradually fell in love with not only cocktail-making, but food and restaurant culture in general.
AM: You head up the bar program at Maison Premiere tell us what this role entails and more about the restaurant.
WE: The role of Bar Director at Maison Premiere is that of wearing many different hats. Of course, my primary role is the menu development and ideation and creating all of the recipes for our cocktails. But beyond that it's being the bar manager, so choosing all of our liqueurs, making sure the bar is properly stocked, and doing all of the nitty gritty work that goes into running a restaurant! Maison Premiere is a really special place-- it's definitely New Orleans inspired, but also has a horseshoe bar like found in Paris. It makes it a very communal place because you interact a lot with people around you and with your bartender.
AM: What are your favorite signature fall cocktails at Maison Premiere?
WE: My favorite new cocktail for fall right now is our new Pimms Cup. It uses a cool aged plum eau de vie that is really reductive and oily and has such an intense representation of plum. It's just super aromatic and delicious. The drink also has a little bit of cardamom -- overall just textbook autumnal flavors of stone fruit and warm spices.
AM: With the holidays coming up, what are some warm cocktails that we should enjoy on our next visit to Maison Premiere?
WE: We have a few great warm drinks at Maison Premiere. Of course, the classic is the Maison Hot Toddy, which is pretty fantastic. It's one of those great recipes that works with many different spirits, so if you're not a whiskey person you can still enjoy it! I love the toddy made with Calvados, it's perfect for fall. We also have a delicious drink called the Lady Lyndon made with framboise eau de vie, a rose cream (rose flower water on top), pineau de charentes, germaine-robin absinthe which has a lovely tea-like flavor. It's really great.
AM: We know that you have partnered with No Kid Hungry for Friendsgiving. Can you tell us about this initiative as well as how you are participating in this effort?
WE: Friendsgiving for No Kid Hungry is a way to kick the holiday season off right by giving back. And it’s easy. Anyone can transform their next dinner party or holiday gathering into an opportunity to help others. I partnered up with No Kid Hungry to share two of my favorite signature cocktail recipes with people who sign up to host Friendsgiving.
AM: How long have you worked with No Kid Hungry and why is it an organization that you like being involved with?
WE: I partnered with No Kid Hungry a few years ago when I learned that one in six kids in America struggles with hunger. The relationship between No Kid Hungry and the culinary community is 30 years strong and makes sense. There isn’t a community more passionate about food and feeding people. Every $1 you raise can help connect a child with up to 10 meals. Every little bit counts.
AM: When you're not at Maison Premiere, how do you take time for yourself to recharge your batteries?
WE: Working in restaurants and bars can be challenging so to recharge I definitely focus on getting some actual rest, first and foremost. Second, I love to go out to restaurants with friends-- like Four Horsemen, Diner, and Spuyten Duyvil. All conveniently located near where I live in Williamsburg. Also, when I get the time I love to head upstate to relax-- Josh, one of the owners of Maison Premiere, has a great cabin upstate that I like to go up to and my family is from rural New Hampshire so those are both great escapes!
AM: How often do you update your cocktail list?
WE: It's not super regimented, but we generally like to update quarterly depending on the season. We're constantly working to have cocktails that we love and that fit the seasons!
AM: When you're creating cocktails prior to getting them on the menu, is there a playlist that you listen to and if so - what is on there now?
WE: As a musician, I am definitely inspired by music as part of my creative process-- I've been listening to a ton of post-disco/early 80s New York/Bronx-style music. It's super trippy stuff like Dr. Buzzards Original Savannah Band and Kid Creole and his Coconuts.
Read more from the Oct Issue and see Friendsgiving For No Kid Hungry in mag.