Anvil Bar & Refuge’s Terry Williams Stirs Up Celebration

By Natasha Garber | Make Favorite

Photo: Julie Soefer

From the moment it opened its doors back in 2009, Anvil Bar & Refuge staked its claim as the trailblazer in Houston’s now booming classic-cocktail scene. Today, general manager Terry Williams upholds Anvil’s tradition of fine spirits and artisanal libations, served with gracious hospitality—which undoubtedly accounts for his popularity among Anvil patrons and fellow mixologists alike. Williams was recently voted “Houston’s Best Bartender” in the Chronicle’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards, and voted the “Bartender We’d Most Like to Chat With About Awesome Wedding Cocktails” by the Weddings in Houston staff. So we did. And we’re sharing that conversation with y’all, right here.

Weddings in Houston:  How did you get your start in bartending?
Terry Williams: I learned to bartend at Olive Garden and Truluck’s, where I spent 10 combined years, and learned a lot about hospitality, service and wine. I learned most of what I know about cocktails and spirits from the great training I’ve received at Anvil from the bartenders who worked here when I got hired. I’ve had the enormous task of following in the footsteps of Alba Huerta as the G.M. of Anvil for the last year and a half.

WIH: What are some of your favorite locally made spirits?
TW: I really like the flavors in Austin Reserve Gin and Kinsman Rakia (an apricot brandy made from imported Serbian apricots). I like the unique flavor profiles they bring.

WIH: Signature cocktails are big on the Houston wedding scene. What are your tips for selecting or creating a perfect, personalized signature cocktail for the reception?
TW: For the most part I recommend keeping it simple. Chances are, you are going to be serving a lot of people all at once, and you don’t want to give the bartender, who has never made this drink before, something too complicated to do. If you are looking for something more extravagant and complicated, batch it [i.e. prepare it in volume rather than as an individual cocktail] and serve it with a beautiful garnish.

WIH:  What are some great options for refreshing guests and getting them in the celebratory spirit before the wedding ceremony?
TW: Something like an Aperol Spritz (Aperol, sparkling wine, soda) would be perfect before the wedding—it’s low in alcohol so that your guests aren’t rowdy during the wedding, but tasty and refreshing.

WIH: What drink do you recommend for a post-ceremony toast?
TW: If it was my wedding, I would want a Seelbach served at my toast. It’s a classic Kentucky cocktail named after the hotel of the same name, and made with bourbon, Curaçao, Champagne and bitters. This sweet, boozy, herbal sparkler would make the perfect toast.

WIH: What mixers should no wedding reception 
bar be without?
TW: When people ask me about how they should stock the bar at the reception, I always tell them to keep it simple (are you sensing a theme here?). Make sure you have a bourbon, a blended and a single-malt Scotch, a light and a dark rum, tequila, gin, cognac and a vodka that you would be proud to serve at home to a guest. A quality tonic water, soda and a few juices will keep everyone happy.

WIH:  How can a wedding couple make sure that their guests remember the reception cocktails as fondly as the reception food and entertainment?
TW: Hire a great bartender for your wedding. Talk to the bartender at your favorite local watering hole. They might not be free on a Saturday night since they have a job that requires them to be there, but I bet they know someone who would be perfect to bartend your wedding.

Dury Juty
By: Terry Williams
1 ½ oz Very Old Barton Bonded Bourbon
¾ oz Giffard Pamplemousse
¾ oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
1 barspoon Solstandet Maltat Akvavit
6 drops Bittermen’s Orange Cream Citrate
Stir and strain into a chilled coupe glass; garnish with orange zest and a cherry.

Passing Deadline
By: Terry Williams
1 ½ oz Old Grand-Dad Bonded Bourbon
½ oz Cocchi Torino Vermouth
½ oz Lustau East India Sherry
½ oz Salers Gentiane
1 barspoon simple syrup
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Bittermen’s Mole Bitters
Stir and strain over a large-format ice cube; garnish with grated cinnamon and a cinnamon stick.

By: Bobby Heugel (Anvil Bar & Refuge co-owner)
1 oz Beefeater London Dry Gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup
Shake and fine strain into a coupe glass; garnish with a fresh mint sprig.

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