March 2012 Bartender of the Month: Erin Williams

Name: Erin WilliamsErin Williams

Establishment Name: Saltbox Dining & Drinking, San Diego, Calif.

Recent Gigs: As a veteran in the cocktail business for 12 years, Master Mixologist Erin Williams began her career in the dining rooms of notable restaurants and upscale Hollywood lounges, where she discovered the creativity and allure of mixology while working her way through the restaurant-world ranks.

In 2005, Williams traveled to New York City, where she honed her skills at renowned cocktail lounges such as The Pegu Club. There Williams worked alongside award-winning Mixologist Audrey Saunders, as well as many up-and-coming talents in the world of mixology. Later, Erin was able to use her cocktail knowledge to start her own cocktail company, Hush Cocktails.

Williams has won several prestigious cocktail competitions, including the 2007 Finlandia Vodka Cup where she was named regional champion. Additionally, Williams placed third in the United States Bartenders' Guild International Bartender competition for the New York City regional division. Williams has had the privilege of working with notable industry personalities such as Dale Degroff, Tony Abou-Ganim and Paul Pacult.  

Most recently, Williams returned to her native Southern California home, taking on the role of in-house master mixologist at Saltbar, the downstairs bar and lounge at Saltbox Dining & Drinking in the Hotel Palomar in downtown San Diego. Williams draws inspiration from fresh, locally grown ingredients; standouts on the Saltbar menu showcase this inspiration as well as her love of classic cocktails with offerings such as the Pimientos Dulces, featuring yellow bell pepper and cucumber, and the Equinox, featuring green apple and star anise. Her cocktail menu at Saltbar includes a Drinking with the Stars section, which includes cocktails made famous by movies; a Toasting with Friends section, which includes cocktails influenced by authors, mixologists and bartenders; as well as zero-proof and low-cal creations.

What’s in the Shaker: "Gin. Lots and lots of gin. Herbs and flowers directly from my garden."

What You’re Sipping & Why: "It has to be rye or aged rum. I love the herbal notes."

What You Are Dancing to While Mixing: "'Party Rock Anthem,' only because it plays incessently every where I go. I swear it's following me. And ALWAYS, always, Elton John in any form."

Quirks & Quotable: "The wise Dorothy Parker: 'The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.'"


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