In this episode of Mixology Spirit, we visited KeSean Williams, Bar Manager at The Tavern located at The Heritage Hotel in Southbury, CT. While fairly new to the industry, KeSean is a hard worker and student of the craft, putting in a lot of time researching the history of bartending and cocktails. His focus and passion helped him quickly rise to the Bar Manager role at the hotel. What also makes The Heritage Hotel unique is they are the first hotel to purchase a private, single-barrel bourbon whiskey cask from Litchfield Distillery. KeSean and a team from the hotel came to select their own cask and even helped bottle it! Patrons at The Tavern can enjoy this special cask to sip neat, enjoy in a cocktail, or even purchase a full bottle. Read on to learn more about KeSean and his work at The Tavern.
Batchers: What inspired you to become a bartender? What do you enjoy the most about it?
KeSean: When I was getting started, I was very disciplined about going home and doing a lot of reading to learn about the history of the industry and to study classic cocktail recipes. I also picked my coworkers’ brains to learn about their tricks of the trade and to hear how they approached bartending. I really appreciate everyone who took time to share their knowledge with me. It seems that every time I step behind the bar, I learn something new — whether it’s a drink I never knew existed or it’s making a custom drink that a customer requests, which I’m always happy to make.
Batchers: What is your personal favorite cocktail to enjoy and why?
KeSean: I’m a simple guy. I like a very cold Jameson and ginger ale or as most would call it, a “Jamo-Ginger.” I just love the taste of it. More than anything else, though, I really love bourbon whiskey.
Batchers: Got a great story about a hard night behind the bar?
KeSean: When I first took over the bar here at The Heritage, I was in the process of rebuilding our team. I had to fill in behind the bar a lot of nights as I worked on hiring during the day. On one particular night, I was all alone behind the bar and of course, that’s when a wedding party of about 100 people decided to crash the bar for their after party. Long story short, five hours never went by so quickly! It was crazy…I was making drinks nonstop all by myself. It was all worth it. At the end of the night, the bride and groom walked out the door arm-in-arm as happy as can be. The father-of-the-bride came up to me at the end of the night and said, “Great job tonight. You made this one of the best nights of our lives.” It means a lot when your hard work is recognized and to see firsthand how happy you can make others. It felt great to deliver on an extremely tough night and get everything done in a timely fashion.
Batchers: When you’re not working behind the bar, what do you like to do?
KeSean: I like exercising, specifically going to the gym and hitting the weights. I also love playing basketball and running. Every now and then, I like to play video games. Most of all, I enjoy quality time with my family—seeing all my nephews get older and watching my siblings and parents grow into great aunt and uncles and grandmother/grandfather.
Batchers: What is your favorite Litchfield Distillery spirit to work with?
KeSean: I love everything that Litchfield Distillery produces, but my favorite has to be their Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It has lots classic vanilla and caramel notes and it’s got a really nice spicy finish which is great, especially when making craft cocktails.
Batchers: What does The Spirit of Hard Work® mean to you?
KeSean: This is a great question. The Spirit of Hard Work means you have to wake up every day and chase greatness. To achieve greatness, you have to be willing to put the work in. This desire has to be inherently established in you—that you’re never satisfied and always want to get better. For me, I always ask myself, what am I doing to make my team be successful? What more can I do to make the hotel more successful and profitable? The Spirit of Hard Work is a mindset. If you are willing to do the hard work, you’ll get closer to your goals.
Batchers: You and the team from Heritage recently picked and purchased a 4-Year Single-Barrel Bourbon from us — the first hotel to do that, actually. What was behind the decision to purchase and bottle an exclusive cask and how have your customers responded to it?
KeSean: This was an idea born by our new general manager, Chris Anderson. He thought it would be a great way to demonstrate our support of local businesses. So, a team of us visited the distillery and sampled several barrels before choosing cask #1962. It was a lot of fun and when it came time to bottle our cask, we went back and literally helped with the bottling process by waxing bottles, signing bottles and filling cases. We offer this special barrel pick at the bar in both Cask Strength and 92 proof expressions. It’s so easy for me to recommend it to customers, I just tell them how great of a time we had going from barrel to bottle! In addition to ordering a drink with it, we sell full bottles that come in a branded Litchfield Distillery gift box. All in all, it’s been a great experience for us, our customers and I’m sure for Litchfield Distillery!
KeSean’s featured cocktail is called the “Litch Mint Blueberry Bourbon Lemonade” and it’s currently on The Tavern’s winter drink menu. The inclusion of our Straight Bourbon Whiskey in what might seem to be a warm-weather cocktail works nicely, especially if you are a fan of fruit-forward cocktails. The bourbon’s vanilla, caramel and high-rye spice notes add a nice contrast to the blueberry-citrus flavors. It’s a simple and delicious drink to build any time of the year, making it a great recipe to keep in your craft-cocktail repertoire.
- 1.5 oz. Litchfield Distillery Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- 1.0 oz. Simple Syrup
- 2.0 oz. Lemonade
- 1 Tbsp. Blueberry Puree
- Garnish: Mint & Blueberries
Method: Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake. Fill Collins glass with ice and strain into glass. Garnish with 3 blueberries and a sprig of fresh mint. Optional: muddle some mint in shaker if bar patron prefers a more minty cocktail.
To learn more about The Heritage Hotel, visit their website and follow them on Instagram or Facebook. The Tavern also has its own Instagram page. The Heritage is located at 522 Heritage Road, Southbury, CT 06488. To contact or make a reservation call (203) 264-8200 .
About Mixology Spirit:
Mixology Spirit is a Litchfield Distillery blog series dedicated to sharing the stories of creative and passionate mixologists who embody The Spirit Of Hard Work®. Think you got what it takes to be featured? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2022 Litchfield Distillery. Photography & Editing Credits: Tony Vengrove