Even on a cold December day, happy hour at The Wilson is a buzzy affair. Nestled into the first floor of newly re-fab’d hotel Innside by Melia New York NoMad, early evening crowd easily fills every communal table in the enclosed front patio. Bright with light wood accents and high ceilings, the two spacious dining rooms are outfitted with warehouse style exposed bulbs that highlight the larger than life artworks on every wall. Including so many of their namesakes: brothers Owen and Luke, and possibly the most famous silent costar, the Wilson volleyball (from Castaway).
New to the NoMad dining scene, The Wilson is run by In Good Company hospitality, the same group responsible for The Refinery Rooftop, The Boogie Woogie Room and Trademark & Grind. But it’s arguably a dining destination in its own right.
The restaurant also has a mission beyond the food: minimizing their waste footprint. According to Will Benedetto, the company’s “Cocktail Curator,” the real goal is have “little to no food waste. One example of this is the Garden Margarita, a blend of Ttquila, bell pepper, ancho chili liquor and avocado.”
It all makes sense, since Innside attracts a mostly European clientele, who are used to thoughtful and seasonal food and drinks they can also feel good about. One of the most popular dishes on the menu is the housemade avocado fries. Benedetto thinks it was a natural pairing since, “the kitchen uses loads of avocados, served with gochujang aioli and seasoned with furikake. So we made it our mission behind the bar to figure out how to use the discarded pits and skins in a creative and delicious way.”
What does this entail exactly? He explains, “After the kitchen has prepped the fruit of the avocado for the fries, they take the skins and pits and put them away for the bar team.” In most restaurants, pits and skins are tossed in the trash; but after 24 hours of resting tequila with the pits and skins, a subtle avocado flavor begins to meld with the spirit.
The next step was to reevaluate the other aspects of a traditional margarita. Since the weather in the Northeast prevents lemons and limes from growing in New York year round, they had to be shipped in. So why not use something local that’s already in the kitchen? The Wilson team turned to science and, again, the combating of food waste: “Raw citric and malic acids in exact ratios to blend with a bell pepper syrup to make an acid adjusted ingredient that perfectly mimics the balancing properties of the lime juice,” as Benedetto puts it.
As far as we can tell, the only thing better than avocado fries and a perfectly balanced margarita is…well, okay, nothing.
With the rigors of holiday entertaining upon us, we asked him to reveal the magic behind The Wilson’s most popular sustainable cocktails.
Sustainable Cocktail Recipes From The Wilson
2 oz Milagro Tequila infused with avocado
½ oz Ancho Chile Liquor
½ oz Poblano pepper, Bell pepper infused syrup
Mookie’s Manhattan (pictured top)
“Perfect to sip by a crackling fire with a cozy blanket. Certain to warm you from the inside out, the slightly higher proof Whiskey (46% abv) gives strong flavors of rye and grain to complement the rich, bitter and delicate flavors of dark berries. “
2 oz Hudson Manhattan Rye (we are using the IGC Single Barrel Select)
1/2 oz Cocchi Vermouth Di Torino
1/4 oz Punt e Mes
1/4 oz Lejay Cassis
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
1 Dash Peychaud’s Bitters
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir 25-30 Seconds or until very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a brandied cherry and an orange twist.