The scene at Revel in New York’s Meatpacking District really heats up in the summer, but mixologist Ashley Williamson never loses her cool. The former ballerina knows all about grace under pressure, always remaining focused on making guests feel comfortable with every aspect of the nightlife experience. “You’ve got to provide them with all the amenities they can’t — or don’t think to — give themselves,” says the North Carolina native. “That includes music, lighting, and mind reading.” We chatted with Williamson to get the lowdown on entertaining under the stars in one of the most welcoming open-air spots in Manhattan.
BlackBook: Where are you from? I was born in South Florida, and grew up in North Carolina, where I did the usual kid stuff – cow tipping, tractor riding, tobacco spitting, making moonshine in the bathtub. (Kidding!) What kinds of jobs did you have prior to working at Revel, and how did you end up there? I was a ballerina for many years, and I worked bartending and waitressing jobs to supplement my income when I moved to the city. Eventually, I fell out of love with dance and in love with the restaurant industry. The job here at Revel was by chance, really. I spoke with one of the former managers and she instantly decided that here is where I needed to be. I couldn’t argue — the space is stunning. Revel has one of the best outdoor spaces in New York. What’s it like working there on a beautiful summer day or night? After some time you definitely take it for granted. Then, you have this really long day in the office and you walk upstairs and it’s just getting dark, the tree is lit, and there’s this romantic, early evening buzz. That’s when it always hits me. It’s a great place to work. A permanent vacation job. How is it different outside than inside? Because most of the space is outside, people tend to just let go and have fun. They are relaxed, but it is definitely loud and lively. It’s a garden party every night, which, in this city, is treasured ground. And drink orders are directly reflective of the weather. Light and refreshing in the summer, warm and cozy in the winter. What are your tips for making sure people are having a good time? You have to become as knowledgable as possible. When a guest says “I don’t know what I want,” you know what questions to ask and where the answers will lead you. How about entertaining at home. Do you have any tips for making your guests feel comfortable and have fun? 1. Don’t obsess! No one cares if you have 10 different types of glassware for the same cocktail. 2. Get innovative. You don’t need a million bucks to throw a good party. Roast a pig on your roof. Have a projector playing ’70s porn, or Planet Earth. Theme your pot luck something other than “Mexican.” 3. And have fun. Once you relax, your guests will, too. What do you do to relax when you’re off the clock? When I’m not working, I do a lot of yoga, play with my puppy, and frequent my favorite restaurants/cocktail spots in Brooklyn. Especially ones with great outdoor seating.
What cocktail can you recommend for keeping cool and feeling good on a summer evening? The French Poire Fizz: 1 1/2 oz Grey Goose La Poire vodka, 1/2 oz St. Germain, and a splash of fresh lime juice. It’s topped with prosecco and served up. It’s an easy drink to serve pitcher style for parties as well, and it tastes like heaven.