Crest Gastropub cocktail creator Annie Williams spends her free time exploring the Columbus dining scene

After spending her college years in Chicago (including a year in Rome), Columbus native Annie Williams moved back to the area a little over a year ago. She's currently head of cocktail creation and product development at the Crest Gastropub, which opened earlier this year in Clintonville.

"I was brought in to design the cocktail program and train the staff with a focus on the local spirits industry," Williams explains. "We split our program into two sections-signature cocktails and barrel-aged cocktails-using spirits from local distilleries."

Williams draws upon personal experience when concocting drinks, having worked previously at Brothers Drake Meadery and Matt the Miller's. Her favorite part of her job?

"Every time we put new beers on tap, I have to try them all," she says. "And I love just playing. I come from a family of cooks and bakers. The way they play with flavors is the way I play with the drinks."

When she's not at work, all Williams does is eat and drink her way around Columbus. We asked her to dish on her favorite spots in the city.

What's your favorite thing to eat at the Crest?

It's a tie between the grilled Caesar salad with salmon or this awesome version of the quinoa salad that the chef makes me. It's unbelievable. I never get it unless he's working. It involves extra shredded vegetables, pickled ginger and a little bit of Asian sauce mixed with our chipotle aioli. It comes with beets, asparagus, tomatoes, zucchini ... just tons of delicious things.

What do you like to drink at the Crest?

Isn't that like picking your favorite kid? It's probably the Claire Patrice. It's named after my best friend in Chicago. It's Oyo Stone Fruit Vodka with Watershed's Bourbon Barrel Gin, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, Lillet Blanc and some bitters. It's juicy and fruity but has a nice, dry finish.

Summer makes for perfect patio weather. Where do you like to sit outside?

Katalina's. I love their patio and food, and it doesn't involve alcohol at all.

Do you have a good brunch spot?

I love Starliner Diner. Their fried plantains are unbelievable, and so are the brunch specials. Milestone 229's brunch is great too. But they don't serve alcohol until 11 a.m. And Tasi is a given.

Have you found any hidden gems in Columbus?

There is an amazing spot I was just introduced to. It's Silla, a Korean restaurant at Henderson and Reed. It's tucked in the corner, and I didn't know it existed.

Where do you head for a good dessert?

I'm a sucker for Graeter's ice cream. It's a childhood thing. My favorite is black raspberry chip or coconut chip. It's so good.

Where's your favorite date-night spot?

I was just taken to Veritas. I want to be Nicole [Hollerman], who does their beverage program, when I grow up. She makes everything in beakers.