Annie Williams Pierce, a veteran Columbus bartender, is getting some much-deserved national attention.
The last few months have likely been a blur for Annie Williams Pierce. In August, the Curio bartender traveled to London to compete in the North American finale of the United States Bartenders Guild's Most Imaginative Bartender competition. Pierce beat out 11 other bartenders and became the first woman to win. She is a veteran on the Columbus cocktail scene, with previous gigs at The Sycamore, The Crest Gastropub and Brothers Drake, plus the speakeasy pop-up she co-founded, Four Thieves Thirst Parlour. We caught up with Pierce to learn more about her win and what drink trends to look for this winter.
What's the benefit of participating in bartending competitions like USBG's Most Imaginative Bartender? The main benefit for me, even above winning, is truly meeting other bartenders and industry professionals from across the country. Having resources to tap into outside of your specific local community only increases both your knowledge and your scope of understanding. Whether that is in relation to products, practices or trends, competitions are a great way to widen your personal and professional circles.
How many times have you competed in this particular competition? This was actually my sixth year participating in MIB. It has been so exciting to see the competition grow and evolve just as the bartending profession and community has. The competition itself has changed so much, becoming more and more honed on presenting the competitors with multiple challenges in order to get us to produce our very best.
You were the first female bartender to win MIB. What does that mean to you? As this was my sixth year in the competition and my third year in the finals, it has meant quite a lot to me personally in both terms of growth and perseverance. To be the first female to take home the title is incredible. Women make up such an integral part of our industry, and to see competitions beginning to reflect our influence and growth is outstanding.
You incorporated sugar snap peas into your winning cocktail, London x Tokyo. How would you describe it, and where did you get the idea for the cocktail? My final cocktail, London x Tokyo, was inspired by my honeymoon to Japan last September. My husband and I feasted on decadent yet delicate meals, and I wanted to craft the perfect martini to complement the food. The drink itself is just a touch sweet, slightly vegetal, bright, crisp and clean.
Part of winning means you will be GQ magazine's “Bartender in Residence.” What can you tell us about that opportunity? I was in New York for about a week filming a series of short videos for GQ, Bon Appétit and The New Yorker—all on sort of “How To Cocktail At Home” or advice on what to order at a bar (especially if you're trying to impress someone). All of those videos are set to air across the various social media platforms relatively soon. I believe a new one will be released each Thursday starting in mid/late October and running up until the holiday season begins.
In terms of trends and ingredients, what can we expect to see on cocktail menus this winter? I expect there will be a strong showing of high flavor but low-alcohol cocktails and ingredients (think beautiful, robust vermouths and bright, rich sherries). I also love to incorporate not-so-traditional seasonal flavors: walnut, pear and sweet potato. Look for softer drinks with more interesting flavors than just the usual apple-cinnamon combination.