Master Mixologist: Rael Petit-Beverage Director of THE WILLIAMSBURG HOTEL
Acclaimed Mixologist, Rael Petit moved to New York City in 2003 from Switzerland for what was supposed to be a short summer vacation. On his first day in the city, he visited The Coffee Shop on Union Square - after chatting with owner Caroline Benitez, he was offered a job at the hipster café, where he learned every aspect of the restaurant business. It was his first job in the hospitality industry, and he immediately fell in love with it. Over the course of the next two years, the Swiss immigrant worked his way up from a bar back to bartender, waiter to maître d'.
Petit went on to work in celebrated restaurants like L'Orange Bleue, Brasserie Les Halles, and The Standard, before he started a cocktail and bar consulting company in 2010 called Rebel Disco (for which he's consulted on menus for the Gansevoort Hotel, the TriBeCa Grand Hotel, the Roxy Hotel, the Elk Room, and many more), and launched the Mulberry Project in 2012 with Jeremy Strawn. Petit also opened an art gallery, ROX, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 2013. Rael Petit joined The Williamsburg Hotel in May 2018, and will continue to exercise his creative mixology at the restaurant and bar.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Rael Petit about his career as a mixologist.
When did you first become interested in the cocktail culture?
When I first started bartending in 2003, all I was making behind the bar were mojitos and cosmos. Once I started bartending at L'Orange Bleue, the same year, guests would be asking me about classic cocktails. Luckily for me, Henry LaFargue was bartending with me, and he would explain to me the importance of these classics.
What innovations in mixology and bartending do you find fascinating?
I've been known for experimenting with new projects, for example creating my own enzymes. I always try to make my drinks as presentable as possible, just like a piece of art. New products with exciting new flavors fascinate me because they test me to come up with something brand new.
How do restaurant and bar guests encourage your creativity?
I always try to use an artistic flair when crafting my cocktails, whether it's pouring drinks in unique glassware, or playing with garnishing techniques with herbs or fruits for scent and appearance, I want my drinks to look really interesting.
What is your preferred classic drink and why?
The negroni is my favorite classic cocktail to enjoy at bar - it is simple to make and bartenders rarely mess them up.
What are some of your favorite infusions and how you like to use them in drinks.
I've started to make less infusions. I used to make tons of them, but now I'd rather play with what I have behind the bar and make some fun cordials instead.
Give us your perfect pairing for a cocktail and a culinary selection.
If I were to start with a steak tartare, I would go with my Be My Baby, which is a stirred cocktail I created with Casamigos blanco, Italicus bergamotto and bonal served up.
If I had a fish entrée I would go with my signature I Want to Break Free cocktail. This is a fizz made with Ilegal Mezcal, grapefruit combier, cinnamon cordial, egg white, lemon juice and champagne.
For dessert I would go for a chocolate soufflé and pair this with my Are You Gonna Go My Way made with Pimm's, Grey Goose vodka, ginger cordial, strawberry cordial, cucumber lime juice, and champagne.
The Williamsburg Hotel is located at 96 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249. Call them at 718.362.8100 and visit: https://www.thewilliamsburghotel.com/.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Williamsburg Hotel