Beau Williams is such a talented bartender that he can create both a classic Southern mint julep and a mocktail version for nondrinkers like me (who used to love juleps, in a different time and place). "I use a sweet, minty iced tea," he says. "It's not as good as the whiskey version, but the taste is pretty close."
Mocktails have their time and place, but good whiskey is going to be the lure when Williams and his wife, Keely Edgington, open Julep next March. With the 1,000-square-foot saloon at 4141 Pennsylvania, the couple are building an extension of their cocktail-centered catering company, Hawthorne and Julep. (The name comes from the two kinds of metal strainers that every well-stocked bar requires.)
Which means Williams is going to retire from Manifesto.
"I've been working in a basement for over four years," Williams says of Manifesto, the popular speakeasy in the basement of the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange , where he serves as general manager and chief bartender. "It's time to see a little sunlight for a change."
How much sunshine he'll see at Julep is up for debate. The place will keep the same hours as Manifesto: from 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
At least he's getting windows. Julep will be on the ground floor, next to Port Fonda, in a space that's still an unfinished shell. Williams and Edgington, both 33 years old, are working with architect Dominique Davison, of Davison Architecture + Urban Design, to create a sexy, intimate bar that's inspired by, but isn't too much like, an old-fashioned gentleman's club.
"It has to appeal to the ladies," Williams says. "Women are going to be a big part of our clientele."
Besides whiskey (and, of course, other liquors), Julep will offer a light menu of what Edgington calls "low-country Southern dishes, primarily things we can serve cold." For example? "Pickled shrimp," she says. "Things that go well with whiskey."
Williams and Edgington wanted a location in Westport because "it's where we hang out," Edgington says. "It's also where we used to live. We love the neighborhood." (The couple recently purchased a 1920s cottage near UMKC.)
Will there be live entertainment at Julep? Edgington looks at her husband and then answers: "Only behind the bar."