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Maison Premiere Wants to Improve Your Cocktail Game
The co-owner of one of Williamsburg's hottest bars shares his wisdom
Joshua Boissy and Krystof Zizka are the co-owners of Maison Premiere, a sexy little oyster and cocktail bar that brings New Orleans’ Big Easy culture to the Big Apple. (The team, by the way, is opening a Manhattan bar next.)
The celebrated bar has won a James Beard Award for its bar program and ranked 39 on the prestigious North America’s 50 Best Bars list.
The bar has birthed a new book, The Maison Premiere Almanac: Cocktails, Oysters, Absinthe, and Other Essential Nutrients for the Sensualist, Aesthete, and Flaneur , written with Jordan McKay and longtime managing partner of Maison Premiere, William Elliot. In addition to 90 drink recipes, the book also delves into the history of the once-taboo absinthe and suggestions on how to drink the libation once thought to induce hallucinations. The book also discusses the fascinating lives of oyster farmers.
Broken Palate spoke with Joshua Boissy about how best to use the book at home, and how to improve your home bar game.
Broken Palate: Maison Premiere is known for its cocktails, oysters, and absinthe — all very sensual items. What makes a cocktail sensual, in your opinion?
Joshua Boissy: For me, sensuality goes beyond just consuming something. It’s more than tasting or drinking — it’s experiencing something. For me, that means a lot of energy and passion. When you think of a cocktail being sensual, it’s the sourcing and handling of the ingredients, the way the bartender builds the drink, the execution, the garnish, the serving, and the glassware.
For our martinis, we’re serving gin and vermouth in a glass. There are a lot of good martinis in the world, but we hope you’ll have the best martini experience with us.
BP: You just released The Maison Premiere Almanac. Can you give some tips on how to use it at home?
JB: We’re a world class bar, but we wanted to write a book for consumers. We selected 90 recipes. A lot of them have a lot of ingredients, like most cookbooks. Take, the Sherry Cobbler, for instance. It looks amazing and it’s complicated, but it’s one of the first cocktails that women drank in the Victorian Era. It’s a statement drink. So maybe it’s not practical for a Monday night, but if you make it on Christmas Eve it would be a showstopper.
There are also a lot of drinks that are super easy. We’re trying to do everything we can to share the vision of who we are. For home, the objective is for you to make a good drink.
BP: What’s the most important thing you can share about making cocktails?
JB: It comes down to quality products. When it comes to making a bar at home…before you run and get a vermouth, crack open our book and see our recommendations. You can buy a bottle of really interesting Amaro for about $15. Then, go and taste a few gins. Then slowly, you’re curating a bar cart at home.
BP: Let’s talk about gins. There are so many with so many flavor notes. How do you know which to bring home?
JB: You’re never going to know unless you play and experiment. It really comes down to personal preference: Are you a linguini vongole person or are you a ravioli person? There’s no right or wrong answer.
BP: What about the proper glassware?
JB: Most of the time when I’m home I drink out of totally inappropriate glassware. More than anything, focus on the ingredients, and don’t worry about glassware for now. You only need to have functional ingredients and good products: good vermouth, good bitters, and a few options of gin. And olives. If you’re making a martini, get some really good, giant, briny olives.
BP: Can you leave us with one really good tip?
JB: About 30 to 45 minutes before making a martini, put the glasses in the freezer. And put the gin in the freezer. When you make a martini with that gin, its something about the viscosity, the cold that’s perfect. That’s one of the tricks of out tableside martini game: everything comes from the freezer. That will make all the difference in the world.