Nick Williams is a storyteller, and his medium is a glass.
“Every cocktail is a story,” says the chief spirits officer and co-owner of Annex Cocktail Lounge.
“We want our guests to have an experience here, for their drinks to be memorable,” he says. “Anyone can pour a rum and Coke or a gin and tonic. We’re trying to give the public more … to expand horizons in terms of introducing new spirits, liquors and taste profiles.”
And more it is. The Annex drink menu is an interesting read of house-imagined and curated drinks, each with a tale to tell.
Take for instance the Coffee & Cigarettes cocktail, one of three smoked cocktails the lounge offers. “It’s named after the Jim Jarmusch film,” Williams points out. “You know, those conversations people have while drinking coffee and smoking.”
An obvious conversation starter, the cocktail contains rye whiskey, cognac, coffee liqueur, and mole and orange bitters. As the ingredients are mixed, a glass is set over smoldering tobacco. Then, the bartender up turns the smoke-filled orb and pours in the drink. It is served alongside dark chocolate espresso beans. A patron is practically wooed by the drink from the performance of its creation.
Then there’s the cocktail Williams conceived to celebrate the new logo for Tinderbox Kitchen, the restaurant next door from which Annex was born.
A nod to the logo’s figure of a stag sporting a pair of glasses, a tie and suspenders, the Hip Stag is a blend of select mescal infused with grilled pineapple, house-made cilantro-lime bitters and Amaro Montenegro and Ancho Reyes liqueurs. It’s smoky-sweet with a touch of spice and fresh notes from the Italian liqueur, cilantro and lime—cool and stylish.
This summer, in concert with Tinderbox and Lowell Observatory, Annex developed a cocktail to celebrate the Great American Eclipse. The Great American Eclipse cocktail was made with an American gin and garnished with a brûléed orange wheel on the rim of the glass. Representing the moon shadow was a sphere of ice containing a fig in its center.
It’s apparent that Flagstaffians appreciate this storytelling approach to cocktail concoctions, Annex took first in the new cocktail category in this year’s Best of Flag.
Alongside its creative drinks, Annex offers a warm, cozy lounge and an outdoor patio. It also matches its drinks with food offerings from the chefs at Tinderbox and Tourist Home All Day Café.
Williams said the aim is to provide a cocktail experience on the level of well-known San Francisco, New York or Chicago establishments, bringing a sophisticated approach while still keeping it unpretentious, personal and inviting.