Gregory Fellows began working with chef Anita Lo at her Greenwich Village restaurant Annisa seven years ago, and he fell so in love with the experience that he gave up his plans to follow a career in political science to stay on board. He never looked back. He’s been serving at the spot ever since, save for a hiatus during Annisa’s fire-forced sabbatical four years ago when he helped open Danny Meyer’s Maialino. Today, Fellows is the beverage director, service director, floor manager, and self-proclaimed chief bus boy at the restaurant. He’s also in charge of Annisa’s cocktail menu, and his extensive wine knowledge is infusing his mixology concoctions with immense creativity.
You have an impressive amount of knowledge about wine. How did you learn it all?
I’ve taken courses, but I’m not certified. Most of my tutelage was from Annisa’s former co-owner Jennifer Scism. She really instituted a program that encouraged us to taste tons of wine all the time and read about what we tasted. It’s really a taste connection with sense memory.
So when did cocktails come into the picture?
I’ve tended bar for at least a decade, but I wasn’t allowed the freedom to take over a cocktail program until I started to manage Annisa about three years ago. I have a great deal of fun making up new recipes that I’m confident enough about to put on the menu.
What’s your favorite cocktail that you’ve created?
The Perfect Day. It’s no longer on the menu because Annisa’s menu changes each season, but it’s a mix of crema de mezcal, Jamaican jerked grapefruit nage, and a salty, nutty Jura Chardonnay.
Have you had a cocktail elsewhere that totally blew your mind or inspired you?
Chances are, the last great drink I had was at Maison Premiere in Williamsburg. I’m there almost every Monday. They make absolutely fantastic cocktails, and they have a really great wine list, tremendous food, and really knowledgeable bartenders. That place is astonishing.
The last cocktail I ordered there was so embarrassing and so good. It was the Blind Lemon Jefferson, with mezcal, aperol, grapefruit, lemon, egg white, and soda. It’s this bright pink cocktail served in a highball glass that’s got an amazing smoky edge to it. They finish by adding an egg white, which they freeze for a few minutes so the egg solidifies and puffs up in the glass. I was there with my wife, and she ordered something much more butch than that. I order the fancy cocktail, and she gets a neat scotch.
Another place I go for inspiration is Fatty ‘Cue in Williamsburg. I can drink one cocktail after another there; they make such perfect sense with the food.
What is one awesome cocktail ingredient that is often overlooked?
One of the coolest tricks I learned is that when I want to add complexity to a cocktail and add some texture and volume without adding sugar, I should use Falernum, a very low-alcohol sweet cane-based liquor that has some delicate spice notes to it.
At the end of the night, what is your go-to drink?
Either really good beer or old-world white wines. It’s really boring.
Any favorite beers?
Actually, I have been brewing beer with my brother recently. He’s a scientist. He takes this very practical approach to beer-making, and I get excited and run around like a golden retriever. We just bottled a beer that I think is going to be fantastic. We did another before that with rooibos tea, which added a wonderful slight texture and herbal complexity.
The best beer I had recently was Brewtality made by Midnight Sun. On tap at Annisa, we have Greenport Harbor’s Black Duck Porter, which I really like. Barrier out in Long Island makes amazing beer. I’ve had a lot of sour and smoked beers, but Barrier has this awesome ability to make smoked beers and really unusual beer styles without going over the top. They make this smoked Belgian ale that’s incredibly refreshing that I love.
To drink great beer, I go to Alewife in Queens. It’s not nearly as hip as most of the craft beer places around, but it has the most unpretentious dedication to a constantly revolving list of craft beers. It’s in Long Island City. They have a beer challenge that asks you to drink 40 different styles of beer within 30 days, and then you get a mug with your name on it. My brother and I just did that. I’m so proud of it. That’s good inspiration for beer-making.
Find Fellows’s recipe for The Perfect Day on the next page. The Perfect Day
By Gregory Fellows
1 1/2 oz Del Maguey crema de mezcal
1 1/2 oz Grapefruit nage
1 1/2 oz Domaine Montbourgeau L’Etoile
Pinch of Tari’s Jerk Seasoning
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
Dash Scrappy’s grapefruit bitters
Rim a highball glass with salt. Combine all ingredients except for bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and pour over ice, add bitters. Garnish with grapefruit twist.
To make the grapefruit nage, combine two liters of grapefruit juice, one liter white wine, 2 1/2 cups sugar, 8 cups water, and zest of 10 grapefruits. Simmer and reduce until sweet and bitter.