Drink Picks

How Alba Huerta Upgrades the Vesper Martini

In Julep’s James Beard Award-winning bar program, R. Jelínek Pear Williams brandy finds its way into creative and classic cocktails

Julep’s Vesper martini. Photo credit: Julie Soefer.
image description

Recommended by

Alba Huerta, owner,

Julep, Houston, Texas

When a patron at her Houston bar, Julep, requests a Vesper Martini, Alba Huerta is always keen to recommend a riff on the traditional recipe. Instead of dry gin, the concoction’s star ingredient, she likes to put crisp, clear, delicate R. Jelínek Pear Williams brandy front and center, rounded out with the usual vodka and Kina L’Aéro d’Or aperitif wine. “I love the versatility of this brandy. It can either be enjoyed neat or in a chilled cocktail,” says Huerta.

Huerta, however, is especially fond of weaving it into cocktails. Beyond the Vesper, another of her favorites is the Improved Pear Brandy Cocktail, where she pairs the eau de vie with maraschino liqueur, simple syrup, and dashes of Peychaud’s bitters, orange bitters, and absinthe. 

Located in Vizovice, the gateway to the Czech Republic’s mountainous Moravian Wallachia region, the R. Jelínek distillery was established in 1894, its roots stretching back to the 16th century. At three sites across the area, R. Jelínek’s orchards grow plums, apricots, and cherries for its range of current and forthcoming fruit spirits, including the Slivovitz (plum brandy) for which it is best known. But, depending on the time of year, “the Pear Williams fruit is brought in from three different continents,” points out Huerta. The final distilling steps take place in the Czech Republic, where “it’s been beautifully produced by four generations.”

R. Jelínek Pear Williams Selling Points

  • Between R Jelínek’s offbeat location and rich history, the Pear Williams brandy is steeped in an attractive narrative that is well-suited to the hand-sell.
  • This brandy’s distinctive pear aromas and flavors add intrigue to cocktails, but it also appeals as an after-dinner drink sipped on its own.
  • For the brandy’s level of quality, “the price, I think, is unbeatable,” says Huerta. “It’s an all-around winner.”

 R. Jelínek Pear Williams Tasting Notes

Bright and floral, this balanced brandy exhibits sharp pear notes underpinned by light baking spices for additional depth.

Search R. Jelenik on Provi

Alia Akkam is a writer who covers food, drink, travel, and design. She is the author of Behind the Bar: 50 Cocktails from the World’s Most Iconic Hotels (Hardie Grant) and her work has appeared in Architecturaldigest.com, Dwell.com, Penta, Vogue.com, BBC, Playboy, and Taste, among others, and she is a former editor at Edible Queens, Hospitality Design, and Beverage Media. A native New Yorker, Alia now calls Budapest home. Follow Alia @behdria.

Most Recent