Charles Joly from The Aviary in Chicago has been declared the winner of this year’s Diageo Reserve World Class bartender of the year competition.
Representing the USA, he beat 47 other bartenders in a week of challenges held in Scotland and London for this year’s global final.
After a series of eliminations, he made it through to the final six before the ultimate global winner was announced at an industry event at Old Billingsgate Market in the City of London last night.
As well as impressing the judges in the different challenges, his signature cocktail, Above the Clouds, particularly wowed them in yesterday’s Punch and Glass challenge. It combined Ron Zacapa, which is a rum matured above the clouds at 2,300 metres in Guatemala, with Bénédictine liqueur, Verjus Rouge unripe grape juice, Gingerbread Dream Rooibos tea syrup and an aromatic vapour as a garnish.
After being announced as winner last night, Charles said: “Wow, I just feel totally overawed by this. I know it sounds like a cliché but to be announced as the Diageo Reserve World Class bartender of the year is like a dream – I half expect to wake up at any moment.
“The other finalists really are the best bartenders in the world today so for the judges to pick me as the winner is incredible.
“This journey didn’t start today at the ceremony, this week at the finals, or even last year when I entered the heats – it started many years ago when I first started working in a local bar.
“The flavours, the smells, the sounds, the techniques, the history, the theatre – I realised I did not want to create just another drink. I make drinks with my heart and it makes me happy to see customers happy.
“The possibilities open to a bartender are limitless, not just in terms of your career but your creations – the only limit is your imagination.”
Over the week, the bartenders created drinks in front of judges that included legends and luminaries of the cocktail scene such as Dale DeGroff, Salvatore Calabrese, Julie Reiner, Steve Olsen and Gaz Regan.
Last night, they also revealed the winners of individual challenges:
- Blend of Worlds, challenging their understanding of the blending of flavours and held in Scotland, was won by Giacomo Giannotti from Spain.
- The Sensory challenge to create a drink that appealed to the senses was won by Reinhard Pohorec from Austria.
- The Tale of Two Martinis, where the finalists were challenged to create a classic Martini and a modern twist at St Pancras International station, was won by Hardeep Rehal from Denmark.
- The 5-Star Challenge, where the bartenders created drinks behind top five-star hotels in London, was won by Maxim Kilian from Germany.
- The Written Word challenge, where they had to create a literary-inspired cocktail, was won by Grant Sceney from Canada.
- The Market Challenge, where the bartenders had to find ingredients for a drink at Borough Market, was won by Ahmed “Mido” Yahi from France.
- The Gastronomic Challenge, asking them to create drinks to accompany food at Oblix and Aqua Shard in The Shard at London Bridge, was won by Peter Chua from Singapore.
- The Cocktails Against the Clock challenge, where they had to make up to eight cocktails in eight minutes, was won by Charles.
- Yesterday’s punch and signature cocktail challenge was won by Claudio Perinelli from Italy.
Charles will now become a global ambassador for Diageo Reserve World Class, which will see him travel the world, educating and inspiring new talent while developing his own skills and knowledge through the different tastes and techniques they experiences along the way.
Matteo Fantacchiotti, global vice president commercial for Diageo Reserve, said: “Right from the beginning Charles’ passion, creativity and unrivalled mixology skills blew the judges away. His desire to create unique serves that combined sophisticated tastes with innovative modern twists never faltered at any stage of the competition.
“It’s a real honour to have Charles as our 2014 Diageo Reserve World Class ambassador, and I look forward to working with him in the future. Together we hope to inspire a new generation of mixology talent across the world, helping raise the profile of bartenders to where chefs are today.”
Charles has been beverage director at The Aviary since 2012 and went on to be named American Bartender of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail’s global Spirited Awards in New Orleans in 2013.
He started his career in the 1990s at club Crobar in Chicago and went on to work at other bars in the city such as Big Wig and Three Headed Productions’ The Drawing Room. He launched his own range of bottled Crafthouse Cocktails last year.
Charles becomes the sixth bartender to be named World Class bartender of the year, following in the footsteps of David Rios, Tim Philips, Manabu Ohtake, Erik Lorincz and Aristotelis Papadopoulos – pictured below with Charles.
The 48 bartenders that reached the global final had already demonstrated unwavering commitment to their craft after conquering a year-long journey of qualifiers, earning them the right to represent their country.
The UK winner was James Fowler, from The Larder House in Bournemouth, who was eliminated midway through the week.
This year, for the first time ever, consumers were also invited to participate in the World Class global final through the World Class House, created in a Georgian townhouse in Fitzroy Square, London.
Set over five floors of a beautiful townhouse, it runs until today (August 2), featuring hands-on cocktail master classes run by world-renowned bartenders, unique cocktails and tasting sessions.
Last night, Diageo announced that the World Class global final will travel to Cape Town in 2015, taking it to Africa for the first time.