Four Questions with Charles Joly

Charles Joly
Charles Joly was first nominated for a Spirited Award in 2008, and he's seen the industry change a lot since then.

Charles Joly is no stranger to victory: the Chicago bartender is known for his widespread success in some of the world’s most lauded bartending competitions, from Diageo World Class to Tales of the Cocktail’s own Spirited Awards. Joly was in the top 11 for Bartender of the Year in the 2008 Spirited Awards, and he made it into the top four in 2012’s American Bartender of the Year.

In 2013, Joly emerged victorious, taking home top honors in the American Bartender of the Year category. Needless to say, Joly is an MVP of the cocktail community, and has been since the modern-day cocktail movement was first gaining traction — and in that time, both his career and the industry at large have made huge strides.

We were curious to hear Joly’s thoughts on the ways his work and his community have shifted and evolved in the years since his first Spirited Award nomination. So, we asked him. Read on to see what this bartending luminary has to say about the groundswell he’s witnessed in the cocktail industry:

How did things change for you, your career, and/or your establishment after winning a Spirited Award?

The Spirited Awards are regularly referred to as the Oscars of the spirits and cocktails world. It's a tremendous honor to be recognized and to win. It's kind of like the ultimate tip left by your peers, who cast secret ballots and all come to agreement without discussion.

The awards certainly increase your visibility within the industry. This is expanding more and more into the general market, as our guests are becoming more engaged with events that have traditionally been very industry-focused.

More than anything, it's a cue to keep pushing, to continue to try and learn more, grow and continually contribute to the betterment of our industry. As Tales grows, the international impact grows as well. More than ever, bartenders and venues are becoming globally familiar, reaching outside of their given region.

Looking back on the last decade, what have been some of the biggest professional/creative challenges you’ve faced since the year you won?

I've made several huge career changes. From going on to win the global World Class competition, to starting a brand for the general market and taking a moment to step from behind the bar to work independently. Any big change is accompanied by some bit of fear. If not, you may look to aim higher.

What are some of the biggest differences between the industry in the year you won, and the industry today?

The growth is really exponential. The movement continues to spread into more markets, guests further outside of large cities are being turned onto it, more bartenders are becoming entrepreneurs, and the number of options we have in any city for great bars continues to grow.

What are some of the positive changes that have happened in the industry when you won, and some of the negatives?

I love to see the diversity in what people are creating. Everything has evolved from what was a pretty homogeneous offering to every type of venue, cocktail and bartender imaginable. With all of the attention coming to bartending, there are bound to be folks that are attracted to what may seem "glamorous." It's that celebrity chef syndrome that happened after TV cooking shows happened. Some want the shortest path to the spotlight, without understanding the reality of succeeding in the business over the long term.

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