world class bartender of the year, charles joly, teaches us how to make the season's top tipples

As Amber and Yasmin Le Bon, Fred Macpherson and Eric Underwood coach us on how to brew the perfect boozy bevy in our latest video, we find out the golden rules of cocktail-making from the World Class Bartender of the Year.

by i-D Team
18 December 2014, 12:05pm

We all know cocktail making is a careful alchemy. One part Tanqueray, three parts of tonic, multiply with a squeeze of lime and what do you get? A wonderful Christmas time! As the festive season descends upon us and the drinks begin to flow, watch our latest video to master the concoctions you'll need to score that midnight kiss under the mistletoe, or read the tips and tricks we found out from Charles Joly, award winning bartender and the man behind our World Class cocktail recipes. 

Tell us about how you came into the industry?
I've been in bars for 17 years and worked in just about every style you can imagine. I've learned something at each venue, whether it be nightclub, neighbourhood bar, craft cocktail lounge etc.

How do you officially train or qualify to be a professional bar tender/mixologist?
There are a lot of titles you can earn in the business. I've completed all of the highest level of testing there is from the USBG (United States Bartender's Guild) and the BAR (Beverage Alcohol Resource). When it comes down to it, actions speak louder than words. Being a great bartender is far more than making great drinks. You need to put the time in and have hospitality stand above all else.

What are the five golden rules of cocktail making?
1. Listen to your guest. This goes for verbal and non verbal cues. Make the cocktail for them. 
2. Use the best quality ingredients you can afford. What you get out is only as good as what you put in. 
3. Walk before you run. You need to master the basics before you can play with more complex cocktails. 
4. Keep it simple. If an ingredient isn't playing a key role in balance or flavor, get rid of it. 
5. Have fun. You're making cocktails not trying to split an atom.

Why is ice so important? Surely ice is ice?
Using dense, clear ice is a nice touch to your cocktails. It will melt more slowly (thus diluting your drink more slowly) and makes a lovely presentation. Realistically, most of us don't have this type of ice at home. No sweat - adjust your shake or stir for a shorter period of time.

Who in the fashion industry would you want to make a cocktail for and what would it be?
Does Doc Martin count? I think I can have a chat with anyone about any topic over a cocktail. That being said, I'd let the designer take the lead on this one.

What are the 'store cupboard' essentials should you have if you're keen on making cocktails at home? 
You don't need to break the bank to get started here. You'll need some of the basic spirits: gin (something like Tanqueray will work in just about any cocktail), light & dark rum, American whiskey, 100% agave blanco tequila, vodka, perhaps a blended Scotch for mixing. A bottle of Angostura bitters to start. You can add on secondary ingredients as you begin to experiment with new cocktails. Next in line would be vermouth, curacao etc.

For produce, keep some fresh lemons and limes on hand. You'll want to squeeze and strain these, keeping the juice for no more than a day. Make a bottle of sugar syrup and keep it on hand for your cocktails.

For equipment, you really don't need much. I've made cocktails on airplanes, in hotel rooms and just about anywhere. You can improvise. For a basic bar kit; a two piece shaker, strainer, muddler, hand juicer, stirring spoon and jigger will get you started.

What cocktail recipes should be on everyone's repertoire?
There are a slew of classics that people should know. Basic sours like the daiquiri, margarita etc are a good place to start. For more spirited drinks, making a spot on Manhattan or Old Fashioned is key.

You must have met a lot of people in your line of work, who is the most interesting person you have made a drink for?
A good bartender has a good vault. You'll just have to become a regular at my bar to see who wanders through.

What is the best cocktail for...

...romance? A really nice quality sipping tequila. Something like Don Julio 1942 in a beautiful glass should set the mood.

...celebration? Did I mention tequila? to a large group? Time for a punch. You can scale up most cocktail recipes and turn them into a lovely punch ahead of time to accommodate.

...Christmas? Skip the eggnog and go right for the Tom & Jerry cocktail. You'll never go back.

...New Year's Eve? Water, lots of it. You'll thank me the next day.

Finally, what's your favourite cocktail?
I don't have any children. If I did, I guarantee I could pick a favorite. Cocktails- that's a time, place and mood. If there was just one, my job would be pretty boring.

WATCH i-D's Guide to Classic Cocktails here

cocktail recipe
Charles Joly
World class