How’s Your Drink: An Interview with Cocktail Expert Charlotte Voisey
Few people seem so poised for superstar status as Charlotte Voisey, Portfolio Ambassador for William Grant & Sons, whose products include Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, Tullamore Dew, Clan McGregor, Stoli, Sailor Jerry, Milagro, Lillet and Voisey’s personal favorite, Hendrick’s Gin (among others). Having won myriad accolades, from UK Bartender of the Year, World Female Bartender Silver Medal, and Cocktail of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail to recognition by the James Beard Foundation and appearances on Top Chef and Iron Chef America, the suburban London native with the looks of a movie star and poise of a Royal, represents not only her brands but the whole spirit of cocktailing with admirable aplomb. Voisey (“Voy-zee”) also oversees the cocktail programs at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, FIG and Fairmont hotel Santa Monica, Gramercy Park Hotel Manhattan and W Hotels Austin and NYC. The list of events at which she’s appeared or been feted is almost too lengthy to prin
Admitting she had only two career goals as a teen—“to have fun, and be famous”—Voisey, now based in San Francisco and traveling the US constantly, is certainly fulfilling one and well on her way to the other.
We caught up with Voisey after her 2011 Nightclub & Bar Show session in Las Vegas.
EHD: I’ve read a lot about you but nothing which explains how you got involved with mixology.
CV: I started in restaurant management, traveling to Spain and Argentina, and when I got back to London in 2002, cocktail culture was just beginning to emerge. I was GM of Apartment 105, but because the bar was so small, I was bartending on Friday and Saturday nights. And I discovered I was actually our fastest bartender. Then I came over here [the U.S.] to do a couple of events, and from that was hired by William Grant.
EHD: Every mixologist seems to have a particular passion, be it era, style, spirit category or presentation. What’s yours?
CV: I love to create drinks that are fresh and interesting, but not intimidating. The places I work, guests are not cocktail geeks.
EHD: Are there any distinct differences between Europeans and Americans in terms of cocktail interests?
CV: Europeans always have food with drinks, so they are more drawn to drinks with lower alcohol content.
EHD: Cocktail culture has really taken off in the last year. Of course that’s great for sales, but do you have any concerns with its growth, from a creative or longevity standpoint?
CV: Yes. Mixology’s exploded too quickly. People are trying to run before they can walk. Do people know how to stir a drink, and what that does. Do they know differences in the ice to use, and why?
EHD: You’re constantly on the move these days. Do you ever miss just tending one bar?
CV: Yeah. I miss the routine, setting up the bar every night, and that people come to see you, which is very flattering. I think I will get back to that. Some day.
EHD: As an ambassador or consultant, what’s your biggest or most common challenge when talking to bar staff?
CV: Explaining consistency, why you use a jigger, for example. But really the hardest thing [to deal with] is the management. They never involve bartenders in designing the bars.
EHD: Are there any new ingredients or techniques that are exciting to you at the moment?
CV: What’s exciting to me now is that people are making hybrid fruits again—manquats, limequats, pink lemons.
EHD: There are a lot of different mixology competitions now—many of which you’ve participated in and done well. Do you think competition or collaboration better advances the art?
CV: Collaboration. Playing off each other’s strengths.
EHD: From your own experience handling a bar by yourself, do you have any advice for female bartenders dealing with inappropriate clients?
CV: Hold your own. Never feel that you have to stand there and take it. Be polite, confident, and nip it in the bud.
E.C. Gladstone is an award-winning writer who covers the Vegas scene for EscapeHatchDallas.com