Behind The Stick
Interviews with the Movers and Shakers Of Mixology
Hosted by Blair Frodelius of Good Spirits News

Charlotte's Web
A Conversation with Charlotte Voisey

Charlotte Voisey is one of mixology's busiest women.  She not only won the UK Bartender of the Year award, became Hendrick's Gin Brand Champion, and now is the portfolio ambassador for the esteemed distillery William Grant & Sons; but did it all within the last 6 years.   I caught up with Charlotte recently to chat about the past and future of cocktail culture.  

GSN: How did you first get into working as a spirits brand rep?

CV: I had been bartending and running bars and restaurants for a while when the good people of Hendrick's walked into my bar Apartment 195 (pictured at right) one day in 2006 with the idea of me joining them stateside to bridge the gap between spirit companies and bartenders.  It was the right challenge for me at the right time with the brand I loved most of all.

GSN: As a woman, have you found it difficult to be taken seriously in a mostly male dominated culture?

CV: No, I feel lucky to have been one of a few women early on to become recognized in this field.  I think it helped me early on.  Nowadays I don't think gender matters and there are so many wonderful bartenders of both sexes in our industry.

GSN: Speaking of bartenders, out of the hundreds (if not thousands) of cocktails of cocktails you've tasted over the years, what three come to mind first and who made them for you?

CV: Number one, a Bellini at Harry's Bar, Venice (pictured at left) - it was one of those moments: a beautiful drink in beautiful company. Number Two is the Flame of Love, made by Dale DeGroff in Las Vegas, March 2006. It was the first drink I had from Dale's hand and it was mighty fine. Thirdly, Jim Ryan's Bird's Eye View created for the Hendrick's Croquet atop Aspen mountain at Food & Wine last year - just delicious!

GSN: What was the very first cocktail you ever had?

CV: I honestly don't recall my first cocktail, but perhaps my first truly adult cocktail I do. That was a gin martini tableside at the Duke's Hotel in London.  Still one of my favourite, inspirational, places to go.

GSN: What are some of the bars and clubs that you see as trendsetters these days?

CV: Anything that Julie Reiner (pictured at right) opens.

GSN: What cocktail that you have created are you the most proud of?  Can you share the recipe with us?

CV: Recently it is probably the Blood and Sanguinello that I came up with for the Solerno launch in NYC.

Blood and Sanguinello
3/4 oz Glenfiddich 12
3/4 oz Solerno
3/4 oz Lillet Rouge
1/2 oz freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
1/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 dashes Regan's orange bitters
3 Luxardo Maresca cherries
(1/2 egg white optional)
Muddle cherries, then add all ingredients and shake well
Serve up in a stemmed cocktail glass
Finish with an orange zest

GSN: As you read through some of the old bar guides (J. Thomas, D. Embury, H. Craddock) what insights have you gained from their methodologies?

CV: Firstly, I have enjoyed the jovial literature with which they brought us their recipes and advice.  Then I have noticed and tried to emulate: 1. Their attention to detail  and 2. The theory of families of cocktails and learning templates so that we can approach and teach a cocktail as a style that can be tweaked for the season or occasion.

GSN: What are some ideas you feel can best bring cocktail culture into the 21st century?

CV: Approachability of flavor, the use of fresh ingredients, teaching bartenders everywhere how to achieve balance and the infection of our passion passed along to Joe public to appreciate the craft behind a great drink.  All that plus
keeping things fun.

GSN: Do you think the era of the frou-frou drink is finally nearing an end?  Are people demanding better cocktails, or will the fruit-tini and Red Bull/Vodka crowd eventually win out?

CV: I believe there is a place for all drinks so long as people enjoy them.  The more bars and bartenders that learn how to make balanced cocktails with fresh ingredients the more fun more people will be able to enjoy. 

GSN: I know you enjoy more than just spirits.  What are some of the beers and wines you rave about?

 CV: I love a big spicy Malbec from Argentina.  My love is somewhat biased from two of the best years of my life spent living in Buenos Aires and visiting Mendoza often. I never confess to my favourite beer. (smiles)

GSN: It sounds as if you've been around the world several times. What made you decide to move to the U.S. as opposed to staying in the U.K?

CV: My passion was always to travel, before moving to the USA I lived in Spain and Argentina for a few years.  Once I got serious about cocktails it seemed an obvious place to move to, the home of the cocktail.  Plus when you consider that my first professional experience in the USA was Aspen 2005 bartending alongside Tony Abou Ganim and Francesco LaFranconi I was literally mixing in the right circles.

GSN: What is the most unusual place you ever had to make an appearance?

CV: When I went to the Shetland islands to conduct a mixology session with Colombian fruits. You could not pair up two more different parts of the world.

GSN: Can you tell us your itinerary for 2010?  Any particular programs you're really excited to be a part of this year?

CV: Tales of the Cocktail is the focus as always for me, the event I pour most of my heart and effort into. This year I am also excited to be representing the entire portfolio of William Grant and Sons at the MCC, Aspen Food and Wine, VIBE in Vegas and many fun events along the way. I am also looking forward to more TV projects in 2010 – really just working on the first real cocktail TV show, similar to some of the many culinary programs on the Food Network.

GSN: I always ask this one of mixologists. What do you feel is the origin of the word "cocktail"?

CV: As much as I love the coquetier story from New Orleans, I probably side with the story of Sporting Life Gentlemen celebrating race wins by hybrid horses with mixed drinks eventually called cocktails.

GSN: Lastly, what has been the highlight of your life, cocktailian or otherwise?

CV: Walking across Mordor ( ed. - a reference to J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings Trilogy).  This was a holiday I had in New Zealand at the end of last year.  It was actually the famous trek, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  Pretty spectacular and as such, an escape from my normal world.

Charlotte Voisey is an award winning mixologist from London, now residing in New York and travels the world educating consumers and professionals on spirits and mixology.

Her first cocktail bar, Apartment 195 won London’s Bar of the Year in 2003 and Charlotte herself became the 2004 UK Bartender of the Year.  In 2006 Charlotte  joined William Grant & Sons USA to represent Hendrick’s Gin.

Charlotte still competes and took the silver medal at the World
Female Bartending Championships in Italy in 2006 and her Punch & Judy was named the 2008 cocktail of the year for Tales of the Cocktail.

Charlotte’s unique cocktails can be found on menus across the world including the Dorchester Hotel, the Fairmont Hotel, the Gramercy Park Hotel, The HideOut, and the Mandarin Oriental.

Charlotte can be reached at

William Grant & Sons Portfolio can be viewed here

Blair Frodelius lives in upstate New York and is the editor of Good Spirits News.  He is also a professional musician and is co-founder of Out of the Box Entertainment.  He can be reached at

- Interviewed by Blair Frodelius; February 18 & 22, 2010

Good Spirits News