Chef News

Charlotte Voisey: On Molecular Mixology and Being a Bartender

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Charlotte Voisey may be a Brit born and bred, but she fell in love with America's cocktail culture after guest bartending at Aspen Food & Wine in 2005, moving to the States a year later to represent Hendrick's Gin. These days, she speaks at industry events around the world while managing the spirits portfolio for Grant & Sons USA.

You were in London when cocktails took off. Can you tell us about cocktail culture in England and then the U.S.?: Well, there's about 200 years of cocktail history in the US and 400 to 500 years in Britain, where punches were first made. But the modern-day resurgence in cocktail culture started four or years earlier in London than it did here in the States. Because I'd been bartending there for years, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. When I came to the U.S., I could see what was going to happen because it had already happened in London. In 2006, things started to simmer up and then they just exploded. London's cocktail renaissance had begun in 1999-2000, but the U.S. has caught back up now, and that's as it should be. The cocktail is from America. It's an American institution, whereas England is historically known for its spicy, warm bowls of punch.

How did the U.S. get behind the curve?: When Prohibition hit, it damaged the bartender's skill sets in this country. All the famous bartenders left for Havana, Paris and other cities in Europe. Bartenders in Europe in the 20's were learning skills, while American bartenders were losing them. It took until the late 90's -- or later -- for all that to come back, for people to care. People are beginning to realize that a cocktail is so much more than a drink. There's sociology behind it; it's part of culture and human history.

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Nikki Buchanan