Charles Joly & 1912 – One of Hering´s 200 year

Words by: Theodora Sutcliffe

“Lots of stuff happened in 1912,” says Chicago’s Charles Joly. “But the personal touch for me is that it’s the year my grandmother was born. She raised me, and she was a big influence in who I am – in this business and everything else.”

Joly made his name locally with classically influenced cocktails at the now-defunct Drawing Room and internationally with high-drama, high-science creations for the Aviary before winning World Class 2014. He now co-owns premium, natural pre-made brand Crafthouse Cocktails, runs his own events and consultancy company, Spirit Smith, and has his own line of drinks tools. He credits his grandmother, Mona, who lived to the age of 101 and stood just 4’11” tall, with much of his success.

1912 was a fascinating year to be born. “I’m not sure another generation will see the changes that she saw,” Joly muses. “When she was born, the Wright brothers had just happened; the transition from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles was just happening. Prohibition ended on her 21st birthday; she lived through World War I and World War II.”


1912 was also the year that absinthe was, effectively, banned in the US, and Joly incorporates that into his cocktail, a full-bodied spirituous blend that’s very much in the style of early 20th century drinks. Mona, whose parents came from Lebanon, kept a little bottle of arak in the kitchen cupboard, and the waft of anise harks back to her too. “The flavour profile of arak, and the fact that it louches when you add water, has that connection to absinthe for me,” says Joly. “She’d show me the magic trick with it when I was a little kid.”

The walking, talking definition of formidable, Mona worked full time when that was still rare for women, as well as busting a gut around the house and keeping her 6’1” grandson out of the multifarious trouble Chicago’s South Side had to offer in the 80s. “She was well into her seventies when she assumed responsibility for my sister and I – and it’s no small feat at that age to take on a couple of soon-to-be teenagers,” Joly recalls. “My grandfather was in a wheelchair at that point. And I think that’s what kept her alive to 101.”


It’s a work ethic Joly seems to have inherited, at least after abandoning his dream of becoming a vet for a dream of becoming a musician. While he’s known for his work in cocktailian spots, he cut his teeth at a club named Crobar. The world of freaks and club kids and gender-fluid door staff on 12-inch platforms, the twisted glamour and exuberant glitz of 90s nightlife enmeshed him until, in his mid-20s, he realised he was a better bartender than he was a singer, and accepted an operations role with a bar group.

Winning World Class marks a clear transition point in Joly’s career. Although he and Matt Lindner started Crafthouse Cocktails back in 2009, the consultancy, PR, events and ambassadorial opportunities that opened up to him as officially the world’s best bartender – and an American to boot! – enabled him to leave behind the role of employee. “World Class is definitely a dot on my timeline, it’s definitely a key moment,” he says.

Today, Crafthouse is going from strength to strength. “We’re in 11 states in the US, everything from big liquor stores to grocery stores: Whole Foods is one of our biggest partners,” Joly says. “We’re in some sporting venues, we’re about to break into New York into some theatres and concert venues, we’ve been on United Airlines for two years: places that are super-high volume, and fast.”

And the World Class magic continues to power Spirit Smith. With Diageo, Joly has created official cocktails for the Academy Awards, Emmys, Grammys and Kentucky Derby, and done after-parties for Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel. And, yes, working Oscar night is as much fun as you’d imagine.

“At the very first afterparty, the Governor’s Ball, people are generally very well-behaved, very much still on, if you will,” he says. “But the later afterparties are definitely where people can let their guard down, which is really fun to see and work. There’s not media everywhere, so it’s easy to relax and be themselves.”

Mona didn’t quite live to see this phase of her grandson’s life. But she did make it to a couple of his bars. “I think the last time was when she was a little more mobile: we had her in for Mother’s Day at my first full-fledged cocktail bar, the Drawing Room,” Joly says. “Getting her down the stairs to it was a bit of an adventure, but she wasn’t much of a drinker. She smoked a pack a day, that was her vice.”

The 1912 Cocktail

1oz Overproof Cognac (Pierre Ferrand 1840)

3/4oz Bulleit Rye Whiskey

1/4oz Rhum Agricole Vieux

¾ oz Cherry Heering

3 drops each, Bittered Sling Suius Cherry & Arabica Coffee Bitters

Rinse glass with absinthe

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: Mist with lemon oil and place twist

Method:  Stir first 6 ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled rinsed with  absinthe. Smoke with cherry wood



Put Your Cocktail in a Box and Smoke It on


There are many ways to infuse a cocktail with smoke—from lighting a slab of wood on fire and using a glass to extinguish the flame, to making ice cubes with smoker-smoked water—but none of them are really home bartender-friendly. World champion bartender Charles Joly (formerly of The Aviary in Chicago, now head of bottled cocktail company Crafthouse Cocktails) is out to change that with his new, countertop-ready Smoking Box.

The Smoking Box is part of Joly’s new Crafthouse by Fortessa line of durable tools and glassware, designed for both home bartenders and professionals alike. The collection includes everything from jiggers to glassware to muddlers to, of course, the Smoking Box. Mostly curious about this last piece of equipment (we already have some ideas about how to use mixing glasses and jiggers), we caught up with Joly to learn more about what we’re certain is going to be the must-have Christmas present for cocktailians this year.

Supercall: So, why include a smoking box in your barware line?

Charles Joly: The Smoking Box is a direct spinoff of a homemade smoker I built for a competition while I was working at The Aviary. I’m big into antiques and “treasure hunting,” so I bought an old train case years ago to carry my bar tools to events and competitions. While trying to find a creative way to smoke cocktails, I drilled a hole in the back of it and unwittingly created version 1.0 of the smoking box. It is a really special addition to the Crafthouse barware line. It offers a unique, striking way to add visual, aromatic and flavor elements to a cocktail. It encourages you to get creative and see what new layers you can add to the cocktail experience.

S: How exactly does it work?

CJ: The idea is pretty simple, really. You have two main components: The box we custom designed and the smoking gun. The smoking gun is a battery powered smoker that has a chamber for whatever it is you’d like to smoke. Wood chips of varying types are the go-to, but any dried herb, spice or tea will work. A lot of the fun is in experimentation. You can also season the dried items with different oils to combine flavors.

The hose from the gun is attached to a nozzle at the bottom of the box. You have a door on each side, designed so you can reach your cocktail from either end. Place your drink inside the box, turn on the smoker, light it and you’ll see the box fill with aromatic smoke. Allow the flavors to marry for a moment and open the door to retrieve it. There is a real sense of excitement as the air billows with aroma.

S: Any best practices for smoking cocktails?

CJ: When it comes to the actual smoking, less is definitely more. I recommend starting with a light smoke so you don’t totally fill the box—that may look visually appealing, but you’ll soon find a little goes a long way. The smoke should be a layer of flavor; it shouldn’t overshadow the cocktail. A hint of oak smoke clinging to the glass while you’re sipping an Old Fashioned can be a nice compliment. Be sure to keep the smoker and screen clean as well. If you start to get a burnt aroma instead of mesquite, it’s time to reload.

S: Do you have some favorite cocktails to get newbies started with the tool?

CJ: Just to get people going, I suggest starting with some of the classics: Stir up a great Manhattan or Old Fashioned and add a kiss of hickory smoke. Try a Bloody Mary and really take it up a notch—make it double-smoked by first smoking your tomato juice and then the completed cocktail. Once you have the knack for it, let your imagination take hold.

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