As he prepares to go judge this year's Diageo World Class global final in South Africa at the end of August, we caught up with 2014 winner Charles Joly about his experience in the competition.
'The thing that sets World Class apart is that it is a bartending competition,' Joly told Imbibe. 'Of course you need to make good drinks and they need to be creative and beautiful, but it's also about all the other skills.
'The World Class platform is a lot bigger than just the competition. It's an educational platform for all bartenders. It's about bettering the craft of bartending.'
'I'm looking for the total package of what a bartender is,' he continued, speaking about what he'll be hoping to see in Cape Town, where Ali Reynolds of Hawksmoor Spitalfields will be representing the UK. 'When I look at competitions judging you on a liquid in a glass; your whole career and personality judged simply on a liquid in a glass – it's a lure. The people who are going to make it the furthest [in this year's competition] are the ones making us feel like we're at their bar. That's what will create a lasting memory of that person's performance. Everyone puts too much emphasis on the physical drink.'
Talking of his own global title win, Joly added: 'My entire adult life I've been behind the bar, so I'd done a lot before but World Class has certainly helped with my exposure globally, and introduced me to new bartenders around the world that I wouldn't have met otherwise.'
One of those being Aqua London's bars manager Luca Missaglia, whom he teamed up with to create a special summer cocktail menu, called Spirit of Summer.
Available at the London and Hong Kong venues until the end of August, it contains five drinks inspired by summer destinations from the South of France to Florida, and even the English countryside. Along with that, Joly and Missaglia ran food pairing evenings and cocktail masterclasses for consumers in Hong Kong and London – '[making cocktails at home] makes people more excited and passionate about cocktails in bars, it builds enthusiasts,' noted Joly.
Missaglia said it was 'really great working with Charles' and getting to exchange and share knowledge with him and the team at Aqua Hong Kong. He joined Aqua London least year and added his touch to the drinks lists across the various venues, which contain a selection of classics – 'it's the ABC,' he insisted – and signature drinks inspired by Mediterranean flavours, such as sweet paprika, PX, artichoke liqueur and orgeat.