My GreatDrams Interview: Charlie McCarthy

GreatDrams: Obvious one to start; tell me about All About The Cocktail and what lead you to start your own business?

Charlie: Having worked in cocktail bars and on the events scene in London for a few years, I began to do freelance work for a few brands, in particular Hendrick’s Gin and Tullamore DEW Irish whiskey. Around that time, I was making cocktails at a friend’s party as a birthday gift, and they went down so well that everyone kept suggesting that I set up my own company.

GreatDrams: I guess it would be handy for readers to understand what you're up to day to day at the minute to make the All About The Cocktail happen?

Charlie: It’s pretty varied. The work splits fairly evenly between events for private & corporate clients, venue / brand consultancy,  presentational work for brands and media, and drinks styling for photographers. Drinks creation and menu building is probably the part of the job I enjoy most. 

GreatDrams: How have you found taking your idea to market? In terms of landing clients, events and creating something compelling etc.?

For events, it’s all about detail, and anticipating the inevitable curve-balls, so you have a solution to hand as they arise. 
With drinks and menus, I think it’s essential to tell a story concisely, and to always remember that every element should enhance the guest experience.
In terms of marketing, it’s been word of mouth, which is a hap-hazard approach to say the least, but it’s working so far. I’ve found that building relationships is key. 
I’ve recently launched an online magazine called Drinking Trends, and that dovetails really nicely with the work I do with All About The Cocktail.

GreatDrams: What’s the most random event you have hosted? 

Charlie: Wow. There have been quite a few of those, and I’m NDA’ed on the wilder ones. Trips to Moscow Bar Show with Tullamore DEW and Azerbaijan with the Gorgeous Group have been eventful. Last year I was charged with matching collectable whiskies with rare guitars for Lusso Magazine. That was utterly spurious, and great craic!

GreatDrams: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Charlie: Admin.

GreatDrams: And the biggest win?

Charlie: It’s not really a business win, per se, but I get a real buzz from absolutely nailing a drink recipe. If you manage to get the taste, presentation, name and story all to align it’s pretty damn cool. Like the Barmbrack Sour… 

GreatDrams: What are your favourite three whiskies?

Charlie: God, I was dreading this question. It changes quite a lot depending on who I’m with, what time of year, etc. So, my current top three, in no particular order.

I recently tried the Balvenie DCS Chapter 2 range. And Cask 7951, aged 19 years in a port pipe absolutely blew me away.
I approached Octomore with a lot of trepidation, but when I tried the 6th release I was amazed at the peat vs sweet balance, with the salty, biscuit and fruity notes really pinging out alongside the smoke. Bonkers.
Paddy’s Centenary Pot Still Irish Whisky. It’s a 7 year old Single Pot Still that just bursts with fruits. Happiness in a glass. Interestingly, as a nod to the original expression, this bottling is the only Irish spelled without the ‘e’.

GreatDrams: How are consumers reacting to what you’re doing? Are they interested in hearing about ingredients and flavour or more about the spirits and grab and go style consumption?

Charlie: It varies depending on context. When guests pays money to attend a spirit tasting, dinner, or cocktail workshop, they are an absolute dream in terms of curiosity. It’s a real honour to be able to engage in the conversation, and it means I really have to be on my toes with regards to research and brand education, especially at whisky shows, where the exchange of knowledge is often two ways. But then I also work a lot with World Duty Free shops to create fun cocktail serves that travellers can make on the fly, where it’s more about the fun and the sense of escapism that cocktails can conjure.

GreatDrams: What would be your top tips for those creating cocktail at home or with friends? 

Understand your ingredients.
Aim for balance first and presentation second. 
Use good ice and a lot of it. 
Prep some fresh citrus juice and simple syrup in advance, as it makes the process a lot less messy. 
Keep notes of what measures you’ve used, as it’s really hard to remember three drinks in!
Once you have those steps in place you can just let loose.

GreatDrams: What did you do before All About The Cocktail?

Charlie: Before I got into bartending I was an actor. I still dabble a bit, but drinks are my main passion these days. 

GreatDrams: When can we dram?!?

Charlie:  I have a lot of good whiskeys at home that I rarely tuck into. You’re more than welcome to swing round any time, Greg.

GreatDrams: There in an hour…

Tags: Charlie McCarthyCocktailCocktail barsInterviewTullamore DEW
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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