10 Questions with Charlie Ainsbury

10 Questions With... / 20 August 2014

We interview the World Class 2014 Australian Finalist, Charlie Ainsbury

He beat almost 300 entrants from around Australia and was crowned the national winner of the world’s largest and most prestigious bartending competition, Diageo Reserve World Class. Charlie Ainsbury (Chino) joined a stable of talent including the likes of previous champions Tim Philips (Bulletin Place) and Luke Ashton (Vasco) after his name was announced back in June at Bondi’s iconic Icebergs. It was a significant night for Chino but only the beginning of his epic journey.

At the end of July he joined 47 other winners from around the world in the UK for the 2014 World Class global finals. This consisted of a series of innovative challenges staged around Great Britain, starting in Gleneagles, Scotland, before travelling via the iconic Orient Express to London. Discovery was at the heart of the competition, a theme brought to life by the series of innovative challenges that immersed the finalists in Great British culture and inspired them to create premium serves using the world’s best spirits. They were assessed by an esteemed judging panel made up of world class craftsmen including the likes of Salvatore Calabrese, Peter Dorelli, Dale Degroff, Daniel Estremadoyro, Gaz Regan and Spike Merchant to name a few.

Charlie finished in the top six in the finals, a spectacular achievement. US Bartender Charles Jolly from The Aviary in Chicago took the global crown for Diageo Reserve World Class 2014.

Now that the dust has settled and Charlie Ainsbury has a minute to breathe we took some time to catch up with him to ask 10 questions.

1. What/who inspired you to become a bartender and why? My initial team at the Bayswater Brasserie inspired me to pursue it as a profession as opposed to a part-time job. Watching them have fun with what they do for work, and seeing just how infectious that fun was to the people around them was truly special.

2.Which challenge did you find the most difficult during the global finals and why? I think the first one, the sensory challenge. I wasn’t feeling super confident because I was the first challenger on the first day and Salvatore Calabrese and Peter Dorelli were the judges. It was the first time i’d ever met these veterans let alone made a drink for them. My nerves kicked in.

3. Which challenge was your favourite and why? The written word challenge came really fluently to me. I didn’t need to rehearse my lines, it was really me being me. The challenge was to take inspiration from the written word in relation to fine drinking. Rather than do someone like Hemingway I took a risk, went a bit left field and chose Tom Waits and Jimmy Barnes. They’ve both talked abusively about drinking so I wanted to produce restorative type cocktails that would almost remedy their take on alcohol.

4. What do you see as the next big trends in the bar industry and why?  I think we’re looking towards chefs again, not just in regards to modernist cooking techniques but celebrating ingredients and focusing on seasonal and local produce.

5. What trend do you want to see the back of from the last 12 months and why? Smoking guns during service. I understand the theatrics but I’ve never seen it done well.

6. Finishing amongst the top 6 at the worlds most prestigious cocktail competition is a giant achievement. What’s next for Charlie Ainsbury? I did want to open my own bar but now it’s not just about opening my own venue but working for myself. I want to find a way of getting my creative bartender self out there. Maybe a pop up here and there or some consultancy. I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve.

7. Favourite place to eat in Sydney? The Corner House in Bondi serves good homely food and no pretension.

8. Favourite place to drink in Sydney? Bulletin Place

9. What do you do for play when you’re not working? Play Ice Hockey!

10. As part of your prize you get to create your own small batch blend with Bundaberg distillery.  When can we try it? Before I do that i’ve got to complete the other parts of my prize. I’ve already been back to Scotland to the Johnnie Walker distillery to learn the art of blending. Then i’m off to Tennessee to master the craft of maturation with Dickel. Then I go to Guatemala to learn more about rum at Ron Zacapa before heading to the Bundaberg Distilling Company in Queensland where i’ll take the inspiration from all three brands and make my own blend. I’d say mid next year you’ll be able to taste something.

Since this interview Charlie Ainsbury has opened his bar This Must Be The Place. Check it out!