Charles Joly Leaving The Aviary

It’s last call for the world’s best bartender. After nearly three years serving as the Beverage Director at The Aviary – Chicago’s cutting-edge bar – and garnering every conceivable award in his industry, Charles Joly is leaving the West Loop bar at the end of the month to seek out the opportunities now presenting themselves. When Partners Nick Kokonas and Grant Achatz hired the classically-trained bartender away from The Drawing Room, handing him the keys to their experimental, no-rules lab on West Fulton, it might have been considered risky. But the overwhelming amount of good press and industry accolades – coupled with Joly’s rising star – only intensified the spotlight.


“I’m going independent,” Joly told me via email. He says he’ll do more freelance work, in addition to promoting his Crafthouse line of bottled cocktails; he’ll also do quite a bit more traveling, thanks to all of the awards he’s racked up recently. The most significant was the Diageo World Class competition, which garnered him the Best Bartender in the World title. That alone would be enough to cause a bartender to think twice about staying in one place. But add to that the Best Cocktail Menu award at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail conference, plus that Beard Award last year for Outstanding Bar Program, and you can see why Joly’s stock has suddenly exploded like an all-star pitcher who just won the Cy Young, a strikeout crown and a World Series ring.


Fortunately, there’s a succession plan in place. Micah Melton, who’s been at The Aviary since it opened (and whom I can still recall seeing making ice in about a half-dozen shapes and permutations), will take over Joly’s duties.  In a press release, Kokonas praised Joly, saying he’ll “continue to be a great ambassador for cocktails in American and beyond…and a classy representative of The Aviary and the city of Chicago.” Cheers to that.



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