Charles Hardwick began his bartending career humbly in 1992, at Acme Bar and Grill in New York City. It was here that he quickly grasped the most important fundamentals of the trade; understanding that even Lynchburg Lemonades and Oreo Cookie shots taste much better coming from the hands of a skilled and attentive barman. In those years before the current Cocktail Renaissance, he worked at a wide variety of bars and restaurants in the New York City area, among them such noteworthy venues as: Pravda, Mercer Kitchen and The Odeon. Each contributed something unique and valuable to his development.
A turning point in his career came whilst working alongside Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric at Pravda as part of a beverage program created by King Cocktail, Dale Degroff. Within those walls, he became deeply inspired by the creative possibilities and special role that quality cocktails spun with care can play in creating memorable experiences. From the aesthetics of the bar to the crafting of a well-balanced libation, his vision of Utopia in a glass began to take shape.
In 2006 he reconnected with a former colleague and opened Blue Owl, the first of what would be many resurgent cocktail bars in the East Village. Voted NYC Best Cocktails 2 years running in 2006-2007 along with several features in the New York Times, The Daily News, The New York Post, Charles firmly cemented his reputation as a modern barman of great skill and imagination, and one of the few who successfully transitioned from the Dark Ages of the American Cocktail to the more enlightened era we are currently experiencing.
In recent years, Charles has turned his attentions to crafting drinks at the newly opened Office Bar at The Aviary in The Mandarin Oriental Hotel. He also currently operates drinkmärkt beverage consulting, a company that builds relationships between brands and consumers through spirits consultation and the management of beverage programs for luxury clients including: Stolichnaya Vodka, Hendrick’s Gin, Remy-Martin, Art Basel Miami, Vogue, Interview Magazine, Esquire, Victoria’s Secret, the TriBeCa Film Festival, Diageo and many more. He continues to evangelize on the nobility of the bartending profession and the pursuit of the perfect cocktail, served at the perfect moment.
Photo courtesy of Gary He, Eater NY