Judges
Anthony Dias Blue

Executive Director

Anthony Dias Blue

Executive Director San Francisco World Spirits Competition and Executive Director San Francisco International Wine Competition
President, Blue Lifestyle
Host of national syndicated radio talk show Blue Lifestyle
Editor-in-Chief, The Tasting Panel Magazine, Los Angeles

Anthony Dias Blue is the Executive Director and founder of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition as well as the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Mr. Blue is recognized worldwide as a leading food, wine and lifestyle authority. His work in all media is circulated to more than 30,000,000 consumers each month. His James Beard Award–winning food and wine critiques, The Blue Lifestyle Minute, are broadcast daily on KNX in Los Angeles and on WCBS radio in New York, reaching an audience of more than 200,000 listeners daily. In 2011, he launched a nationally syndicated talk show called BLUE LIFESTYLE that currently airs in more than 150 markets across the country. Formerly Wine & Spirits Editor of Bon Appétit, Mr. Blue is owner and Editor-in-Chief of the beverage trade publication, The Tasting Panel Magazine, the highest-circulating beverage trade publication in the country. He is also Editor-in-Chief of The SOMM Journal. In addition, he is a frequent contributor to numerous other publications. Mr. Blue is the author of nine books, including The Complete Book of Mixed Drinks and The Complete Book of Spirits. More about Anthony Dias Blue can be found on his company website www.bluelifestyle.com.

Erik Adkins

Beverage Director, Slanted Door Group, San Francisco

Erik Adkins has been with the Slanted Door Group since 2002 and has been a fixture in the San Francisco bar scene since 1993. Erik created the bar program at the Slanted Door and designed, opened, and manages the bars at Hard Water, The Coachman, and the Moss Room, all in San Francisco. Erik’s bar programs have an eye for detail and execution that defines the craft cocktail culture. His passion and respect for ingredients and responsible agriculture has made him one of the most recognized and creative talents in the nation’s resurgence of the American cocktail.

Bridget Albert

National Director of Education, Beam Suntory, Southern Wine & Spirits, Chicago

Famous for her innovative Mixology and an advocate for seasonal, fresh recipes with bold flavor, Bridget is the co-author of “Market Fresh Mixology”. She designs cocktails for top national accounts and has won numerous awards in U.S.B.G. and Bellagio classic cocktail competitions as well as other international competitions and was a featured Mixologist on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America Battle Mango. Bridget hosts charity cocktail clinics for a variety of companies and is the President of the National Charity Foundation of the United States Bartenders' Guild, the world's largest contributor to the cocktail culture. Currently she holds the position as National Director of Education, Beam Suntory, Southern Wine & Spirits. Bridget is the Founder of the Advanced Mixology Culinary Academy and the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service, respected programs for bartenders and trade.

Stephen Beal

Keeper of the Quaich, Senior Master of Whisky, Consultant & Educator, San Francisco

Steve Beal, of San Francisco, is the senior brand educator for the whisky portfolio of Diageo North America. He has served for over 13 years as an international spirits judge, broadcast presenter, spirits journalist and Master Mixologist Masters Program examiner with the United States Bartenders Guild. In 2010 the Scotch Whisky industry inducted him as a life member of the Keepers of the Quaich. His title at DIAGEO is Senior Master of Whisky. He is also a chef and an ordained Anglican priest. www.Scotchrep.com Twitter: @SrWhiskymaster

Kent Bearden CSS

Senior Director of Operations, Saint Marc USA, Newport Beach

Kent Bearden is senior director of operations for Saint Marc USA and general manager of Saint Marc Pub — Café, Bakery & Cheese Affinage, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Huntington Beach, Calif. flagship restaurant. Bearden oversees and manages staffing, beverage procurement, supplier relationships, media, marketing and promotions, philanthropy, information technology, menu design and forecasting. He is a 15-year industry veteran with a wide breadth and scope of experience as an operator, supplier and distributor within the food and beverage industry and has held numerous senior and executive level positions in establishments such as Carmine’s of New York City and the MGM Grand Las Vegas, where he was master mixologist and assistant director of beverage. In 2012 Bearden joined Wirtz Beverage of Nevada as craft brand specialist, developing the craft beer distribution business for 6th largest distributor in the country and earning the “Beer Game Changer” Award for the company in 2013. A featured mixologist at the “Life is Beautiful” festival, and the recipient of numerous awards, Bearden earned a master’s degree with a concentration in Shakespeare in 2000 from the University of Tennessee - International Actor Training Academy in Knoxville. He received a bachelor’s degree in theatre in 1997 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Bearden holds numerous beverage industry certifications including Certified Specialist of Spirits, Certified Beer Server, Introductory Court of Master Sommeliers, Level 1 Sake Professional, among others. Bearden is a judge for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, previously judged the 2010 WSWA Spirits and Mixology Competition, and was one of the featured mixologists at the 2009 Toronto Fashion Week as well as the 2009 Food Network Wine and Food Festival in New York City. Bearden was a featured speaker at the 2011 CHEERS Beverage Industry Conference and has appeared on various TV shows, including ESPN’s morning show “Cold Pizza”, “Absolute Vodka’s Search for Americas Next Top Bartender”, Canada’s morning show “Breakfast Television”, and most recently on Las Vegas “M Life Television.” His cocktail, spirits, and beverage industry insights and journalism have been featured in publications including Beer Business Daily, Craft Business Daily, The Robb Report, Nightclub & Bar Magazine, Wine & Spirits Daily, VEGAS, M Magazine, Vegas Seven, Luxury Las Vegas, Las Vegas Weekly, UP! Magazine for WestJet, Atlantic Monthly, and Tasting Panel Magazine. Bearden serves on both the board of directors for the Charley Hoffman Foundation and Cystic Fibrosis in Las Vegas, Nevada where he received the inaugural Nevada Champion of Children award.

Mitch Bechard

Portfolio Ambassador, William Grant & Sons, Irvine.

Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, Glenfiddich brand ambassador Mitch Bechard fell in love with Scotch Whisky at a young, albeit legal, age and has been pursuing that passion ever since. In 1990, Mitch started to take his first steps into the world of food and drink, cutting his teeth in hotel management, as well as running restaurants and cocktail bars in places as far-flung as Portugal, England, Scotland and Australia.

In 2011, Mitch began working with William Grant & Sons as the Glenfiddich Ambassador. In this position, Mitch works within the on- and off-premise world to introduce new marques to whisky enthusiasts, and he continues to share his love for single malts with consumers, whether they are new to the spirit or loyal Scotch drinkers.

Julio Bermejo

Tequila Master / Spirits Buyer, Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, San Francisco

Julio Bermejo, beverage manager and owner of the renowned tequila bar,Tommy's Mexican Restaurant and co-owner of Tres Agaves in San Francisco, has been designated "Ambassador of Tequila to the U.S." by the state of Jalisco. He is regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on tequila. Julio started the Blue Agave Club in 1989 to encourage his customers to learn about tequila from his vast knowledge and extensive bar. His expertise is often called upon for restaurants and bar programs and he has been a judge at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition since its inception in 2000. www.tommystequila.com

Brian Bowden

VP Spirits, Beer, Tobacco, Beverages, GMM New Markets, BevMo!, Concord

Brian Bowden started in the alcoholic beverage industry in 1981 at Liquor Barn in California. His primary role was part of the store management teams in Northern and Southern California until 1991. From 1991-1994 Brian worked in the wine industry representing small Sonoma County wineries with sales and distribution. From 1994 to present he has been working at BevMo! His hols his current title as VP Spirits, Beer, Tobacco, Beverages, GMM New Markets. He has received his CSS in spirits and is currently working towards a Cicerone certification.

Mark Bowery

Wine & Spirits Consultant, Mark Bowery Consulting, Mendocino

In addition to designing and maintaining award-winning beverage programs for fine restaurants, Mark Bowery is a freelance writer, acquires rare spirits for collectors, appraises private cellars, and anchors a four-person panel that makes selections for three of the country's most respected wine clubs. Armed with 35 years of tasting experience, he is also a judge at several international wine and spirits competitions, and considered an authority on single malt whisky (but his true love is tequila). He served as wine & spirits editor for Millionaire Magazine and as a faculty member at the Brown-Forman Center for Global Wine Education. While stationed in California’s coastal village of Mendocino, Bowery works with clients in the San Francisco Bay Area each week and tirelessly travels the world in search of the finest alcoholic beverages.

Joseph Brooke

Southwest Market Manager, The 86 Co., Los Angeles

Joseph Brooke is the Southwest Market Manager for The 86 Co. He graduated from Southern Wine & Spirits’ mixology and fine service course and received his BAR-Ready certification from AKA Wine Geek in 2010. His bartending experience includes hotspots like the legendary Bar Marmont, The Edison, Copa d’Oro, Next Door Lounge, and most recently Mixology 101 at the Farmers Market with Salvatore Calabrese. Other accomplishments include having taken the USBG LA’s prized “Bar Throwdown” trophy, 2012, being named Crowd Favorite in 2011’s “LA’s Best Bartender” competition, and winning season 2 of NBC/LXTV’s show “On the Rocks: The Search For America’s Top Bartender” in 2009. Brooke is a member of the USBG Los Angeles chapter. www.josephbrooke.net

Derek Brown

Co-owner / Mixologist, Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich, Southern Efficiency and Columbia Room, Washington, D.C.

Derek Brown is a cocktail and spirits writer, spirits judge and owner of acclaimed bars in Washington, D.C.. He travels the world learning and teaching about how drinking is an integral part of our culture and values. While he’s made drinks at the White House, been featured in the Wall Street Journal, drank with Martha Stewart, was recently named Imbibe Magazine's 2015 Bartender of the Year, and was nominated for a James Beard Award among his many accolades, Derek will tell you that his simple greatest pleasure is introducing others to that great Manzanilla Pasada he had eating seafood ocean-side in San Lúcar de Barrameda, or the small production XO Cognac he drank while taking a barge down the Charente with friends. www.twitter.com/betterdrinking www.passengerdc.com/columbia

Jackson Cannon

Mixologist and Bar Director,The Hawthorne, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and Eastern Standard, Boston

Jackson Cannon has single-handedly elevated the craft of bartending in Boston. Cannon help found the Jack Rose Society, dedicated to preserving the legacy of the art of the American cocktail. As opening Bar Manager at Eastern Standard his cocktail program was named one of the country’s Top 10 Hotel Bars by USA Today while Boston magazine awarded it “Best Restaurant Bar” in 2006 and Esquire magazine included it in its list of “Best Bars in America” in both 2008 and 2010. In 2009, Eastern Standard was awarded top honor of Spirits Hospitality Restaurant of the Year by Santé magazine. In 2010, Jackson created the bar program for Island Creek Oyster Bar, Eastern Standard’s sister and in 2011, Jackson further elevated the cocktail when he introduced The Hawthorne where he is co-owner and Bar Director. www.thehawthornebar.com/

Kathy Casey

Owner, Kathy Casey Food Studios- Liquid Kitchen

Kathy Casey is a celebrity chef, mixologist, and pioneer in the bar-chef movement.
She played a key role in bringing Northwest cuisine to national prominence and, as one of the first female executive chefs in the United States, was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “Hot New American Chefs.” She has also been touted as being the original Bar Chef and was named one of the top 10 most influential bar figures of the past 25 years by Cheers Magazine.

Kathy is the owner of Kathy Casey Food Studios® – Liquid Kitchen®, a global agency specializing in food, beverage and concept development, innovation, menu training, opening support, branding and photography. Some of her clients include the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International, Islands Restaurants, Kona Grill, Odyssey Seafood, National Amusements Theaters, California Pizza Kitchen, Sunkist, Alaska Seafood Marketing, The National Honey Board, Norwegian Cruise Lines, HMS Host and Monin Gourmet Flavors- just to name a few. Prominent spirit companies such as Bacardi, Tito’s Vodka, Beam Suntory, and Brown Forman have also utilized her cocktail innovation and development skills. Casey also owns Dish D’Lish®, a “Food to Go-Go”® airport concept as well as Dish D’Lish branded retail and food-service specialty products and cocktail mixers.

Jerry Cooper

Owner, SmartDrink Consulting, San Francisco

Originally from Los Angeles, Jerry has worked the last 20 years in San Francisco as a mixologist, restaurant wine director, retail owner, and wine and spirits specialist.

Dale DeGroff

President, King Cocktail Co., New York

Tony Devencenzi

Mixology Ambassador, Diageo North America, San Francisco

Tony Devencenzi is a bartender at Bourbon & Branch and the Educational Coordinator for Future Bars in San Francisco. Through them he runs the Beverage Academy program which provides cocktail and spirit focused seminars for the public and industry professionals. He has designed and taught their Cocktails 101 - 103 courses; and their Scotch, American Whiskey, Gin and Agave spirits seminars. As the Education Coordinator, he organizes training courses for staff at their multiple bars, and has created a knowledge database for their spirits education. In January of 2013, Tony became the chapter President of the Northern California Chapter of the USBG which currently has over 300 active members. He has professionally bartended in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 9 years and before coming to Bourbon and Branch you may have seen him behind the stick at Enrico's Sidewalk Cafe, Levende East, Jones or Michael Mina's Clockbar. More recently expect to see him featured in an upcoming episode of the TV show Bar Rescue. www.bourbonandbranch.com www.beverageacademy.com

H. Joseph Ehrmann

Proprietor, Elixir, San Francisco

H. has cooked, served, managed and bartended in over 20 bars and restaurants around the country over the last 27 years. Since 2003, he has owned and operated one of the oldest saloons in San Francisco, Elixir, which has won numerous accolades including multiple "Best Bars in America" listings in national media outlets. His personal accolades include 2009 Rising Star and 2010 Bartender of the Year Awards. H’s consultancy business, Cocktail Ambassadors, serves clients in product and brand development, event execution and both trade and consumer education. Some other roles include Brand Ambassador for Square One Organic Spirits, National Ambassador of The United States Bartenders Guild, and Co-Founder of San Francisco Cocktail Week, The Boothby Center for the Beverage Arts and The Bartender Relief Fund. www.ElixirSF.com / www.CocktailAmbassadors.com

Scott Ellis

U.S. Western Regional Manager, Compass Box, San Francisco

Ziggy Eschliman

The Wine Gal and Countess of Cocktails, Wine Country Radio, Santa Rosa

Ziggy Eschliman is among America's most enthusiastic, authoritative and entertaining libation experts. For over 20 years, Ziggy has set and reported trends in all things to imbibe. Her award-winning radio shows are broadcast throughout wine country and stream live on the internet. She is a dynamic guest speaker and presenter and her credits include American Women in Radio and Television, Gourmet magazine “Gourmet Wine Cellar”, MusExpo, New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, YWCA, Cinema Epicuria Film Festival, Santa Rosa Junior College. She also leads seminars on vodka, tequila, rum and a variety of spirits. As a wine and spirits educator, Ziggy has developed programs for a diverse range of organizations including Gourmet magazine, Benziger Family, Legrande Hospitality, Relish Culinary School, Beverage Builders, IBM, PepsiCo, KFC Inc., Meritage Alliance, So Co Farm Bureau, Showcase of Wine & Food, and Sinclair Communications. www.ziggythewinegal.com

Doug Frost MS & MW

Wine & Spirits Writer and Consultant, Kansas City, Missouri

Doug Frost is an American Master of Wine and Master Sommelier as well as an author and wine consultant based in Kansas City, Missouri. Frost is one of four individuals in the world to hold simultaneously the Master of Wine and Master Sommelier titles, achieving his MS in 1991 and MW in 1993. Frost has also been bestowed the accolade of Master of Spirits by Wine Spectator. In addition to co-creating BAR (Beverage Alcohol Resource), a spirits and cocktail educational organization, Frost is also a member of the team behind Full Circle Wine Solutions, a wine & spirits education firm that grows brand loyalty and client profits through tailored wine programs and effective hospitality training. Frost lives with his wife and two children in Kansas City, where he spends his spare time listening to his massive punk rock, vintage jazz and weird music collection.

David Grapshi

Owner, Agave Forte, Walnut Creek

David Grapshi has a true passion for tequila. His dedication to the beverage industry started 25 years ago in positions in both liquor supply and distribution. Since then, David has created a widespread network of contacts both stateside and abroad, especially pushing tequila to new heights. He remains a force in the production, distribution and importation of Mexico’s oldest and finest labels. Grapshi brought the brands of Herradura and El Jimador into the fold of nationally recognized household brand names. He and Gemini are about to unveil The Corazon Barrel Expression Project, a new concept in the barrel aging of exceptional blanco tequila using Buffalo Trace Antique Collection bourbon barrels.

Gary Gruver

Beverage Manger, Global Operations, Marriott International, Washington, D.C.

Kim Haasarud

Founder, Liquid Architecture,TM, Phoenix

Kim Haasarud is a nationally recognized mixologist and beverage consultant, working with hundreds of brands, restaurants and hotels across the country. She has been seen as a judge on Iron Chef America, a guest on The Today Show, CBS Early Morning Show, Martha Stewart Radio and has been featured in such publications as Wall Street Journal, NY Times, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wine Enthusiast, Glamour and Cosmopolitan. Kim is also a cocktail book author, having written six successful cocktails books and two more on the way and a columnist for REDBOOK magazine contributing cocktail recipes for the magazine and website. She is the current President of the USBG Phoenix chapter and a recent member of Les Dames d’Escoffier. www.liquid-architecture.com

Click here for a list of 2017 Judges.
Tony Abou-Ganim

Director of Judging

Tony Abou-Ganim

Director of Judging San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Master Mixologist, “The Modern Mixologist” beverage consultant and educator, Las Vegas

The Director of Judging for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition is well-known mixologist, Tony Abou-Ganim. Tony is widely regarded as one of the pioneering and leading bar professionals in the world. His book, “The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails,” is an in-depth look into modern day cocktails from the early beginning’s of the cocktail to what Tony has come to deem “Modern Mixology.”

Tony started his career in San Francisco at Jack Slick’s Balboa Café and developed his artistry in the well-made cocktail made of the freshest ingredients. He took this skill to help open Harry Denton’s in the ‘90s and then worked several years in New York with Mario Batali at Po in the West Village before returning to San Francisco to open Harry Denton’s Starlight Room atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. There he created his famous Specialty Drink Menu starring his own original cocktails including the Cable Car.

Tony was hand-picked by Steve Wynn to create the cocktail program at the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas for its 22 bars. Besides countless T.V. appearances showcasing his mixology prowess, Tony has also won two Iron Chef America competitions; first pairing cocktails with Iron Chef Mario Batali in “Battle Mango,” and most recently pairing cocktails in “Battle Tequila and Tortillas” with Iron Chef Jose Garces.

A leader in the beverage industry, Tony lives in Las Vegas where he runs his own beverage consulting firm specializing in bar staff training, product education and cocktail development. The “Modern Mixologist” continues to educate about the history and lore of cocktails as well as lead the bar industry into continually improving the art of the cocktail. He is the National Ambassador of the US Bartenders Guild, http://www.usbg.org/, and Associate Member of the Museum of the American Cocktail, http://www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org/.

Richard Carleton Hacker

Master of the Quaich, Spirits Journalist, Robb Report; The Tasting Panel Magazine, Los Angeles

RICHARD CARLETON HACKER is an international writer-photographer specializing in spirits, wines, cigars, and related luxury lifestyles. He has authored eleven books in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Russia. He is also a longtime contributing editor for numerous national lifestyle magazines, including Robb Report and The Tasting Panel. He was the first to pair cigars with spirits according to taste, and is a popular keynote speaker on whiskies and cigars for organizations including Ritz-Carlton, Brown-Forman, and Blancpain. A lifetime member of the Scotch whisky industry’s Keeper of the Quaich (where he holds the coveted title of Master of the Quaich) and the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne, he has also been knighted in Germany. More of his writings and adventures can be found on
www.richardcarletonhacker.com .

Steven Izzo

Beverage Director, Waterbar, San Francisco

Steven Izzo brings over 25 years of experience to his position as Beverage Director & Sommelier at Waterbar, San Francisco’s stunning, Pat Kuleto-designed bayside restaurant. Izzo oversees and maintains an extensive collection of both domestic and international wines, as well as the classically minded cocktail and spirits program. Steven started his career as a bartender near his hometown in 1986 at a small, high-volume seaside restaurant in Guilford, Connecticut and after years in the industry in various locations, finally settled in San Francisco. In addition to his wine and spirits duties at Waterbar, Steven has participated as a member of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine Tasting Panel and currently serves as a judge for both the San Francisco International Wine Competition and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Izzo has passed The Court of Masters Sommelier’s Certification level exam and plans to sit for the Advanced Sommelier exam later this year. www.waterbarsf.com

Charles Joly

Founder / Mixologist, Crafthouse Cocktails, Chicago

Formally the beverage director at The Aviary in Chicago, Charles Joly is the winner of a James Beard Foundation Award. Additionally, Joly was named best bartender and best cocktail menu at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and has also won the Diageo World Class 2014 competition in London where he faced off against 48 other mixologists and won with a creation called Above the Clouds that featured a tiki cocktail theme. Joly also owns a ready-made beverage line called Crafthouse Cocktails, which will soon have its own bottling facility in Michigan City, Indiana.

Francesco Lafranconi

Southern Wine & Spirits, National Director of Mixology and Spirits Education, Las Vegas

One of the world’s foremost mixologists, Francesco Lafranconi is the Executive Director of Mixology and Spirits Educator for Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada. Winner of many high-profile print awards including “Raising the Bar” award from Cheers Magazine, “Mixologist of the Year Award” from NCBS, “Spirit Professional of the Year” from Santé magazine and Tales Of The Cocktail’s “Golden Spirit Award”. His proudest achievement is founding the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service, a 12-week education program. Francesco is a Founding Member of the Master Accreditation Program and Education Committee for the USBG (United States Bartenders Guild). Most recently, he received the Professional Cognac Educator Gold Diploma from the BNIC in Cognac, France. After all, his motto is, “We’re not drinking, we’re learning!”

Drew Levinson

Vice President Business Development - Emerging & Craft Brands, Breakthru Beverage Group, Las Vegas

As VP Business Development for Breakthru Beverage Group (a merger of Wirtz Beverage & Charmer Sunbelt) Drew oversees the national strategy and execution of the emerging & craft brands segment and the newly formed Trident Division which operates in 14 states. Trident is dedicated to leveraging expertise, & brand stewardship in the pursuit of accelerated growth for emerging & craft spirits within the Breakthru Beverage portfolio.
Prior to this role, Drew oversaw the Strategic Division of Breakthru Beverage NV a team of highly skilled spirits, wine, beer & cocktail professionals who develop cutting edge programs for premier accounts throughout the NV market.
In 2004 Drew was recruited to the AAA Five Diamond Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas, NV which he joined as Master Mixologist and Beverage Manager, overseeing one of the largest and most dynamic beverage programs in the world.

Sean Ludford

Spirits Consultant and Director BevX.com, Chicago

David Mahoney

Wine & Spirits Writer, Minneapolis

David Mahoney has more than 25 years of experience editing and writing for a variety of national and regional magazines, including Esquire, Acura Style, The History Channel Magazine, and The Tasting Panel. He was a travel writer and senior editor at Sunset, one of the country’s leading regional magazines, and the editor of Minnesota Monthly, the award-winning publication affiliated with Minnesota Public Radio. He was also the founding editor of the nationally distributed magazines Drinks and Real Food. David is currently the wine and spirits columnist for Artful Living magazine. http://artful-livingmag.com

Meridith May

Publisher & Executive Editor, The Tasting Panel Magazine, Los Angeles

As Publisher/Executive Editor and co-founder of The Tasting Panel Magazine, the fastest growing and most widely circulated beverage industry publication, Meridith May has reformatted the look and amplified the voice of the wine and spirits trade. From her days behind the scenes and on the air in L.A. radio to her stints as restaurant and wine critic for several urban and rural newspapers, Meridith ran California’s oldest trade publication, Patterson’s Beverage Journal, from 2000-2007, until she bought the name with business partner Anthony Dias Blue. Together, they launched their new, monthly magazine, The Tasting Panel, now going into its seventh successful year. www.tastingpanelmag.com

Tim McDonald CSS

President, Wine Spoken Here, Napa

Based in the Napa Valley, Tim McDonald founded a full service marketing communications consulting company in 2006. As a 30 year spirits and wine industry veteran, Tim has held positions with E & J Gallo as Marketing Director Fine Wine Communications, Peak Wines as V.P. of Marketing & Communications, Director of Trade Relations with Trinchero Family Estates, Heublein IDV as Director of Trade & Public Relations and National Accounts sales assignments with Seagram and Heublein. He started his career bartending in Las Vegas and Honolulu before becoming a spirits salesperson. Tim has experience with all types of media, national accounts, wholesale distributors, restaurant and retail segments. He has served as a spirits judge in San Francisco World Spirits Competition from its inception. Tim has also been a wine judge in over 100 wine competitions and was recently named Director of Judging for the San Francisco International Wine Competition. www.wineandspiritsspokenhere.com

Fred Minnick

Wine and Spirits Journalist, Louisville

Fred Minnick writes for Caviar Affair, Saveur, Tasting Panel, Whisky Magazine, Whisky Advocate and Wine Enthusiast. In 2012, his Tasting Panel “American Whiskey” column earned the prestigious APEX Award for Editorial Excellence. As an award winning writer and photographer, Fred is the author, contributor or photographer to six books. Fred’s latest book is Whiskey Women: How Women Distilled, Marketed and Bootlegged Bourbon, Scotch & Irish Whiskey (Potomac Books, 2013). Based in Louisville, Kentucky, he is a member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. www.fredminnick.com

Jeffrey Morgenthaler

Bar Manager/Founder, Clyde Common/RepealDay.org, Portland

Jeffrey Morgenthaler has been an award-winning bartender since 1996. He currently manages the James Beard Award-nominated bar program at Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon. His recipes and wisdom have appeared in such newspapers as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, as well as in Wine Enthusiast, Playboy, Wired, and Imbibe magazines. Forbes Traveler called him one of the "Cocktail Movers and Shakers" of 2007. Playboy named him one of the top ten mixologists in the United States in 2009 and The Tasting Panel magazine awarded him as a "New Leader" the same year. In 2011, he was named a "Rising Star Mixologist" by StarChefs. Jeffrey writes about bartending and mixology for several publications and on his website, www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com .

Matt Myers

Director of Food & Beverage, Bellagio By MGM Shanghai, China

Robert Plotkin

Author, Writer, Beverage Consultant, BarMedia, Tucson

Robert Plotkin is an expert in the field of mixology and beverage management. With over 30 years of hands-on industry experience augmented by 20 years as a consultant and writer, Robert is no stranger to the demands of beverage industry business. He has authored 16 books over the last twenty years based on [his] proven policies, procedures and operational strategies for profit generating beverage operations. His books are used in university classrooms and as in-house guides for on-premise operators. Plotkin also writes for numerous trade magazines, including The Tasting Panel, Wine Enthusiast, Cheers, Beverage Dynamics and Restaurant Hospitality. He is a frequent lecturer at industry trade shows where he speaks on cost control, beverage marketing and how to increase sales. His sense of humor is as well known as his reputation for professionalism, which makes his speaking engagements as much fun as they are informational. www.barmedia.com

Julie Reiner

Co-owner & Mixologist, Flatiron Lounge & Clover Club, New York

Julie Reiner has been elevating the cocktail scene in NYC for over fifteen years, most notably with the opening of the Flatiron Lounge, the Pegu Club, Brooklyn’s Clover Club, and Lani Kai. Julie’s bars have opened to rave reviews and have enjoyed top rankings among the best bars in the world, winning multiple awards such as Tales of the Cocktail’s “Best New Cocktail Lounge in the World”. Julie’s consulting company, Mixtress Consulting, has helped create top-notch beverage programs and cocktails for restaurants, bars, resorts, and spirits companies. Additionally, Julie’s recipes have been featured in The New York Times, New York Magazine, Food & Wine, Imbibe, Esquire, Gourmet Magazine, Bon Appetit, GQ, Wine Enthusiast, O Magazine, Crains, and The London Times & Wine & Spirits among many others. Julie has also been featured on The Today Show, The Food Network, the Cooking Channel, Martha Stewart Radio, CNBC, LXTV, and the Fine Living network. In 2011, Julie was honored with a James Beard nomination for spirits professional of the year.

Jack Robertiello

Writer and Consultant, Drinks Ink, New York

Jack Robertiello has worked with or written about spirits, wine, beer, food and restaurants most of his adult life, for many publications, both consumer and trade. He speaks frequently at conferences and meetings, judges at numerous spirits, wine and cocktail competitions, and gives private classes and seminars on tasting wine and spirits. He also regularly consults with producers, importers, marketers and publicists about food and drink. He lives in Brooklyn, NY; for more, visit www.jackrobertiello.com

Jim Romdall

Northwest Brand Manager, Novo Fogo Cachaca, Seattle

Jim Romdall grew up in Seattle and studied film at the University of Washington. After bartending in Seattle and Los Angeles, he became the Northwest Brand Manager for Novo Fogo Cachaca in 2016. Jim earned national attention when he was awarded the Rising Star Award for Mixology in 2009 by StarChefs based in Manhattan. He is a founder and the current President of the Washington State Bartenders Guild, an organization that promotes education, professionalism and “raising the bar” behind the bar. Jim is a sought-after consultant and speaker, as well as a guest bartender at some of the finest establishments across North America. He is passionate about staying on the forefront of the evolving cocktail landscape. More importantly, Jim’s ambitions are matched by the amount of fun he has on the job.

Max Solano

Beverage Program Specialist/Spirits Educator, Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada

Max Solano is a primary mixologist for Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, as well as Head of Whisky Education. Solano began his career in the food and beverage industry at the age of 12. Since then, the industry veteran has become one of Las Vegas’ most exciting, respected and creative mixologists, as well as a student and teacher of the history and development of spirits and cocktails. Before recently joining Southern Wine & Spirits, Solano was the Head Mixologist for Chef Emeril Lagasse restaurants and Beverage Manager for Chef Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant Delmonico Steakhouse in the Venetian® Resort, Hotel & Casino. He began his career with Emeril’s restaurants in March 2006 as a bartender at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop in Orlando. In December 2007, Solano moved to Las Vegas as a beverage manager to help open Lagasse’s Table 10 restaurant in the Shoppes at the Palazzo as the very first mixology-based beverage program in the company. Under his reign, Delmonico Steakhouse has also been named Top 10 craft cocktail bars in the U.S. by Gayot three consecutive years.

Solano and his creations have been featured in numerous media outlets, including Forbes magazine, USA Today, Whisky Advocate, Shanken News Daily, New York Times, Saveur magazine, GQ magazine, THE TASTING PANEL, LA Weekly, Imbibe magazine, Cheers, Vegas Seven magazine, Today in Las Vegas, Style magazine, Las Vegas Food & Beverage, Fox News, ABC’s “The Morning Blend,” “The Valley View” and many more.

Amanda Victoria

Communications & Business Development Director – USA, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, San Francisco

Amanda Victoria is the Communications Director for The Scotch Malt Whisky Society across America. As the facing for the Society in the US, Amanda’s duties include leading spirit education, organizing events as well as cultivating unique partnerships on behalf of the SMWS.

Amanda has traveled the world teaching cocktail and spirit education and is a recognized leader in the global spirit industry. She has worked for some of the world's most awarded bars, as well as premium spirit brands. Amanda has created extensive educational programming for numerous iconic spirits around the world for companies such as Bacardi, William Grant & Sons, Rémy Cointreau, Moet Hennessy, and Pernod-Ricard.

Amanda Victoria has been featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine and the New York Times. She writes about whisky, spirits and cocktails for numerous trade publications and through her popular column Society Stories. Amanda is also a featured host on the television show Celebrity Tastemakers.

Kevin M. Vogt MS

Vice President/Partner, Wine Country Connection, Wine Shop & Tasting Room, Yountville, CA

Master Sommelier Kevin M. Vogt is Vice President/Partner at Wine Country Connection. Previous to that, Vogt was the Wine Director for Chef Emeril Lagasse in Las Vegas and had been working this organization since 1996. In 1999, Mr. Vogt successfully passed the Master Sommelier Exam. Since 2000, Kevin has been a judge for Anthony Dias Blue’s San Francisco International Wine Competition, and a judge for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. He is a wine educator and public speaker and has taught college level wine courses and lectured aboard Crystal Cruise Lines for their food and wine festival events. In 2004, Delmonico Steakhouse became the 88th restaurant in the world to achieve the Wine Spectator’s Grand Award. Kevin graduated from UNLV with a degree in Hotel Administration in 1993. www.masterywines.com

Charlotte Voisey

Director, Brand Advocacy, William Grant & Sons, Irvine

Levi Walker CSS

Cutwater Spirits, Regional Sales Southwest, San Diego

Spirits enthusiast and lifelong cocktail shaker, Levi has traveled to distilleries across the United States, Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean. As a Craft Spirits Distributor and Supplier with Campari America he has led beverage seminars, formal tastings and educational cocktail consultations for brands in every spirit category. Currently he is concentrating on sales, training, education and menu development for Cutwater Spirits in the Southwest. Levi lives in San Diego, where he is a former president and co-founder of the local USBG chapter. There he enjoys surfing and riding horses when not sipping or selling.

David Wondrich

Spirits Writer, Author, Cocktail historian, New York

MS - Master Sommelier

MW- Master of Wine

CSS - Certified Spirits Specialist