The Palates To Trust
The reputation of a spirits competition is often defined by the quality of its judges. At the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, our judging panels consist of the most respected, experienced experts in the spirits industry. Our over 40 judges range from esteemed beverage directors to renowned authors, including Anthony Dias Blue, Tony Abou-Ganim, Dale DeGroff, Meridith May, Charles Joly, and David Wondrich.
Meet our judges:
Anthony Dias Blue
Anthony Dias Blue
President, Blue Lifestyle
Editor-in-Chief, The Tasting Panel Magazine
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 million 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.
Director of Judging
Master Mixologist, “The Modern Mixologist”, Beverage Consultant & Educator
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 beginnings 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. In addition to countless TV appearances showcasing his mixology prowess, Tony has 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, and Associate Member of the Museum of the American Cocktail.
Beverage Director, Slanted Door Group
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.
National Director of Education, Beam Suntory, Southern Wine & Spirits
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 USBG 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 of 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.
Senior Portfolio Ambassador, Bacardi
Spirits Educator & Consultant, Keeper of the Quaich
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
Kent Bearden, CSS
Kent Bearden, CSS
Senior Director of Operations, Saint Marc USA
Kent Bearden is the 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, CA, flagship restaurant. Kent 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 the sixth largest distributor in the country and earning the “Beer Game Changer” Award for the company in 2013. 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.
Tequila Master & Spirits Buyer, Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant
Julio Bermejo is regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on tequila. He is beverage manager and owner of San Francisco’s renowned tequila bar, Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant; is co-owner of Tres in San Francisco; and has been designated “Ambassador of Tequila to the U.S.” by the state of Jalisco, Mexico. 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
SVP GMM for Spirits, Beer, and Non Alcoholic Beverages, BevMo!
Brian Bowden has been in the Beverage Alcohol Industry since 1981. During his career, he has worked in both retail sales specializing in Spirits, Beer, and Wine and has also held positions selling wine specializing in small Sonoma County wineries. He is currently working for specialty alcoholic beverage retailer BevMo, operating stores in California, Arizona, and Washington State as the SVP GMM for Spirits, Beer, and Non Alcoholic products. He has traveled around the world to wineries and distilleries in the United States, Scotland, Ireland, France, United Kingdom, and Mexico increasing his knowledge of spirits, beers, and wines which resulted in earning his Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS) certificate from the Society of Wine Educators.
Wine & Spirits Consultant, Mark Bowery Consulting
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 (although his true love is tequila). He served as wine and 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.
Southwest Market Manager, The 86 Co.
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 in 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
President, Drink Company
Derek Brown is a leading spirits and cocktail expert and President of Drink Company, which owns and operates 2017 Spirited Award winning “Best American Cocktail Bar” Columbia Room as well as PUB, a rotating pop-up bar that’s housed the wildly-popular Miracle on 7th Street, Cherry Blossom PUB and Game of Thrones PUB. Playboy magazine named him as one of “The 10 Entertainers, Thought Leaders and Heroes Who’ll Save Us in 2017.” He’s concocted cocktails at the White House, clinked glasses with Martha Stewart and was even appointed Chief Spirits Advisor at the National Archives. Derek’s passion for spirits has taken him across the globe, where he’s learned about the integral role food and drink play in the culture, customs, and values of communities around the world. He’s also written about drinks and drinking for The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Bon Appetit magazine, among other publications.
Bar Director, Eastern Standard; Co-owner & Bar Director, The Hawthorne
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 the 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
Owner, SmartDrink Consulting
Originally from Los Angeles, Jerry has worked the last 30 years in San Francisco as a mixologist, restaurant wine director, retail sales manager, and wine and spirits specialist. Spending 15 years behind the bar set the stage for what became a broad and successful career. He currently works as a consultant with the Kimpton Group, and several independent restaurants, bars and clubs in the Bay Area. As owner/operator of Swirl on Castro, Jerry created one of San Francisco’s premier wine and spirits destinations, and the staff continues the tradition of artisan spirits, bitters, elixirs, and mixology accessories. Cooper continues his involvement in the craft spirit community, both as a retailer and as a consultant on craft product launches, and he continues his work as a respected judge on wine and spirits panels in the industry. Having recently launched his consulting business, Jerry continues his work with local and global wine and spirit companies.
President, King Cocktail Co.
James Beard Award Winner, Mixologist Dale DeGroff developed his extraordinary techniques and talent tending bar, most notably at New York’s famous Rainbow Room, where in the 1980’s, he pioneered a gourmet approach to recreating the great classic cocktails. DeGroff has since been credited with reinventing the bartending profession and setting off a cocktail revival. Author of The Essential Cocktail and The Craft of the Cocktail (Random House), Dale’s influence in the bar world has spanned three decades. He is also a partner in the award-winning bar training program, Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) and founding president of the Museum of the American Cocktail.
Mixology Ambassador, Diageo North America
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 spirits–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 nine 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. Expect to see him soon featured in an upcoming episode of the TV show, “Bar Rescue.” www.bourbonandbranch.com www.beverageacademy.com
Eduardo A. Dingler
Eduardo A. Dingler
Sake & Shochu Ambassador, Sake Drinker
Eduardo moved to Napa from Mexico in 1999 following his passion for wine. Throughout the years he worked at some of Napa Valley’s iconic restaurants including Tra Vigne and Bistro Don Giovanni. In 2010 he was part of the Morimoto Napa opening team as Beverage Director. In 2011, he assumed the role of Corporate Beverage Director; overseeing existing and new operations for the Morimoto Group. In September 2017 he started a journey in journalism, focused on wine, sake, food and travel. He has also taken on the role of sake and shochu ambassador by consulting for a number of Japanese breweries as well as founding sakedrinker.com an online retail and educational resource on Sake. He has gone through the Court of Master Sommeliers program and he is also a Certified Sake Professional.
Spirits Manager and Head Buyer for all Categories, K&L Wines
David Driscoll has been the spirits manager at K&L since 2009 and the company’s head buyer for all categories since 2016. He travels regularly to Scotland, Kentucky, France, and Mexico in search of new spirits for the California retailer and writes about those experiences online, engaging thousands of new readers each week.
H. Joseph Ehrmann
H. Joseph Ehrmann
Proprietor, Elixir, Cocktail Ambassadors LLC
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
U.S. Western Regional Manager, Compass Box
Scott has been in the hospitality industry for over 20 years in a wide variety of roles, starting out in London as an Assistant Bar Manager after quitting a 3-week career in finance. Since then, Scott has mostly worked in the U.S.A. gaining extensive experience in bars and restaurants before moving to the distribution side of the industry in 2010 after moving to San Francisco. Soon after, Scott was promoted to be the face of the distributor’s spirits portfolio with a focus on category and brand education. In 2016 Scott proudly joined Compass Box Whisky Co. as their Western Regional Manager and now spends his time educating consumers and trade about the joys of a well-made Scotch whisky. Scott holds the Level 3 certification from WSET and maintains a lifelong passion for the joys and history of a well-made drink.
Journalist & Educator, Alcademics.com
Camper English is an international cocktails and spirits writer, speaker, and consultant. His work has appeared in Popular Science, Cook’s Science, Whisky Advocate, Saveur, Details, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco magazine, and many other publications. He is a popular speaker at cocktail conventions and has given seminars on everything from the science of water to prehistoric cocktail technology to the relationship between bugs and booze. He has judged dozens of international cocktail competitions on multiple continents. Camper has a background in physics, and with his visits to 130 distilleries, blending houses and bodegas in more than twenty countries, has become an authority on the science behind spirit production and cocktail creation. Of all his work, he is probably best known for pioneering the Directional Freezing technique with which many thousands of people now make clear ice for their homes and bard.
The Wine Gal & Countess of Cocktails, Wine Country Radio
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’s “Gourmet Wine Cellar,” MusExpo, New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, YWCA, Cinema Epicuria Film Festival, and 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
Doug Frost, MS & MW
Wine & Spirits Writer and Consultant
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 and 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.
Spirits Specialist, Wine Warehouse
Robert Gonzales is the San Francisco Spirits Specialist for Wine Warehouse. He has participated in the Beverage Industry since 2000, when he took a job as a bar back at a nightclub while in school. Fast forward to today, he is a well-respected spirits expert and mixology professional. Robert earned his professional credibility in San Francisco by working closely with top industry names such as; Julio Bermejo, Tequila Ambassador to The Americas, David Nepove, National President of the United States Bartender’s Guild (USBG), Stephen Beal, Senior Master of Whiskey and Keeper of the Quaich, Marcovaldo Dionysus & Jacques Bezuidenhout – two of the world’s most respected and admired bartenders…just to name a few. He has a large collection of accolades that certify him as an expert in all spirit categories, as well as mixology. Gonzales spent 5 years of his career on the road traveling North America and the Caribbean fulltime, moving from city to city fulfilling demands for spirits education and craft mixology. Today, after having consulted on hundreds of bars & restaurants, trained thousands of bartenders, leading thousands of consumers in a variety of symposiums, workshops, and seminars around the continent on behalf of both Diageo & Beam Suntory, he is back in San Francisco. Robert is a proud San Franciscan and is pleased to be working exclusively with Wine Warehouse and shares their dream of introducing California to our vast and growing portfolio
Owner, Agave Forte
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.
Senior Beverage Manager, Global Operations, Marriott International
As Senior Beverage Buyer, Global Operations, Gary Gruver provides leadership of beverage program development activities for all 30 brands within Marriott International, hands-on engagement in market beverage training program development, focus on beverage innovation/new beverage technologies to enrich brand differentiation and elevate business value, and support for MI HQ and continent-based executive forums, meetings, and events. Gary continues to grow his passion for the beverage industry by utilizing his expertise in creating new and innovative beverage programs. He is an award-winning mixologist who spent over 17 years in the restaurant and beverage alcohol industry. Featured in publications such as Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ), Hotels Magazine, and The Tasting Panel. He is a founding member of the United States Bartender’s Guild (USBG) of Kentucky. Before joining Marriott, he was Director of Mixology and Spirits Education at Southern Wine & Spirits. Gary also owns a bar in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
Founder, Liquid Architecture™
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, and Martha Stewart Radio, and has been featured in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wine Enthusiast, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. Kim is also a cocktail book author, having written six successful cocktails books, with two more on the way, and is a columnist for Redbook, contributing cocktail recipes for both 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
Proprietor & Beverage Director, Dobb’s Ferry Restaurant & Bar
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 a 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 Master Sommelier’s Certified Examination and plans to sit for the Advanced Sommelier Examination later this year.
Founder, Crafthouse Cocktails
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.
Executive Director of Mixology and Spirits Education, Southern Wine & Spirits Nevada
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 United States Bartenders Guild (USBG). 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!”
Director of Strategic Activation, Breakthru Beverage Group
As VP Business Development for Breakthru Beverage Group (a merger of Wirtz Beverage and Charmer Sunbelt), Drew oversees the national strategy and execution of the emerging and craft brands segment and the newly formed Trident Division, which operates in 14 states. Trident is dedicated to leveraging expertise and brand stewardship in the pursuit of accelerated growth for emerging and 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, and cocktail professionals who develop cutting edge programs for premier accounts throughout the Nevada market. In 2004, Drew was recruited to the AAA Five Diamond Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas, which he joined as Master Mixologist and Beverage Manager, overseeing one of the largest and most dynamic beverage programs in the world.
Spirits Consultant and Director, BevX.com
Sean Ludford brings three decades of experience to his work in the beverage industry. Sean presents a unique perspective through his writing and consulting work. His opinions are informed by a rare combination of experiences having worked in the production of wine and beer, as a retail buyer (including being a buyer at America’s largest retailer), sommelier, bartender, bar owner, importer, consultant, and a judge in some of the world’s most prestigious Wine, Beer, and Spirits competitions. He has written for and contributed to, many of the industry’s most well-known publications. Sean is a skilled public speaker and trainer, blending his depth of experience with an independent voice for industry and consumers alike. Sean is fond of saying, “Being in the beverage industry is the greatest job in the world as it is continually changing and it offers a pursuit of knowledge that is never ending.”
Wine & Spirits Writer, Esquire, The History Channel Magazine, The Tasting Panel, The SOMM Journal, The Clever Root
David Mahoney has more than 30 years of experience editing and writing for a variety of national and regional magazines, including The History Channel Magazine, The Tasting Panel, The Somm Journal, and The Clever Root. 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. He is currently a member of the editorial board of the upcoming Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails.
Tim McDonald, CSS
Tim McDonald, CSS
President, Wine Spoken Here
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 the 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
Wine & Spirits Journalist, Author, Whiskey Women, Bourbon Curious
Fred Minnick writes for Caviar Affair, Saveur, The Tasting Panel, Whisky Magazine, Whisky Advocate, and Wine Enthusiast. In 2012, his “American Whiskey” column in The Tasting Panel 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 and Authors. www.fredminnick.com
Head Bartender & Co-Owner, Leyenda, Founder, Speed Rack
Bar Manager, Clyde Common, Founder, RepealDay.org
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, and 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 acclaimed 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.
Co-owner/Mixologist, Flatiron Lounge & Clover Club
Julie Reiner has been elevating the cocktail scene in NYC for over 15 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, Bon Appetit, GQ, Wine Enthusiast, O Magazine, Crains, the London Times, and 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.
Writer & Consultant, Drinks Ink
For most of his adult life, Jack Robertiello has worked with or written about spirits, wine, beer, food, and restaurants 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 about Jack, visit www.jackrobertiello.com
Founder, DC Spirits
At the turn of the millennium, Dänny Ronen founded DC Spirits, a food/wine/spirits educational organization to open people’s perspectives and help them discover new and exciting things, especially small producers and sustainable products. He writes and runs trainings, classes and presentations for hundreds of people on such diverse topics as denomination of origin, production and global impact within spirit categories. Ronen also has the honor of now working with two long-time friends and colleagues: as Director of Education for Kathy Casey’s Liquid Kitchen, he works with properties such as the Fairmont, Raffles and Accor Hotels, nationally and internationally to hone their beverage programs — as Global VP for Unlimited Liabilities with Russell Davis, Ronen works on a bevy of product development and brand strategy across the world. In their abundant spare time, Davis and Ronen opened Academia, a bar in Austin, focusing on casual cocktails in a setting that unintentionally feels like Hogwarts. Ronen can often be found experimenting and creating new flavors in your neighborhood. Please keep him away from butane torches, hand blenders, and caffeine.
Executive Director of Beverage & Corporate Mixologist, MGM Resorts International
As Executive Director of Beverage and Corporate Mixologist at MGM Resorts International, Craig Schoettler uses his extensive culinary and beverage knowledge to position the company as a thought leader in the hospitality industry. Schoettler oversees all corporate beverage initiatives, ensuring every outlet aligns with the company’s strategic priorities. Additionally, he has visionary oversight of menu development for F&B concepts and determines brand standards for design, infrastructure and equipment for all new beverage venues. Schoettler has won several awards including “Beverage Professional of the Year” from the Chicago Tribune and “National Bartender of the Year” from Eater National. He has also been recognized for titles his bars have received such as “Ten Best Whiskey Bars in America 2013” from GQ Magazine and “Outstanding Bar Program” from the James Beard Foundation.
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’s 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 Lagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse restaurant 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 in the 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, USA Today, Whisky Advocate, Shanken News Daily, the New York Times, Saveur, GQ, The Tasting Panel, LA Weekly, Imbibe, 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.
Certified Master of Sake, Master Sake Sommelier, and Shochu Sommelier, Mutual Trading Co., Inc.
Certified Master of Sake, Master Sake Sommelier, and Shochu Sommelier. Toshio is the only one in the world to hold Master of Sake (酒匠), Master Sake Sommelier (日本酒学講師), and WSET Sake Educator diploma. Born in Japan where his family has grown Japanese wine grape, Koshu, for generations, Toshio grew up helping the business from a young age. Following his college education in the US and employment at an international trading company in Tokyo, Toshio joined Chateraise, a pastry and wine company as Director of Sales. There, he was put in charge of overseeing the personal wine collection of the company’s president, which intrigued him to enter the world of wine stewardship and research. Toshio joined Mutual Trading Company in 2002, where he is Manger of the Business Development Department in marketing Japanese foods, Jizake, and Shochu to the mainstream American trade. With his passion and expertise in Jizake, Shochu, and Wine, Toshio aims to further promote Japanese food and Sake cultures to new, international audiences. Since 2010, he has been Vice President & Executive Instructor at Sake School of America. In 2016 he was awarded the industry’s most prestigious title Sake Samurai from Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association.
Communications Director – USA, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Amanda Victoria is the Communications Director for The Scotch Malt Whisky Society across America. As the face of the Society in the U.S., Amanda’s duties include leading spirits education and organizing events, as well as cultivating unique partnerships on behalf of the SMWS. Amanda has traveled the world teaching cocktail and spirits education and is a recognized leader in the global spirits 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
Kevin M. Vogt, MS
Vice President & Partner, Wine Country Connection
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, working with Lagasse’s 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 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. Kevin graduated from UNLV with a degree in Hotel Administration in 1993. www.masterywines.com
Director, Brand Advocacy, William Grant & Sons
Best American Brand Ambassador, two times Golden Spirit Award winner at Tales of the Cocktail, and recognized by the James Beard recognition for contribution to mixology, Charlotte Voisey is the Director of Advocacy for William Grant & Sons USA. Charlotte is also host of The Proper Pour with Charlotte Voisey on www.smallscreennetwork.com, and has cocktail recipes published and placed on menus across the world including New York’s famed PDT, the iconic Dorchester Hotel in London, and Whitechapel in San Francisco. In 2002, with the Gorgeous Group in London, Charlotte opened classic cocktail bar Apartment 195 and was soon named UK Bartender of the Year. Charlotte’s passion for all things spirits and cocktails keeps her in an active speaking role at all major industry events including Tales of the Cocktail, Aspen Food & Wine, Charleston Wine & Food, FEST Portland, Barra Mexico, and more.
Creative Director, Seamstress; National President, USBG
Spirits Writer, Consultant, Esquire Magazine
David Wondrich is widely hailed as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the history of the cocktail and one of the founders of the modern craft cocktail movement. The Senior Drinks Columnist for the Daily Beast, Dr. Wondrich is the author of countless newspaper and magazine articles and five books, including the hugely influential Imbibe!, the first cocktail book to win a James Beard award, and Punch. At present, he is immersed in the Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails, a multi-year project. As a consultant, he has been involved in the creation of a number of spirits that are found on the backbars of practically every craft cocktail bar on the planet, from Ransom Old Tom gin to the multiple award-winning Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Rum. He is a founding partner in Beverage Alcohol Resource, America’s leading advanced training program for bartenders and other mixologists. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.