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, Charles Joly, and Ivy Mix.
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.
Managing Partner, Ellis Adams Group
While Chris Adams can currently be found jetting around the world creating acclaimed bar programs for everyone from Steve Wynn to Marriott, he did not always know his career would flourish in the hospitality industry. Born in Florida but splitting time in California, Adams grew up in the entertainment industry. It was a summer job, when he found a part-time position at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes as a pool attendant and was introduced to the hospitality industry for the first time. Chris was able to climb the ladder in a short amount of time and walked away from the entertainment industry all together to pursue this new found passion.
After leaving The Ritz-Carlton, he went on to open concepts in downtown Orlando, including assisting with the development of the revitalization of Church Street Station. From there, Chris was asked to support the opening of the Italian steakhouse Davio’s in Atlanta before being tapped to open the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. After six months in Vegas, he moved back to Los Angeles and founded Ellis Adams Group.
EAG is now an international consulting firm that works in the areas of luxury branding for the hospitality, entertainment, and fashion/art industries. The group focuses on all aspects of business, including building brands, concept and design development, training and management, revenue generation and profit margin increase, and social media and digital presence. EAG’s current project list is dynamic and constantly growing. With over 100 active projects underway, some standouts include the partnership with ArcCardinal and its launch of Arcoroc by Chris Adams, Mixology by Forbes Industries with Chris Adams, YNK, an intimate beverage experience tucked inside the Irvine Marriott, and Flora, a new rooftop concept in El Segundo, CA. Additionally, Chris plays a key role in the continued evolution of Marriott’s beverage program, by assisting in developing, teaching the trainings, opening of new hotels, and renovation projects.
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 a globally recognized distilled spirits consultant who works in the UK, South Africa, India, Australia and Asia as well as North America. Prior to that he was the senior brand educator for the whisky portfolio of Diageo North America where his work for a prominent Bourbon brand as Senior Master of Whisk(e)y earned him a place in the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame. He was inducted along with Bill Samuels, Jr., of Makers Mark and Al Young of Four Roses in 2015.
He has served for over 20 years as an international spirits judge and at every San Francisco World Spirits Competition since its beginning. He has been a broadcast presenter, spirits journalist and examiner for the Master Mixologist Masters Program with the United States Bartenders Guild, a program which he helped found and which earned him the lifetime achievement award from the USBG and a USBG Master Mixologist pin. In 2010, the Scotch Whisky industry inducted him as a life member of the Keepers of the Quaich. He is also a trained chef and has lectured at prominent culinary schools. He has degrees from the University of Arizona and Oxford. He is an ordained Episcopal priest and volunteers at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill.
Kent Bearden, CSS
Kent Bearden, CSS
Director of Outlets, Paseo Hotel & Spa
Kent Bearden is director of outlets for Pasea Hotel & Spa, part of the Pacific Hospitality Group, responsible for managing day-to-day operations including analytics, design & development, compliance, public relations, financial planning, and forecasting. Bearden oversees and manages staffing, beverage procurement, supplier relationships, media, marketing and promotions, menu design and forecasting across multiple outlets. In 2018 Bearden was presented with the Award of Merit and was a top 4 finalist for the Grand Award in Architecture and Design for commercial real estate under 20,000 sq. ft. by PCBC presents The 55th Annual Gold Nugget Awards for his development of Saint Marc – Century City. He is a 19-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 (now Breakthru Beverage) 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 was just named MC/Host for the Cocktail of the Year Competition 2020 presented by San Francisco World Spirits Competition, is a judge since 2010 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. In 2017 Bearden was named Wine Ambassador of the Year by FreeFlow Wines of Napa Valley. Bearden serves on the board of directors for the Charley Hoffman Foundation and previously served on the board of Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Las Vegas, Nevada where he received the inaugural Nevada Champion of Children award. Additionally, Bearden is an advisory board member for the predictive analytic software company Aurora Predictions based in Irvine, CA.
Global Whisky Ambassador, William Grant & Sons
Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, 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 Brand 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.
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
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 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 spirits 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.
Owner, Smuggler’s Cove San Francisco
Co-Owner, Whitechapel San Francisco
Co-Owner, Hale Pele Portland
Co-Owner, False Idol San Diego
Partner, Lost Lake Chicago
Martin Cate is a rum and exotic cocktail expert and the owner and creator of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. Smuggler’s Cove features the largest rum selection in the United States and features cocktails from over three centuries of rum history. The Sunday Times of London called Smuggler’s Cove one of the 50 Greatest Bars on Earth. In a global industry survey for Drinks International Magazine, Smuggler’s Cove has been featured as one of the Top 50 Bars in the World for six consecutive years. Smuggler’s Cove was named Best American Cocktail Bar 2016 at the 10th Annual Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, one of the Top Ten Food & Beverage concepts of the last 25 years by Cheers Magazine, and one of the 13 Most Influential Bars of the 21st Century by Liquor.com. Smuggler’s Cove was declared one of America’s Best Bars by Playboy Magazine and was named to Esquire’s Best Bars in America Hall of Fame. Martin is a passionate rum collector who conducts educational seminars and officiates rum & cocktail competitions across the United States, Europe and the Caribbean. He is also the co-owner of Whitechapel in San Francisco, Hale Pele in Portland, False Idol in San Diego, and a partner in Lost Lake in Chicago. Martin and Rebecca Cate’s book “Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki” was published by Ten Speed Press in June of 2016 and won the 2017 James Beard Award for Best Beverage Book and the 2017 Spirited Award for Best Cocktail Book.
National Beverage Development Manager (Spirits Business Unit), E. & J. Gallo Winery
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.
Northern California Steward, WhistlePig Rye Whiskey
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
Spirits Portfolio Manager, Skurnik Wines West
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
Category Lead Spirits & More, BevMo
Operating Partner West Beverage Consulting
Founder, CMO at @SingleMaltDaily
Whisk(e)y Warden & Spirit Guide, Wingtip
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.
Spirits Specialist and Agave Club Manager, Cask
Director of Concierge Sales, Total Wine & More
Cyrus says his “Aha!” moment with wine came some 15 years ago, when he had his first sip of DuMol Syrah. “I couldn’t believe wine could taste so good,” he says. “Ever since, I’ve been on the hunt for more of those moments with almost every bottle, wine or spirit, I taste.” A native of San Francisco’s North Bay area, Hazzard has been in fine wine, spirits and food sales for his entire career. He began with focus on wine in his position as General Manager for the gourmet retailer Dean & DeLuca, where he tasted as many as 50 wines a week. As Director of Concierge Sales at Total Wine & More, he has found a unique balance between wine and spirits, supporting barrel selection programs that takes high end spirits to the next level while curating wine selections for some of Total Wine’s top customers.
Today as an avid wine and spirit collector himself, work is not just work, it’s a personal passion and he continues to hunt for that special bottle. Hazzard continues his education in the diploma program of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, most recently receiving his Level III Award.
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
Proprietor, Mr. Coco 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 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!”
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.”
National President, United States Bartenders’ Guild
Food & Drinker Writer/Editor
Since founding The Perfect Spot in 2007, Virginia Miller is the West North America Chair for The World’s 50 Best, has been Zagat SF editor, SF Guardian restaurant critic and Table8 National Editor/VP of Content. Published in over 60 international publications, she regularly covers dining, restaurants, travel, spirits, cocktails and bars globally at Liquor.com, Bob Cut, American Whiskey Magazine, The Bold Italic, Time Out, Distiller Magazine, Gin Magazine, Where Traveler, Haute Living, Google’s Touringbird, Food Republic, Whisky Magazine, Thrillist, Alaska Airlines, to name a few. She’s visited over 11,000 restaurants and 20,000 bars around the world. She leads drink classes, has judged for many cocktail competitions and is on many international awards panels in dining, spirits, cocktails and bars, including The World’s 50 Best, IWSC (spirits), a lead spirits judge at American Distilling Institute (ADI), Good Food Awards, Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards and more.
Wine & Spirits Journalist, Author, Whiskey Women, Bourbon Curious
With appearances on Top Chef and the Amazon Prime host of Bourbon Up, Wall Street Journal-bestselling author Fred Minnick loves his American whiskey, rum and other spirits. He is the editor-in-chief of Bourbon+ Magazine, actively reviews whiskey for Forbes, and is the former lead American whiskey critic for Whisky Advocate. Minnick is the author of seven books, including Whiskey Women, Rum Curious, Bourbon Curious, MEAD, and Bourbon: The Rise, Fall & Rebirth of An American Whiskey, which won the Spirited Award for Best Spirits Book. He has written about spirits for the New York Times, Scientific American, Parade Magazine and more. But most importantly, he wears ascots.
Head Bartender & Co-Owner, Leyenda, Founder, Speed Rack
Ivy Mix is Co-Owner and Head Bartender of Leyenda, her pan-Latin cocktail bar in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, backed by her long-time mentor, Julie Reiner. Leyenda pays tribute to her years of living and bartending in Guatemala, as well as extensive travels throughout all of Latin America. Leyenda has won many awards and has been recognized as being one of the best bars in America by Eater, GQ, Thrillist and others.
With a long history of working in bars throughout the Americas, Ivy has been recognized by many within the culinary and cocktail industry as being one of the best bartenders in the country and in 2015 was named American Bartender of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards and in 2016 was named Mixologist of the Year by Wine Enthusiast.
Ivy first served a drink when she traveled to Guatemala at 19 years old when studying at Bennington College. She lived and worked there for years, mixing in travels to Mexico to smuggle special mezcales and tequilas over the border. Giving her a unique and extensive knowledge base into the agave spirits field. In 2009, she started cocktail waitressing at Mayahuel and it was here where with craft cocktails that she saw how she could bring together her love for bartending and spirits with her artistic background. It was within a year that she joined cocktail historian and bar owner St. John Frizell at Fort Defiance. From there, she worked and helped open several bars throughout Brooklyn. In 2010, Ivy caught Julie Reiner’s eye and was hired to be on the opening staff of Lani Kai in Manhattan. It was not long until she was brought back to her borough of choice to work at Reiner’s flagship world-renown bar the Clover Club. Four years later, she and Reiner opened up Leyenda across the street in May of 2015.
Additionally, Ivy has inspired the nation to rethink women’s role behind the bar. She conceptualized and later, with Lynnette Marrero, co-founded Speed Rack – a national cocktail competition that creates a platform for female bartenders while simultaneously raising money for breast cancer related charities. Speed Rack started in 2011 and has taken the world by storm, changing the way people view women’s role in cocktails. So far they have raised over $800,000 for charity.
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.
Assistant Director Of Beverage Development, Wynn Las Vegas
Award Winning Mixologist, Andrew Pollard, is currently the Assistant Director of Beverage Development for Wynn Resorts, overseeing the cocktail menu and beverage programming for all 27 outlets, including bars, lounges, pools and restaurants.
With over 16 years in the beverage industry, Andrew’s extensive experience has ranged from bartending in Las Vegas’ top nightclubs, consultant, restaurant, bar and hotel openings, brand ambassador, liquor distribution, and held terms as both President and Vice President of the local USBG Chapter.
An educator himself, Pollard is always in the pursuit of learning, a certified specialist in Sherry, Sake, Beer, and Spirits, as a B.A.R. Ready Graduate.
Much of his work has been featured throughout several trade publications, magazines and television, having also been recognized for his efforts to include Best Mixologist In Las Vegas, Best Cocktail Program in Las Vegas, the first recipient of the Tony Abou – Ganim Paragon Award and a multi award winner of several local and national cocktail competitions.
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
Director of Mixology & National Accounts, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits
Beverage Director, School Night
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.
Spirit Guide, 213 Hospitality
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.
Whisk(e)y Specialist, Pernod Ricard
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