Whiskies of the World Awards Judges

 

 

Jessica Sanders

Bar Owner / Bartender / USBG Austin President

Jessica Sanders is an award-winning bartender and bar/restaurant owner based in Austin, Texas. She and her husband, Michael, co-own and operate drink.well. a craft cocktail bar and gastropub in Austin’s vibrant North Loop district. Drink.Well.’s inventive bar & kitchen program has been featured in numerous publications and in Top 100 lists.

Ms. Sanders is the President of the Austin chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. She has competed in, won and judged numerous cocktail competitions and was most recently a top 5 finisher at the Bacardi Legacy 2014 national finals and the Texas winner for Tequila Ocho’s Viva Sangrita 2014 competition. She is a Certified Sommelier of Wine and is currently studying for her Certified Spirits Specialist accreditation. In 2014, she will be pursuing accreditation through the US Bartenders’ Guild Master Bartender certification program.

 

   

Alba Huerta

Bar Owner / Award-Winning Bartender, Anvil Bar & Refuge, The Pastry War, Julep

Alba Huerta brings her passion for quality spirits and a sense of warmth and hospitality behind the bars at Anvil Bar & Refuge, The Pastry War and the soon-to-open Julep. A graduate of the University of Nevada, Alba has bartended throughout Las Vegas and Houston, where she developed her love affair for fine spirits—especially whiskey and agave spirits—and proved herself a skilled professional.

Alba developed relationships with Anvil Bar & Refuge owners Bobby Heugel and Kevin Floyd through their involvement in the United States Bartender’s Guild and the Tequila Exchange Project, and they recruited her to be the general manager of Anvil in 2011. Anvil demanded her “full attention, respect and dedication” until she mastered the reigns.

Alba was inducted into Tales of the Cocktail’s Dames Hall of Fame and was named Imbibe magazine’s Bartender of the Year in 2014.

 

   

Mike Groener

CEO / President, Genius Liquids

Project manager by day and distiller by night, Austin’s Mike Groener has been dubbed the “Walter White of Gin”. With the launch of Genius Gin in 2013 (featured in Texas Monthly) and V&V amaro (to be released this fall), Groener has quickly changed the climate of Texas spirits while rallying for the elucidation of liquor production. As an avid spirits writer and fanatic, he continues to campaign for an “art above profit”
approach to business while constantly expanding his home collection of Whiskey.

 

   

Greg Randle

Wine & Spirits Business Consultant, Good Taste Report

With more than 21 years in the industry, Greg has been Beverage Director/Buyer/Consultant for 14 restaurants (including one and two glass Wine Spectator Awards lists), Buyer/Consultant for 6 wine and spirits retailers, designed and built 8 night clubs, has regularly participated as a wine and spirits judge for various competitions, including the Dallas Morning News and TEXSOM International Wine Competition as well as Sommelier Journal.

He writes and lectures about spirits, wine, and beer. He consults with restaurateurs, bars, retailers, private collectors, wholesalers, caterers, and corporate clients, in the worlds of taste, investment, marketing, merchandising, sales, service, education, and sensory perception. He is a a Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS).

Greg currently consults on the beverage programs of Cipollina West Austin Bistro, Sawyer & Co., and Swoop House in Austin. He hosts the website Good Taste Report. Most recently, he was a contributing writer and council member for the Fearless Critic Restaurant Guide, helped (re)open Jeffrey’s, Josephine House, and East End Wines.

 

   

Jason Stevens

Award Winning Bartender

Jason Stevens is a local and national award-winning bartender and consultant. He is currently bar manager for Bar Congress in Austin, Texas. Stevens consults, speaks, and teaches on the history, theory, and execution of quality-focused cocktails and bar-tending best practices. Stevens is strongly tied to the local community, working with organizations such as Austin Food and Wine Festival, Edible Austin, Somms Under Fire, USBG Austin chapter, and many more.
Stevens is the co-owner of Bad Dog Bar Craft, an Austin based bitters company, as well as Bottled in Bond Consulting, which focuses on public cocktail education and bar consultation.

 

   

Bill Norris

Beverage Director, Alamo Drafthouse

For seventeen years, Bill has poured drinks in venues from the Jersey Shore to London to New York to Austin, winning numerous awards and cocktail competitions along the way, and consulting on bars in Austin and Schulenburg, Texas While in New York, he helped to open L-Ray in the West Village with Chef Aaron Sanchez (Isla, Paladar and Mixx) and consulting chef Jimmy Bradley (The Red Cat, The Harrison). He was on the opening staff at FINO, where According to the Austin American Statesman, he "planted the sacred seeds" of the modern cocktail in Austin, before creating the nationally recognized bar program at Haddingtons.

He graduated from Drew University with a degree in political science and writing, briefly toiled on political campaigns, and then returned to Sarah Lawrence College to earn an MFA in fiction writing. When his novel,Snapshots (still available for a film option if anyone is interested), was published in 2001, he thought his bar tending days were finished, but it turns out slinging drinks supports a writing habit, and the drinks gradually became his career.

   

Ken Seeber

Buyer, Twin Liquors

Ken Seeber has been in the Wine, Spirits and Culinary world for over 14 years. He is an honors graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and has an excellent palate for wine, spirit & food pairing. Over the years he has developed an intense knowledge of Wine & Whiskey specifically, as he has taught many classes and sat on panels for both. He also buys for one of Twin Liquors’ premier locations in Westlake and takes very seriously the challenge of finding the perfect Whiskey for each of his customers’ varied palates!

 

   

Kevin Stein

Twin Marketplace Manager

Kevin Stein has been in the Wine & Spirits industry for over 13 years. His interested started and continues with Wine, having earned a Levels 1 & 2 Certification from the International Sommelier Guild. His passion for whiskey knowledge is as vast and varied as his wine knowledge as he buys and manages one of the largest retail whiskey collections in Austin for Twin Liquors at their Marketplace in the Hill Country Galleria.

 

   

David Alan

Author, Tipsy Texan

David Alan is an authoritative beverage consultant, writer and freelance bartender with more than a decade of experience under his belt. He is a founder of the Tipsy Texan consultancy, based in his hometown of Austin, which specializes is assisting brands, restaurants & bars, and organizations with everything from original concepts to fully realized menus and promotional events. He travels widely, promoting his agenda of making the world a safer place for alcohol. In 2008, Alan co-founded the Austin chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG), the first in Texas. In 2013, Alan published his first book, Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State.

Alan is a regular on the speaking and festival circuit, having recently revived and produced the “Official Drink of Austin” contest in partnership with the Austin Food & Wine Alliance, in addition to developing programming and creating off-site branding activations for the Viva Big Bend Food Festival, San Antonio Cocktail Conference, and Texas Tiki Week. In addition to Tipsy Texan, Alan regularly contributes to Texas Monthly and Edible Austin magazines. Alan served as a brand ambassador for Cooper Spirits, working on the St-Germain team until the brand’s highly publicized acquisition by Bacardi in 2013.

   

Jason Kosmas

Co-Founder, The 86 Co.

Jason Kosmas pioneered the craft and classic cocktail movement in New York City with the opening of Employees Only in 2004. For over a decade, Jason has been an influential force in shaping drinking and night-life as a bartender, restaurant owner, consultant, author and spirits producer. Jason currently resides in Austin, TX where he continues to champion cocktail culture through his latest ventue, The 86 Co. - a spirits and marketing company producing fine spirits for bartenders.

 

   

Josh Loving

Sommelier / Bartender, Half Step

Josh Loving has spent eleven years working in the hospitality industry in Austin. In 2005, he accepted the position of wine director at FINO Restaurant Patio and Bar. In his time at FINO, he has also worked as a server, bartender, and manager. During his time as bar manager, FINO was recognized by local, state, and national media for its beverage program, including GQ Magazine’s October 2010 feature “The 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America.” Since leaving FINO in 2012, Josh has been a bartender and creative contributor at Midnight Cowboy and the bar manager at Weather Up. In 2013 Josh accepted the role as bar consultant for McGuire Moorman Hospitality, curating the bar and spirit programs for Jeffrey’s and Josephine House. Since leaving his position with McGuire Moorman Hospitality, Josh has been tending bar at Half Step, a classic cocktail bar with in-house ice production, for which he is responsible.

In 2012, Josh was nominated for a Tastemaker award by Culture Map Austin for Wine & Beverage Program, in 2013 nominated for Best Craft Bartender and in 2014 nominated for Best Beverage Director.

   

Houston Eaves

Beverage Director, Esquire Tavern, San Antonio

Houston Eaves started working in his family’s deli, when he was fourteen years old. He worked alongside his father who led by example to engrain in him a strong work ethic, pride in a job and genuine hospitality.

Another strong influence in Eaves’ formative years was his mother, who worked for an airline. What she instilled in him was a curiosity for other cultures and a passion for traveling. During his travels Houston studied beverage trends from Costa Rica to the Middle East and many locales in between. Above all of these trends, he is most loyal to the old-world style, handmade, perfectly crafted cocktail and that is what he strives to bring to the Esquire.

Houston’s top priorities as Beverage Director at Esquire are to maintain its integrity and continue to push it to excellence. “I feel privileged to be managing one of the oldest and most notorious bars in Texas and I’m making sure the quality of our drinks, beer and food honor The Esquire’s rich tradition.”