Whiskies of the World Awards Judges

Jessica Tantillo Barnard

Jessica Tantillo Barnard is an On-Premise Account Manager for Twin Liquors. Jessica comes from a wine and food background, is a graduate from the French Culinary Institute in New York City and is a Certified Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Jessica honed her culinary skills and passion for wine while working in several restaurants in New York City and at Astor Wines and Spirits.  Jessica brought her passion back to Austin, TX and in 2008 she started working with Twin Liquors, eventually heading up the events, classes and tastings at Twin Liquors Hancock Center, one of Twin Liquors flagship stores.  Her passion for the industry, especially bars and restaurants led her to her current position with Twin Liquors.  Jessica is responsible for 100+ accounts that buy wholesale liquor and wine from Twin Liquors.  Jessica specializes in consulting with craft bars, and restaurants. 

 

   

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.

 

   

Erik Ferchill

Spirits Specialist and Buyer for Specs

Erik has worked in the spirits industry for over 10 years. From working a catering companies bar service & drink menu creation to being the Head Spirits Specialist at Spec's for 8 years. At  Spec's, Erik provides professional advice & education to thousands of customers as well as new and upcoming local and regional distillers.  Additionally,  Erik teaches tasting classes and sampling events for private functions. In Erik’s role at Specs, he has had the opportunity to sample and evaluate several thousand whiskies from all over the world of all different types.

   

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.”

 

   

Mike Raymond

Co-Founder/Co-Owner, Reserve 101, Houston

Mike Raymond is the founder of Reserve 101, a premier whiskey bar and cocktail lounge located in Downtown Houston. Capitalizing on 10+ years of experience in the restaurant and bar industry, Raymond co-founded Reserve 101 in 2008. Through a steady climb to success, Reserve 101 is known today for its internationally acclaimed whiskey selection – the largest in Texas – along with an extensive range of Texas spirits and beers, niche cocktail offerings and location right across from the House of Blues Houston. Mike has been a beer, wine and spirits buyer for bars and restaurants for the last 18 years along with the creating of cocktail menus for the last 11 years. He also heads the barrel program at Reserve 101 which includes single barrels from Kentucky and Texas and custom blends from producers in Kentucky, Chicago and Scotland. 
 

 

Steven Robbins