Oset Babür-Winter, Katie Brown, Jessica Fields, Tim McKirdy, and Joanna Sciarrino
Alex Royle (Alban de Pury), Brandon Soder (Shyla & Missy), Daniela Spector (Emily Schildt), Emmanuel Rosario (Faye Chen & GN Chan), Jason Roth (Quentin Valueon), John Walder (Donae Burston), Julie Soefer (Alba Huerta), Kim Fetrow Photography (Shae Frichette), Lizzie Munro (Etienne Guerin and Garret Richard), Melissa Hom (Gaston Graffigna), Michael Harlan Turkell (Dave Foss), Michael Mason (James O’Brien), Sara Geidlinger (Ren Navarro), and Susanne Fairfax (Angela & Renauda)
Julia Coney, Aaron Goldfarb, Dave Infante, and the 2021 VinePair Next Wave Award winners
Co-Founder, Good Liquorworks
“Booze should be a lot more transparent.” This is the philosophy that Mark Byrne had in mind when he started Good Liquorworks in 2015 with co-founder Tristan Willey. After years of working at Brooklyn’s Kings County Distilling and consulting on spirits brands, working on labels, and other marketing efforts, Byrne decided he wanted to build a spirit company from the ground up, with sustainability a top priority. “A lot of spirits, the more you know about them, the more you’re turned off about the process of making them,” Byrne says. “We wanted to build a spirit that actually rewards curiosity.”
After five years of development, Good Vodka, the company’s first release, made its debut in late 2020. Fermented and distilled from 100 percent coffee byproduct, Good Vodka is carbon negative; it makes use of an ingredient that would otherwise be discarded, and also provides a valuable new revenue stream to the Colombian coffee farmers from whom it’s sourced (the brand works directly with the Colombian Coffee Federation to compensate farmers for their coffee fruit waste).
“The more we divorce alcohol from its agricultural product, the more it lets us off the hook for how it’s grown,” Byrne says. Educating consumers about that process and why it’s so important to what they drink is core to his mission at Good Liquorworks. And with collaborations and future releases, he’ll continue to work toward that goal.
Founder, Brewability Lab
When Tiffany Fixter met a homebrewer back when she was working as the director of a day program, she was struck with an idea. A former special education teacher, Fixter wanted to create a place that could employ adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, while capitalizing on Denver’s buzzy craft beer scene.
Brewability Lab, which opened in 2016, is a craft brewery that trains and hires adults with developmental disabilities, and is accessible for both employees and guests. The goal is to cultivate an inclusive environment where everyone — staff and customers — can feel safe, welcome, and happy, Fixter says. Brewability’s menu is color-coded to match tap handles for easy serving and ordering, and those tap handles have braille for employees with visual impairments. Braille menus are available, too, and there’s also a sensory area for those who need tactile sensory stimulation. It’s those details that make Brewability such a special place for all those who visit. “I enjoy when customers give specific feedback on why they feel appreciated in our space,” Fixter says.
For Fixter, a diverse and inclusive beer community goes beyond all genders and races. At Brewability Lab, beer is for every body and every ability.
Co-Founders, Nobody’s Darling
Before opening Nobody’s Darling, a “women-centered bar” in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, co-owners Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle led successful careers in corporate law and creative event production, respectively. Their shared experiences of struggling to find safe and comfortable spaces for queer women — particularly queer women of color — to enjoy a drink or two inspired them to get into the hospitality space, despite considering themselves “drinks novices.” Having recently earned a nod from the James Beard Foundation as a finalist for Outstanding Bar Program, Riddle and Barnes are proving that perseverance and commitment to serving one’s community outweigh industry tenure.
In addition to serving delicious drinks, Nobody’s Darling aims to be a leader in bringing brands produced by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people into the spotlight, such as Black and locally owned Playpen Vodka. Riddle says she’s thrilled that patrons are eager to try spirits that “competently compete with some of the brands they are used to consuming.”
Educator, founder, mentor, podcast host, and advocate — Ren Navarro wears a lot of hats, but her preferred title is “lead troublemaker.” It is perhaps that levity and sense of humor that keeps the Ontario native motivated to continue learning how to make the beer industry more diverse and inclusive. After nearly a decade of working in the beer space, Navarro opened Beer.Diversity, a consultancy offering services and resources around diversity and inclusion for companies in the beer space and beyond. Her work with clients includes general training, dealing with workplace problems, and how to be proactive instead of reactive in their policies and company culture.
“People think I’m the expert on how to do things right, but you can’t defer to one person to have all the answers,” Navarro says. Learning together is a crucial part of the work. When she launched Beer.Diversity in 2018, she thought change would be easy –– four years later, the road ahead is still long. “This is the world’s longest marathon,” Navarro says of her desire to make the beer industry better. “If you start putting in the work, there is no finishing.”
Founder, Crafted for Action
When Jen Price started blogging about beer back in 2007, it was just a hobby. But over the following 15 years, that hobby turned into something much more meaningful for the Atlanta native, who by day is an urban planner and project manager.
“Beer can be so narrow, but it’s changed so much,” Price says.
Expanding the craft beer space matters most to Price. To that end, she’s hosted numerous beer workshops and authored a book, “The Chick’s Guide to Beer.” In 2019, she founded Craft Women Connect, a resource for women and women-identifying folks to discuss their experiences in the industry. A kickstarter for a brick-and-mortar shop and gathering space raised over $30,000 in just 30 days. And while the shop didn’t make it beyond a soft opening as a result of the pandemic, those resources led to something just as important.
In 2021, Price launched Crafted for Action with the goal of building a more inclusive craft beer community. The organization’s annual conference, #CraftBeerCon, which will return this May, features cicerone lessons, bottle shares, beer dinners, and other events aimed at bringing people from all points in their beer journeys together. “I love the energy of being in a space with people who are learning, from novice to know-it-all,” Price says. For her, #CraftBeerCon is not just a way to introduce new experiences, but an affirmation that craft beer is a real community full of people who care about making room for others at the bar.
Co-Founder and Owner, Resident Culture Brewing Company
“It may be just beer, but Resident Culture spends every day trying to make change and support our community and human beings in the way we all deserve,” says Amanda McLamb, co-founder and owner of the Charlotte, N.C., brewery. Serving people better — from brewery patrons and employees to the Charlotte community and the greater craft beer industry — is an intention that seems to inspire everything McLamb does. At Resident Culture, she’s established biweekly meetings for both team members and managers; health insurance is available for all full-time employees, and all team members have access to free mental health services. “I do everything I can to show up for my team … to make [them] feel more seen, heard, and supported,” McLamb says.
Beyond brewery events for the local community — McLamb recently hosted a “Break the Bias” forum with panelists who have changed the civic landscape of Charlotte — she facilitates discussions in the brewing industry around creating safer, more inclusive spaces with stronger support for employees. If McLamb can set this example, more brewers can follow the way; having those uncomfortable conversations makes advocating for change all the more possible, she says. And while she admits that she’s still learning every day, her optimism for a “future the industry deserves” is unwavering: “I truly believe in this moment being a great opportunity to begin the next chapter.”
Homebrewing Educator and Digital Creator
When it comes to homebrewing education, Sarah Flora is leading the charge. By day, Flora is the director of operations of Los Angeles’s Shulamit Nazarian art gallery. Otherwise, you can find her brewing beer, and creating and editing content about it to share with her growing online audience (she’s one of the top female YouTube creators in the brewing space). “My goal is to keep challenging myself to learn as much about beer as possible,” Flora says. “If I’m not learning new things, I get bored, so I try to keep things new and interesting.” Launched in 2021, her podcast, Brewing After Hours, dives into homebrewing and explores the world of beer from its long history to current news featuring guests from the industry.
A proud member of the SoCal Cerveceros and Maltose Falcons homebrew clubs, Flora has won a number of Homebrew Awards and will brew her first commercial beer with Chicago’s Pilot Project later this spring.
Founder, Under the Jenfluence
When Jen Blair attended the National Homebrew Competition a few years ago, only a handful of over 100 medals were given to women, a disparity not uncommonly seen throughout the brewing industry. As a National Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Judge, Blair was often one of the only women at beer judging tables and events. She wanted more women at the table, and decided to use her skills to make that happen.
An Advanced Cicerone and exam manager for Cicerone Certification Project, Blair offers online beer courses, plus beer service training, sensory programs, and other resources aimed at making opportunities in the beer industry accessible to all. For her beer judge training course, 25 percent of proceeds are donated to the Hecate Fund, created to help defray the cost of participating in industry conferences for historically excluded people.
In March, Blair partnered with Women of the Bevolution and Beer Is For Everyone to launch a global grant program for women, non-binary individuals, and those from underrepresented communities interested in pursuing beer education. The five grantees will be selected and announced on April 4.
Warehouse Specialist, Fair State Brewing Cooperative and Member Organizer, UNITE HERE Local 17
While labor unions were common in the U.S. in the mid- to late 20th century, they’re not as ubiquitous today. But with working conditions and employee feedback more public than ever before, that kind of collective action — for better wages, benefits, and treatment — is becoming normalized across trades. Craft beer is one of those trades, and in the Twin Cities, Anders Bloomquist is a key force behind labor organizing. A warehouse specialist at Fair State Brewing Cooperative in Minneapolis, Bloomquist led the charge when employees of the brewery decided they wanted to join the Local 17 Twin Cities chapter of the UNITE HERE hospitality union, for which he is now a member organizer. Their successful drive made Fair State America’s first unionized microbrewery.
Last fall, Fair State’s union members finalized their collective bargaining agreement with management, and have since been using their success to help other local craft beer workers advocate for their needs. Bloomquist leads these efforts. When he’s not managing shipping, receiving, and other warehouse business, Bloomquist is advising his industry peers on how to organize their workplaces. “Whether or not a craft beverage worker thinks they need a formal union, you should still build lines of communication between your coworkers and share information and advice on issues in the workplace,” Bloomquist says. Building those bridges of communication might not always be so straightforward, but to figure out the best outcome for everyone, sharing in that collective work is the most effective way.
Co-Founders, Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.
When Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. opened in early 2016, it quickly made waves, and not just for being the first and only Native woman-owned and -operated brewery in the United States. The modern Albuquerque “brew hall” is a stunning and welcoming space (it’s won accolades for best brewery atmosphere), and its creative lineup of beers inspired by its Southwest locale — think Berliner Weisse with Navajo sumac berries and pilsner brewed with local blue corn — garnered acclaim early on. Six years later, and Bow & Arrow is still turning heads with each toast.
Behind it all are Shyla Sheppard and Missy Begay. While beer is the focus at Bow & Arrow, the pair’s Native heritage — Sheppard is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota and Begay was raised on the Navajo Nation — plays an important role in the brewery’s identity and community initiatives. In 2021, Sheppard and Begay created the Native Land collaboration beer to bring awareness to ancestral Native land and raise funds for current Native organizations and communities. The unexpected number of participants (54 breweries across 24 states as of March 17) speaks to the power of Sheppard and Begay’s work and the critical role it plays in expanding the craft beer space.
Founder, New Math Coffee
For Mikey Rinaldo, launching Chicago’s New Math Coffee in March 2020 was about more than introducing specialty Asian coffees to North American coffee drinkers; it also involved hometown pride. Rinaldo, who grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia, previously worked as a roaster for Due South Coffee in Greenville, S.C., as well as Passion House in Chicago. At New Math, Rinaldo and their team are committed to exploring how Asia can produce lots that rival the best of Panama, Colombia, or Ethiopia. “The immediate aim is to challenge Asia’s reputation for earthy and heavy coffees,” Rinaldo says. “I hope this will in turn encourage more roasters here to offer specialty Asian coffees, not commodities, and support Asian producers more consistently.”
Given the sharp rise of anti-Asian violence and rhetoric in the past two years, Rinaldo has a renewed goal not just to highlight Asian producers, but also their own identity as a non-binary Asian person.
Founder and Owner, Sans Bar
As a licensed counselor and local Austinite, Chris Marshall was well aware of the social stigmas associated with drinking. Whether you’re sober-curious, in recovery, or simply want to enjoy a night out without imbibing, the interest in non-alcoholic beverages is rapidly growing, yet there continues to be a lack of social options available. In 2017, Marshall decided to bridge the gap by hosting pop-ups at local bars and restaurants around Austin. Each event offered a selection of non-alcoholic beverages and an engaging social setting with live music and food. Just one year later, he opened Sans Bar, an alcohol-free bar and bottle shop that soon became a city staple and was a Best of Austin nominee in 2021.
As Sans Bar’s community quickly expanded, Marshall founded The Sans Bar Academy, a first-of-its-kind virtual school that helps entrepreneurs develop and grow their own NA businesses. Currently, the academy is on a 15-city national tour across the U.S. with events held at various locations including the SXSW festival.
Honduras-based Andrea Hernández likes to call herself an international cult leader, and with loyal followers around the world, she may not be far off. But rather than drinking the Kool-Aid, Hernández’s community can be found perusing snack aisles and questioning what words like “adaptogenic” actually mean. As the founder of Snaxshot, Hernández uses insights from her background in marketing, advertising, and public relations to help industry outsiders understand the latest trends in the drinks space. “Everyone’s talking about lingo like, ‘adaptogen this’ and ‘prebiotic that,’ but nobody’s taking the time to be like, ‘What the f*ck is that?’” Hernández says.
With Snaxshot, a newsletter followed by over 20,000 so-called snackbois, Hernández highlights what’s new in the food and drinks space and shares her takes on trends in ways that are both entertaining and educational. Through partnerships with brands like Foxtrot, Hernández is also able to share the “snax” she’s excited about with a larger consumer base, subsequently elevating small brands while continuing to keep them accountable for the terminology they use on their packaging.
Founder, Pop Up Grocer
If every neighborhood grocery store looked like Pop Up Grocer, we’d all be vying to host a few more dinner parties each month. By using her shelves to showcase the most interesting and innovative direct-to-consumer food and beverage brands, Chobani veteran and Pop Up Grocer founder Emily Schildt has not only built a platform for delicious discovery, she’s also one of the most talented curators in the consumer packaged goods world today. “There is so much [creativity] out there, particularly in the beverage space. We see it as our job to play a supporting role, to ensure it gets the exposure and visibility it deserves,” Schildt explains. “Many brands, due to their success in our spaces, go on to garner attention from media, secure investment, and land major retail partnerships.” Pop Up Grocer puts its money where its mission is, giving 5 percent of in-store sales from each of its locations to one emerging, consumer packaged goods brand, for which the donation has immediate and meaningful impact.
With a rapidly expanding team and a permanent NYC location in the works, it’s clear that Schildt is only getting started in her quest to make Pop Up Grocer the go-to destination for drinkers and snackers who only want to taste the cutting edge.
Co-Founder and CEO, Al’s
The decision not to consume alcohol doesn’t mean the party has to end, a fact Al’s non-alcoholic beer co-founder and CEO Alban de Pury knows well. For years, the Swiss-born entrepreneur worked in the music industry, where late nights with plenty of booze were all part of the job — until three years ago, when de Pury suddenly decided to stop drinking alcohol. He didn’t miss the hangovers and anxieties that often accompany imbibing, but he realized that he longed for one taste in particular: “I really missed beer,” he says. “It was a really frustrating experience of feeling kind of left out and not having good options.” In response, de Pury and his wife, Fanny Karst, launched Al’s in December 2020, initially doing much of the sales and delivery work themselves.
In just a few short years, the brand has gained fans nationwide — sober and otherwise — and the duo have rapidly expanded distribution of their sessionable, pilsner-inspired NA beer to dive bars and music venues around the country.
General Manager, Owamni
At Minneapolis’s Owamni, general manager Kareen Teague curates an impressive drinks menu that highlights his Native Anishinaabe and Ojibwe roots through the use of indigenous ingredients. With a thoughtfully crafted drinks list, Teague emphasizes the importance of forgoing colonized ingredients such as wheat and dairy, while highlighting locally foraged ingredients from Minneapolis’s sacred Dakota land. The result is an entirely BIPOC-owned wine and beer list, and a zero-proof cocktail menu that celebrates Native ingredients such as wild rice and local berries. While almost all classic cocktails are made with citrus and cane sugar, Teague’s bar program avoids these colonial ingredients, instead relying on sweeteners like agave nectar, honey, and birch syrup, and using tart Native fruits like currants to impart acidity to non-alcoholic cocktails.
While his day-to-day duties include overseeing floor operations and the bar program, Teague maintains that the best part of his job remains “working with Indigenous food and members of the Native American community here in Minnesota.”
Founder and CEO, Táche
For Roxana Saidi’s Táche, sustainability is much more than just a selling point. The pistachio milk brand has racked up buzz from industry professionals and is now offered at coffee shops and juice bars across the country, including beloved NYC chain Blank Street, among others. While plenty of other companies include pistachios in their nut milk blends, Táche is one of the few offerings made entirely from the nut, which requires only a fraction of the water that almonds need to grow. While this lowers Táche’s carbon footprint, it also makes for flavorful, full-bodied nut milks that stand out from many others on the market.
When she’s not fundraising, recruiting, and developing brand strategy for Táche, Saidi can be found collaborating with like-minded brands and organizations. She launched a tiki-style Berliner Weisse with Brooklyn’s Other Half Brewing, and most recently partnered with the Lower East Side Girls Club to donate a portion of her profits to support girls’ education and mentorship opportunities.
Co-Founder and CEO, Speakeasy Co.
Josh Jacobs describes himself as a “data scientist by trade but an entrepreneur at heart.” Before founding Speakeasy Co. in 2015, he began his career with online ventures in art, moving, and menswear. And it is likely his lack of traditional beverage alcohol experience that helped Speakeasy mature into its current iteration.
The company launched as a craft cocktail subscription service and over time evolved into an online liquor retailer. In 2018, Speakeasy pivoted to its current model as an e-commerce and logistics platform that provides custom solutions for alcohol producers. In real terms, that means bringing integrated shopping carts to brands’ websites so it looks like they’re selling directly to consumers, while still complying with America’s notoriously complex three-tier distribution system.
Quick to praise the influence of Michael Bowen, who came on board as co-founder and COO in late 2017, Jacobs describes his partner as an “operations genius” who built out the company from a technology perspective. And technology is also core to the value of Speakeasy’s product, with clients given access to first-party sales data that allows them to understand their core customers and markets, and grow their brands.
While Speakeasy has so far worked with Jägermeister and Bacardi, in addition to a number of craft brands, Jacobs feels the company’s true potential is only just being realized by major producers. Yet any service that makes it easier for drinkers to legally buy alcohol online and have it delivered to their doorsteps marks a win-win for all concerned parties.
Beverage Director, Sobre Masa
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Gaston Graffigna entered the hospitality world by working as a barback at the young age of 15. After attending culinary school in his early 20s, he went on to hone his cocktail skills at New York bars and restaurants such as at The Winslow Gin House, Bua, and Dante. In his current role as beverage director at Brooklyn’s Sobre Masa, a restaurant and tortilleria that celebrates the history and versatility of heirloom Mexican corn, Graffigna complements chef Zack Wangeman’s Oaxacan-inspired menu with his reverence for Mexican spirits, like Nixta, Charanda, and Paranubes rum.
Under Graffigna’s direction, the tightly curated cocktail program at Sobre Masa highlights indigenous spirits that many American drinkers rarely encounter on cocktail lists, even in a city as vast as New York. By utilizing these offerings in riffs on a classic Martini or Spritz, he continues to introduce drinkers to a delicious interaction between discovery and diversity.
Co-Founders, Double Chicken Please
The intersection of kitchen techniques and craft cocktails has brought practices like acid adjusting and clarification behind the bar in recent years. To witness a more literal culinary influence on world-class mixed drinks, one need only visit New York’s Double Chicken Please, launched by Faye Chen and GN Chan in November 2020.
Bringing more than 25 years of combined bar industry experience to the Lower East Side, Chen arrived after five years in Taiwan, four in Shanghai, and five at other bars in New York, while Chan had most recently tended bar at Angel’s Share and won the 2016 Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition.
Despite their impressive résumés, drinkers will regularly encounter Chen and Chan behind the stick at Double Chicken Please’s adjoining bars. In addition to lower-ABV libations on tap and precise iterations of familiar classics, the pair also offers a list of cocktails inspired by dishes more commonly found in the city’s vaunted dining rooms. Think: Scotch-spiked ‘Waldorf Salad’; infused-vodka ‘French Toast’; and a tequila, tomato, and basil-based ‘Cold Pizza.’
All things told, Double Chicken Please has some of the most exciting mixed drinks in the city right now — ideal for New Yorkers planning their next night out, or tourists paying a pilgrimage to the nation’s cocktail capital.
Bar Manager, Hawksmoor New York
When Britain’s celebrated Hawksmoor chain launched its first venture across the pond, Adam Montgomerie was tasked with the no-doubt daunting challenge of leading the bar program.
Montgomerie, a Scottish native, first joined Hawksmoor as a bartender at its Air Street location in London seven years ago. He quickly rose to head bartender, assistant bar manager, then bar manager, before transferring to Hawksmoor’s Spitalfields location, a two-time winner of Tales of the Cocktail’s “Best International Restaurant Bar.”
Hawksmoor NYC opened in September 2021, 21 months after Montgomerie packed up his bags and moved to the Big Apple. Since opening, he’s navigated a steep learning curve, familiarizing himself with America’s alcohol laws and understanding the differences between the drinking habits of diners in the two cities.
The steakhouse’s cocktail program does much to win over the hearts of locals, with “Ultimate” variations of the Gibson, Manhattan, and Martini — the latter of which arrives at a bracing 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Hawksmoor’s bar not only whips up high-quality mixed drinks for those embarking on a chargrilled odyssey, it also offers a standalone space to grab a post-work beer and some of the finest technique-driven cocktails in the city.
A fixture at the bar himself, Montgomerie welcomes guests with friendly service devoid of pretension. A hallmark of the Hawksmoor brand, this remains among the most important standards he wants to uphold today. “It doesn’t matter how good the food and drinks are,” Montgomerie says. “It comes down to people.”
Founder, Du Nord Social Spirits
As the first graduate of the Uncle Nearest and Jack Daniel’s Advancement Initiative, Chris Montana founded Du Nord Social Spirits in 2013. With a background as a homebrewer and hobby distiller, Montana felt a diversity divide in the world of craft spirits and saw his Minneapolis-based distillery and tasting room as a bridge. But in the fires that ensued during the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, the distillery ceased production and the Minneapolis community itself became Du Nord’s primary focus. “We had a choice: go back to business as usual, or build something better in the ashes of what was,” Montana explains. Shifting their spotlight to surrounding smaller businesses that had been affected, Montana and his team launched the Du Nord Foundation in 2020. “Initially, we put together a food and supply shelf and began producing hand sanitizer to distribute throughout the neighborhoods,” he says.
Since its inception, the foundation has expanded to fuel a successful business incubation program that lends space, equipment, and trainers to local distillers looking to grow.
Co-Founder, Tip Top Proper Cocktails
If you’ve ever experienced disappointment in the beverage selection at a concert or music festival, Tip Top Proper Cocktails are made with you in mind. In 2019, Neal Cohen teamed up with fellow music industry veteran and childhood friend Yoni Reisman to launch a line of premium canned cocktails that found success just as the RTD space was exploding. In the three years since, Tip Top’s starting lineup –– the Manhattan, Negroni, and Old Fashioned –– has doubled in size with more on the way. “The beverages we’ve chosen to put out with Tip Top allow everyone access to a foundational knowledge of classic cocktails. It’s like the origin story of a superhero that gets more complex as you commit more to exploration,” Cohen explains.
With a successful continued partnership with Delta Airlines as well as several new cocktails and distribution markets on the horizon, Cohen and the Tip Top train show no signs of slowing down.
Estate Rum Manager, Mount Gay
American craft distilling’s loss will surely be the gain of rum drinkers at large after Maggie Campbell left her long-term head distiller post at Massachusetts’ Privateer Rum last year and moved to Barbados to become estate rum manager at Mount Gay.
The future fruits of this partnership remain unknown, and Campbell herself is tight-lipped on what she’s working on. But her career to date suggests exciting things are on the horizon, and we all need to exercise a little patience.
Campbell herself has proven well versed in this virtue throughout her career. When she first considered the distilling profession in 2007, she had her mind set on whiskey. Fate then intervened, landing Campbell the assistant distiller’s position at Germain-Robin, then a sales role at the wine distributor Volio Imports. The latter detour came on the advice of distiller Todd Leopold, who told her it was important to learn what happens to products when they head out into the world. Any notion of entering the whiskey business was finally quashed when Campbell took the head distiller’s position at Privateer in 2012.
Though not a household name, the quality of rums produced by Campbell at Privateer quickly won the palates of those “in the know.” Those very same drinkers, and rum lovers in particular, would do well to keep a close eye on Campbell’s work at Mount Gay.
“What’s exciting about distilling is that you do this little ritual work every day, and it doesn’t seem to amount to much,” Campbell says. “But then it culminates in something really big over time.“
Co-Founders, Nankai Shochu
Mai and Paul Nakayama are relative newcomers to the food and beverage industry. Nankai, a shochu brand the Nakayamas co-founded in 2015, is the couple’s first foray into the drinks space, and they’ve quickly been able to leave their mark on shelves across the country.
After visiting Mai’s hometown of Amami, Japan, during their honeymoon in 2015, the Nakayamas tasted and became hooked on shochu — a vacuum-distilled sugar cane and rice distillate local to the region — and decided that they had to share the spirit with their friends back in Los Angeles. Positive feedback from friends and family members encouraged the duo to develop their own shochu brand, and soon enough, Nankai was born.
Nankai is now available at retail locations across California, Hawaii, Nevada as well as online at Total Wine, Umami Mart, and other sites. The couple is committed to educating Americans on how the spirit differs from the similarly spelled Korean soju, while also advancing shochu’s availability across the American market.
Beverage Director, Gracias Madre
Like so many fellow Los Angelenos, Maxwell Reis entered the hospitality industry for convenience, the shift work allowing him to continue touring with his band. He started barbacking when he was 21 at the now shuttered RockSugar in the city’s Westfield Century City mall, and would eventually work every front-of-house position during his four years there.
Following an influential and insightful stint working under Shawn Lickliter at Le Republique, Reis eventually went full time at the West Hollywood Mexican restaurant Gracias Madre, where he’d had a previous spell and also done some consulting work. It was during this time that Reis fell head over heels for agave spirits, his passion now exemplified in the location’s expansive bottle list and cocktail program.
Despite the restaurant’s location, A-lister tequilas are notably absent on Gracias Madre’s menu because of Reis’s respect for Mexican traditions and preference for proceeds to flow back to Mexican families. Reis acts as an unofficial ambassador for the category, taking the time to educate drinkers on topics like responsible production practices. Meanwhile, he recognizes the buying power of the American bar industry and the impact it can have on spirits production.
“I don’t want to support any aspect of mezcal that’s catering to what producers think Americans want,” Reis says. “The more of that we buy, the more they’re going to make.”
Author, bartender, and cocktail educator Alba Huerta is a proud Mexican-American and Houstonian. A leading voice in the agave spirits world, her first cocktail book, “Julep,” named after her flagship bar, received an IACP award in the Wine, Beer, and Spirits Category. Prior to opening Julep, which was a James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program in 2022, Huerta helped to launch the Houston chapter of the U.S. Bartender’s Guild, and also created a beloved mezcaleria called The Pastry War. When the pandemic shuttered bars and restaurants across the country, Huerta spearheaded Julep’s successful pivot by selling ready-to-drink cocktails via a refrigerated delivery truck that roamed the streets of Houston.
For Huerta, the narrative behind a cocktail has always been critical. In Julep’s first menu since the bar reopened after its pandemic closure, she chose to focus on the global impact of migrant ingredients. “During the pandemic, we witnessed the breakdown of the supply chain — how quickly items arrive, what items are no longer or less readily available, how prices have changed,” she explains. “Origin stories have always been important, but now the awareness of where ingredients come from and how they migrated here is crucial.” Each of the original cocktails she features on Julep’s menu includes one migrant ingredient — chronicling its place of origin and its impact on the drink.
Chief Cocktail Officer, Sunken Harbor Club
Perfecting the cocktails of the tiki canon requires a lengthy historical exploration, and in-depth familiarity with the work of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic, as well as the research of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Yet this knowledge represents only half of the repertoire of Garret Richard, chief cocktail officer at New York’s Sunken Harbor Club.
Prior to opening the tropical bar with St. John Frizell and Stephen Bielawski in November 2021, Richard gained cutting-edge experience working under Dave Arnold and Don Lee at the now-shuttered Existing Conditions. There, he acquainted himself with techniques like acid and Brix adjusting, and clarification.
Richard’s learnings and longstanding love of tiki combine to bring a new brand of tropical drinks to Sunken Harbor Club — showcased in cocktails like the Tijuana Taxi (a banana mezcal Negroni), and a new take on the Angostura Colada featuring acid-adjusted pineapple juice.
His left-field title reflects a role more broad-reaching than devising drinks and managing staff. Richard’s day-to-day involves developing bar processes, training bartenders, and contemplating menu philosophies. That a seat at the Sunken Harbor Club bar has become among the hardest to snag in New York pays a fitting tribute to this work.
Co-Founder and Beverage Director, Martiny’s
Hundreds crossed the door at Angel’s Share last fall during a normally closed Monday evening to honor the final service of Takuma Watanabe. Among them were bartenders, spirits brand reps, and drinkers who had been touched by the quality of Watanabe’s cocktails and warmth of their interactions with him during his eight-year stint at one of New York’s finest cocktail institutions.
The question on so many guests’ lips that night: What comes next? The answer lies in surely one of the most exciting new bars that will launch in Manhattan this year: Martiny’s.
Slated to open in April, the bar represents the culmination of Watanabe’s almost 20 years in the service industry. Beginning as a barista in Tokyo in 2003, he later worked as a bartender under mentors such as Shuzo Nagumo and Shingo Gokan before moving to New York in 2013.
Rising to head bartender and manager at Angel’s Share, Watanabe says he’s spent his career focused on perfecting his craft — an apt sentiment given that his name written in Japanese is “渡邉琢磨,” and the last character,“磨” or “migaku,” means “to polish.”
Polished, bespoke creations will no doubt be the name of the game when Martiny’s finally opens its doors. “The goal is to create a unique and exquisite cocktail experience that takes elements of a classic Japanese bar with the edge of NYC,” Watanabe says.
Based on the evidence of his last shift behind the bar, plenty will be there eagerly awaiting to sample for themselves.
Co-Founder and CEO, F!VE DRINKS CO
Felipe Szpigel joined AB-InBev in Brazil in 2000. Over the next 20 years, he held a variety of roles in the company, with a focus on trade-marketing and product innovation. During his time with the world’s largest beer company, Szpigel watched a number of trends emerge, including premiumization and the explosive arrival of hard seltzer and RTDs.
Seeing those paths intertwine, and having become a lot more excited by spirits in recent years, Szpigel co-founded the canned cocktail brand F!ve Drinks Co. in 2019. The company fittingly launched with five familiar cocktails packaged in squat, 200-milliliter cans. The brand followed up with the release of the “Americano 2.0,” which was developed in partnership with Linden Pride of New York’s Dante.
At the time, Dante held the title of “World’s Best Bar.” And Szpigel says the pairing aimed, among other things, to bring legitimacy to a category previously plagued by subpar offerings. We at VinePair have consistently been impressed with the quality of F!ve Drinks’ cocktails, and reveled in the ability to drink bar-quality drinks on the go — which is just how Szpigel and his co-founders wanted things.
“I like to jokingly say, ‘If you have the option to have a freshly made cocktail from a great bartender, please do,’” Szpigel says. “But on all other occasions, have F!ve Drinks.”
Wine Director, République, Bicyclette, and Manzke
Sommelier Sarah Clarke may be based in Los Angeles, but her wine lists are distinctly French. As wine director at République, Bicyclette, and newly opened Manzke, Clarke is responsible for helping guests find bottles to complement mouthwatering corn agnolotti and highly Instagrammable bouillabaisse. Although Clarke’s life currently revolves around wine, her first love was food; the sommelier attended the Culinary Institute of America in NYC, and her gastronomical background comes through on her wine lists as she effortlessly pairs unique styles with L.A.’s exceptional fresh produce.
When she’s not pouring your next favorite sip, Clarke spends time mentoring somms-to-be, often hiring employees with little to no prior experience and guiding them to blossom into successful wine professionals. While many top restaurants are notoriously high-pressure atmospheres, Clarke says she likes to make a positive learning environment by welcoming newcomers to the industry and hosting blind tastings at République to help those training for their exams.
Wine Director, Gage & Tollner
Like anyone who’s devoted their life to playing a musical instrument, Étienne Guérin finds it impossible to separate classical guitar from his role as wine director at Gage & Tollner, an iconic steakhouse and one of New York’s hottest restaurants.
A Canadian native, Guérin moved to New York nearly a decade ago to work for Québécois chef Hugue Dufour at M. Wells. Now at Gage & Tollner, Guérin approaches wine buying and service through the lens of musical performance. Whether he’s playing on stage or taking care of diners, the goal is to please his audience and hopefully make them experience beauty, he says. Just as he considers acoustics when choosing songs for a recital, Guérin also bears in mind the “presence” of his restaurant’s historic dining room when deciding whether a bottle is a fit for his list. “The room speaks to me when I taste and whispers over my ears,” he says.
Skepticism toward those words will not cross the minds of any who have received Guérin’s warm, welcoming service. His is an approach not just built on a deep understanding of varieties, regions, and winemaking techniques, but also geared toward personal interactions; as he sees it, wine is simply a companion. But should guests want to engage on such technical details, Guérin’s more than happy to play ball (or hockey, preferably).
Quoting Maya Angelou, Guérin says: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said … but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Sommelier and Founder, Royal Vines
As the head sommelier at Michael’s Genuine in Miami, Ray Sholes is the guy to know when it comes to selecting the perfect bottle of rosé. In 2019, Sholes started Royal Vines, a consulting company through which he expands the reach of voices in wine by providing both virtual and in-person classes as well as tastings that are as educational as they are entertaining. “It began as a Pinot Noir night among friends, where I would deep dive into the characteristics of the wines while making them fun and approachable,” Sholes explains. Today, Royal Vines includes merchandise such as T-shirts, hoodies, and wine tumblers. Its growing YouTube channel features The Black-Owned Wine Review, a series in which Sholes highlights popular offerings from wineries like Theopolis Vineyards, Longevity Wines, and J. Moss, among others.
For Sholes, lending his rapidly growing platform to bring exposure to minority-owned wine isn’t just about inviting more folks to the table — it’s also a matter of good taste.
Co-Founders, The Urban Grape
For Hadley and TJ Douglas, fostering a more inclusive wine world was part of the bedrock for Boston’s Urban Grape wine shop when it opened in 2010. Over the following decade, the duo developed and authored a book about the Progressive Scale, a weighting system that organizes varietals by body, to make learning about and selecting wine feel less intimidating; in 2020, they launched a groundbreaking internship program in collaboration with Boston University to create access and career opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and people of color in wine.
This year, the Douglases are venturing into the vineyard by producing Sauvignon Blanc, rosé, and Pinot Noir under the new Progressive Wine Company label, from which a portion of the proceeds will support the education of future cohorts of the Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color. “Change will happen one vintage at a time, and together we can progress our palates while building a wine industry that reflects us all,” Hadley says.
Director of Operations, Gracie Events
After years of working in restaurants as a wine professional, Raj Vaidya began teaching with one goal in mind: to bring an approachable viewpoint to expensive French wine regions like Burgundy, which often feel out of reach for young drinkers. As the current director of operations at Gracie Events, Vaidya gained an appreciation for mentorship through working with the company’s La Paulée wine festivals, which are held in New York City and Los Angeles. These events serve as celebratory and educational experiences during which Vaidya guides guests through great wines and cuisines from French regions like Champagne and the Rhône Valley. “It’s really rewarding to show the [wine] professionals the human element behind these complex regions,” he says.
As a creator of the Sommelier Scholarship Fund, Vaidya has also led several trips to France to educate young sommeliers on the beauty of the ancient wine regions, with the hope that they find their own connection to the land and culture. “It’s all about connecting the makers with the people who serve their wines so that the appreciation for the culture doesn’t fade,” he says.
Founder, Jenny Dawn Cellars
Jenny McDonald had always been a connoisseur of wine, enjoying winery visits and tasting room classes after work. So when the idea for Jenny Dawn Cellars came about, she wanted to put the customer experience first. After studying enology and obtaining her master’s in agricultural business, she traveled to California to gain hands-on experience working in various wineries. The knowledge was invaluable, but the ultimate goal of opening an inclusive urban winery in her home state drew her back to Kansas. “I wanted it to be the kind of winery that people could visit during the week after work. Someplace that made guests feel welcomed by wine no matter their knowledge level,” McDonald says. In 2016, she opened Jenny Dawn Cellars in Wichita, but doing so was just the beginning of her vision. As a self-taught winemaker and businesswoman, McDonald assessed the market for grapes and decided to make wine from other fruits locally available.
Today, Jenny Dawn Cellars is known for its award-winning wines, including a rosé made from watermelons. McDonald has since been recognized by the state’s legislature as the first female commercial winemaker producing truly special wines.
Founder, Shitty Wine Memes
There are folks who have their fingers on the pulse of American wine culture, and then there’s Shitty Wine Memes. Amanda, the deliberately mysterious entity behind the Instagram account with over 58,000 followers, has worked in the wine industry for over a decade, first by handing out wine samples at grocery stores, and later working as a sales representative and sommelier. Her experiences — good and bad — shine through in each of her memes, which, despite the cheeky pejorative, seem to be ones that truly resonate among industry professionals.
“I enjoy being creative and combining the often-intimidating world of wine with the absurdity of memes,” Amanda says. After sharing countless memes with insider friends, the creator was encouraged to share them with the world, leading her to launch the Shitty Wine Memes account in 2019. The page has since become a sensation among hospitality workers, who share the memes among themselves to poke fun at themselves, guests, and trends they love to hate. “This industry can be extremely tough, especially in a pandemic,” she says. “It’s nice to know that I brightened someone’s day with a shitty wine meme.”
Founder and CEO, La Fête Wine Company
Donae Burston, founder and CEO of La Fête Wine Company, is no stranger to the food and beverage scene. Having worked in marketing for luxury giant LVMH and later for Armand de Brignac Champagne, Burston is now well on his way to creating the next big thing in rosé. “I would say my day-to-day role is much like an orchestra conductor, setting the tone and vision [and] ensuring all sections are playing well individually before coming together in harmony as the perfect ensemble,” he says.
In May 2021, the brand became the first company to secure capital from Constellation Brands Ventures as part of an initiative to invest $100 million in Black and minority-owned businesses in beverage alcohol and adjacent categories by 2030. With that momentum, Burston has grown La Fête into one of the top-selling luxury rosé brands on the market, which has encouraged him to grow the brand’s portfolio — adding La Fête du Blanc, a white blend of Rolle and Semillon, to its lineup this year.
Managing Partner, LaLou and Partner, Invictus Hospitality
As one of the founding partners of beloved Brooklyn neighborhood wine bar LaLou, Dave Foss has attracted praise from industry and neighborhood peers alike for his commitment to showcasing minimal-intervention wines from around the globe. A former wine buyer and beverage director for prominent establishments like New York’s Anfora and Los Angeles-based Fairfax Partners Nightlife Group, Foss’s passion for hospitality is impossible to ignore. “My first opportunity came at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood, where the former wine director offered me his role and the option to cover my wine education courses,” he says. Foss is now a certified sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers and has taught at the Sommeliers Society of America. He also started mentoring hospitality professionals via Invictus Hospitality, a consulting firm at which he is currently a partner.
Along with a team of NYC-based industry professionals, Foss hosts seminars and workshops at the annual Restaurant and Bar Show and is currently consulting on restaurant and bar projects in Florida, Texas, California, and Montana.
Co-Founder, Frichette Winery and Sashay Wines
A prior career as a business coach coupled with the dream of working with her hands led Shae Frichette to Washington to start Frichette Winery along with her husband and co-founder, Greg. In the past decade, Frichette has championed a more sustainable future for the wine industry, from prioritizing foil-free packaging on her bottles and donating her time to mentorship forums like Bâtonnage, to founding the Benton City Giving Garden Project, through which she works with neighboring wineries to grow food and donate to a local food bank. “I enjoy mentoring middle and high schoolers to show them women can lead in agriculture and look forward to witnessing them owning land and wine brands,” she notes. “There will [soon] be new ways to explore making wine.”
As the creative mind behind Sashay wines, a label she launched underneath the Frichette portfolio in 2018, Frichette continues to share bottles that spotlight the many dimensions of Washington’s terroir while paving a path for future generations of aspiring winemakers.
Co-Owner and Partner, Popina
As a former bartender and culinary school alum, James O’Brien knows a thing or two about wine, hospitality, and good food. When he opened Red Hook’s Popina in 2017, he aimed to combine his excitement about the restaurant industry with his passion for the community around him. Popina offers hearty dishes, but it’s the compelling and affordably priced wine lists that made the charming restaurant a staple among industry professionals. “For the wine list, I want to create something that people are excited to travel for and want to drink now,” he says. With each list, O’Brien curates an exciting mix of Italian varietals like Dolcetto, Malvasia, and Catarratto, which are often reserved for the by-the-bottle lists, as their appeal is not as widely known.
Aside from serving reliably stellar food and wine, O’Brien champions the Red Hook community by mentoring restaurateurs and entrepreneurs with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce as well as by inspiring the community’s youth through collaborating with the Red Hook Initiative.
Digital Creator and Author, VineMeUp
After honing her skills as the tasting associate at Black Ankle Vineyards in Maryland, Sarita Cheaves created the VineMeUp blog in 2013 to catalog her growing knowledge and experiences in wine. The success of VineMeUp made Cheaves a household name in wine media and, soon after, she partnered with other Black female bloggers to create a monthly YouTube show about wine. That show would later form the bones for The Swirl Suite podcast, a series in which Cheaves and her co-hosts celebrate diversity within the industry by highlighting players such as Derrick Westbrook and Tonya Pitts. Six years in, The Swirl Suite has been recognized as one of the best podcasts within the beverage industry, as it continues to amplify voices within the Black wine community.
During the pandemic, Cheaves felt an uptick in reader interests around cooking and wine pairings. In response, she dedicated a section of VineMeUp to food and wine by sharing her favorite recipes and pairings. Quarantine also fueled Cheaves’s love of puzzles and word finds, and in the summer of 2021 she released her first book, “VineMeUp, An Activity Book Celebrating the Melanated Wine Enthusiast.”
Founder, Happy Cork
Wine wasn’t always part of Sunshine Foss’s career plan, but when the Caribbean native found herself without a tenant for the Brooklyn building that she owned, she saw a unique opportunity to do something new. Having acquired a liquor license for the space along with the purchase of the building, Foss knew right away that she wanted to open a wine and liquor store that was different and uplifting for the community. With that mission in mind, in 2018 she opened Happy Cork, a bottle shop focused on BIPOC and women-owned makers. In just a few short years, Happy Cork has become the borough’s destination for discovering minority-owned wines and spirits, as well as beverage education. Currently, Foss and her team host virtual classes via social media with makers and celebrities in the drinks space, such as Mary J. Blige and Fawn Weaver of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey.
The shelves inside are a mix of household names and smaller brands, many of which owe their growth to Foss, who was instrumental to them gaining distribution. Although Happy Cork has received high praise from industry professionals and eager consumers alike, it is Foss’s commitment to giving small brands critical visibility that makes her shop one of Brooklyn’s coolest and most important beverage destinations.
Head Sommelier, Frevo
At Frevo in NYC’s West Village, Bretagne-born sommelier Quentin Vauléon curates an outstanding wine list that effortlessly toes the line between accessibility and luxury. As the former somm at Paris’s famed Pavillon Ledoyen and the city’s iconic Ritz hotel — and as the 2017 winner of France’s Best Young Sommelier competition (after being the runner-up in the competition the previous year) — Vauléon’s résumé is undoubtedly impressive.
However, it’s his current role at Frevo that makes him a true standout in the industry this year. The tiny fine-dining establishment’s tasting menu often changes to reflect seasonal and sustainable ingredients, and Vauléon’s wine pairings nimbly evolve in tune with the vision of chef and co-owner Franco Sampogna. “My goal is to get the best wine program for the customers to highlight the food from the chef,” Vauléon says. “I’m always eager to find new wines to match with each course.” Guests who choose to forgo the à la carte wine list can sip Vauléon’s wine pairings for $105, or ball out on the luxury pairing menu for a cool $240.
As the sommelier and first female wine director of NYC’s famed Gotham Bar & Grill, Heidi Turzyn has garnered much praise for her wine lists and beverage programs. With her newest venture, the forthcoming Beaupierre wine shop, she aims to create a welcoming environment that is 100 percent accessible for all types of oenophiles. In adherence to guidelines of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the shop will provide convenient access for the elderly, those hard of hearing, the blind, mothers with strollers, and those in wheelchairs. Along with being barrier-free, the shop will also focus on featuring sustainable wines and support local New York wine regions like the Hudson Valley, the North Fork, and the Finger Lakes.
“My focus has been on restaurants and hospitality, and with Beaupierre I wanted the opportunity to give back and share my love of quality wine,” she notes. Beaupierre is set to open this summer in Hell’s Kitchen with a mission of compassion and a true appreciation for hidden-gem wines.