Tony Abou-Ganim is widely regarded as one of the pioneering and leading bar professionals in the world. He has made dozens of national TV appearances on shows including TODAY, Iron Chef America, Good Morning America, CNBC, Fox News and more. Abou-Ganim is the author of The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails (Agate, 2010) which offers readers an in-depth look into spirits and ingredients available to today’s mixologist, both professional and amateur alike. This entertaining and informative journey will take readers from the early stages of the cocktail to what Abou-Ganim has come to deem “Modern Mixology.” Abou-Ganim also has a DVD to his credit, Modern Mixology: Making Great Cocktails at Home, and hosted the Fine Living program Raising the Bar: America’s Best Bar Chefs. Abou-Ganim has also won three Iron Chef America competitions; pairing cocktails with Iron Chef Mario Batali; with Iron Chef Jose Garces and most recently with challenger Chef Sean McClain. His signature branded line of Modern Mixologist bar tools and his second book, Vodka Distilled (Agate, 2013), are available now at www.modernmixologist.com.
Abou-Ganim grew up in the bar business, learning the craft from his cousin Helen David at the Brass Rail Bar in Port Huron, Michigan. His initial introduction to the business was steeped in the tradition of classic cocktails and professional barmanship, teaching him the necessary steps to become a leader in the beverage industry. After graduating from college, Abou-Ganim further developed an appreciation for a hand-crafted cocktail using only the freshest ingredients while working at Jack Slick's Balboa Café and then during the opening of "Harry Denton's,” a legendary hangout in Fog City. In 1993 he moved to New York City and took a position as the opening bartender at Po, Mario Batali’s first restaurant.
Tony later returned to San Francisco to open Harry Denton's Starlight Room atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel and it was here that he developed his first specialty cocktail menu featuring several of his original cocktail recipes including the Sunsplash, Starlight and his most famous of them all, the Cable Car.
In 1998, Abou-Ganim was selected by Steve Wynn to develop the cocktail program at Bellagio Las Vegas. He not only implemented his philosophy of bartending and drink preparation, stressing both quality ingredients and proper technique, but also created several original cocktails for the resorts 22 bars. In 2002, he won the Bacardi Martini World Grand Prix – one of only two Americans to ever win this title.
In 2014, Abou-Ganim teamed up with Caesars Palace to develop the cocktail program at The Lobby Bar. There he collaborated on the menu development as well as assisted with training bar staff, stressing both quality ingredients and proper technique. In 2015, he began working with Levy Restaurants to design signature craft cocktails in the lounges and beverage destinations throughout both Oracle Arena in Oakland, and most recently T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
As one of the National Ambassadors of the U.S. Bartenders Guild, www.usbg.org, and Associate Member of the Museum of the American Cocktail, www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org, Abou-Ganim continues to educate about the history and lore of cocktails. He also operates his own beverage consulting firm specializing in bar staff training, product education and cocktail development.
Keep current with news, appearances and special events at www.modernmixologist.com on Facebook and on Twitter @MdrnMixologist.
Partner at Plumpjack Group; Forgery and Wildhawk in San Francisco and National Ambassador for Partida Tequila
Our resident tequila and mezcal expert is Jacques Bezuidenhout. It’s an unlikely pursuit, given that he grew up in South Africa and didn’t really enjoy drinking agave-based spirits until he moved to the United States in 1998, but he has since made up for lost time. Under the direction of Bezuidenhout and Julio Bermejo, the acclaimed Tres Agaves in San Francisco won the “Spirits Restaurant of the Year” award from Santé magazine in 2006. He is also Partida Tequila’s national cocktail and tequila ambassador. In recognition of his work, he was named best American brand ambassador at the 2011 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. Bezuidenhout is the master mixologist for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ nearly 50 restaurants and bars across the country. He was also named the best bartender in San Francisco by Anthony Dias Blue and has served as a judge for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition as well as the Ultimate Spirits Challenge.
At least once in their lives, all drinkers should enjoy a cocktail made by Dale DeGroff. “King Cocktail,” as he’s known, has trained the top bartenders in the world and helped reinvent the industry. His knowledge, dedication and enthusiasm for all things mixology set off the current cocktail craze. He has won numerous industry awards, including the 2009 Wine & Spirits Professional James Beard Award, the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from Nightclub & Bar magazine and the 2008 Tales of the Cocktail Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award. DeGroff is the author of The Essential Cocktail, winner of a 2009 Tales of the Cocktail Spirit Award, and The Craft of the Cocktail, winner of a 2002 IACP Julia Child Award. He is also president of the Museum of the American Cocktail and a founding partner of Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR), the nation’s premier training program in spirits and mixology.
H. Joseph Ehrmann is a link to San Francisco mixological history. He runs Elixir, the second-oldest saloon in San Francisco, where he tries to revive the pre-Prohibition cocktail culture of the Barbary Coast with a focus on utilizing California’s abundant fresh produce. (Elixir is the first Certified Green bar in the country.) The establishment has an expansive cocktail menu and spirits collection focused on the vintage, the organic, the local and the original, all the while remaining a friendly corner bar. Ehrmann was named 2010 bartender of the year by Nightclub & Bar magazine, his Bloody Elixir was named one of the 20 best cocktails in America by GQ in 2008 and Elixir is on GQ’s, Esquire’s and Food & Wine’s “Best Bars in America” lists. He is a co-founder and president of The Barbary Coast Conservancy of the American Cocktail, which runs The Boothby Center for the Beverage Arts and San Francisco Cocktail Week, and is Square One Organic Spirits’ brand ambassador and mixologist.
We challenge you to find a talented bartender in America (or the world, for that matter) who doesn’t know Simon Ford. Seriously. For years, he has traveled the globe training mixologists and helping to popularize cocktails. He was also instrumental in the relaunch of Plymouth Gin and for his efforts was named best international brand ambassador in 2007 and best US brand ambassador in 2009 at Tales of the Cocktail. He is a leading voice of the cocktail world and regularly conducts educational sessions, judges bartending competitions and speaks on seminar panels at food and spirits conferences. Ford recently co-founded The 86 Company, which is based in the United States and offers a portfolio of premium pour spirits, including Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Cana Brava Rum, Ford’s Gin and Tequila Cabeza.
Director of mixology & spirits education for Southern Wine & Spirits of New York and co-founder of the New York Distilling Company
Allen Katz is living his dream of making rye whiskey. The New York Distilling Company, which he co-founded, is located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. While the rye slowly ages, he produces Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin and Dorothy Parker American Gin as well. He is also the director of mixology and spirits education for Southern Wine & Spirits of New York. Katz is a frequent presenter at trade shows and industry events. He serves on the board of advisors for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic and as the treasurer of the board of directors for the New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society, the host of Tales of the Cocktail. He is also the chairman emeritus (ex officio) of the board of directors for Slow Food USA.
Bartender and managing partner of Please Don’t Tell (PDT)
Jim Meehan’s New York establishment Please Don’t Tell (PDT) helped start the current speakeasy bar craze. But his cocktails are more than just a fad: PDT won the inaugural James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program in 2012, and Meehan was named American bartender of the year at Tales of the Cocktail in 2009. In addition to his work behind the bar, he’s also the author of The PDT Cocktail Book and a contributing editor of Food & Wine’s annual cocktail book, Mr. Boston’s Bartender Guide and Sommelier Journal. He’s lectured and mixed drinks at local and international trade shows and works with the acclaimed Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) team as a cocktails and spirits educator.
Gary “Gaz” Regan literally wrote the bible for this industry: His The Bartender’s Bible was published in 1991. That’s not to mention that he also penned The Joy of Mixology, The Bartender’s Gin Compendium, Gaz Regan’s Annual Manual for Bartenders and several other excellent drinks books, plus countless stories for publications, including his biweekly column “The Cocktailian” for the San Francisco Chronicle. He also hosts GazRegan.com, which publishes three free weekly e-mail newsletters. From a brilliantly written bartender profile to an essay on the truth about Prohibition imbibing, Regan’s stories for Liquor.com showcase his unique voice and deep love of cocktails.
Owner of Flatiron Lounge, Clover Club, and Leyenda
Julie Reiner is a driving force behind the New York cocktail scene. Her pioneering Flatiron Lounge, which opened in 2003, helped bring classic drinks back to the Big Apple, and her Clover Club jump-started the mixology movement in Brooklyn. Reiner’s latest venture is overseeing the bar program at East Side institution Monkey Bar at the Hotel Élysée.
Aisha Sharpe is a throwback to an older mixological era. Not only will she make you an excellent drink, but she’ll also actually engage you and, if you’re up for it, share a bit of her deep cocktails-and-spirits knowledge. Her creativity, innovation and skill have been acclaimed by The New York Times, New York magazine and The Wall Street Journal. She began her hospitality career more than 16 years ago and is now a drinks consultant. She has worked with some of the world’s leading liquor companies, including Cooper Spirits, Diageo, Kobrand, Moët Hennessy, Pernod Ricard and William Grant & Sons, as well as top bars and restaurants around the country, including setting up the beverage programs for New York’s Ace Hotel and The Breslin. Sharpe has conducted bartender trainings and spoken at seminars all over the US and in London, Singapore and Spain. She is also a member of the Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) and BarSmarts mixology-training programs.
Founder of cocktail consultancy Willy Shine Inc. and Brand Meister for Jägermeister
No matter if you just met Willy Shine, within a few minutes you’ll feel like you’re old friends. You’ll also remember his drinks, which are delicious and made mercifully quickly. No surprise, since he’s been polishing his craft for more than 20 years and has studied with spirits expert Steven Olson and master mixologist Dale DeGroff. Shine is the founder of Willy Shine Inc., a cocktails and spirits consulting firm, and is Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum’s national brand ambassador. He is also a member of the Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) and BarSmarts programs.
With his entertaining and insightful articles, David Wondrich makes cocktails and spirits history come alive. He is among the world’s foremost experts on the history of the American cocktail, and his pieces for Liquor.com about a range of ancient drinks and legendary bartenders illustrate why he is one of the best in the business. He is also Esquire magazine’s drinks correspondent and cocktail columnist for Imbibe and Whisky Advocate. Wondrich has written four books on cocktails and mixology, most recently Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, which was named best new cocktail/bartending book at the 2011 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. His Imbibe! From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar is the first cocktail book ever to win a James Beard Award. He is a founding member of the Museum of the American Cocktail and a founding partner of Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR), the nation’s premier training program in spirits and mixology.
Bartender and co-owner of Employees Only and Macao Trading Co. and co-founder of The 86 Company
While Dushan Zaric may be famous for his skills behind the bar, he has distinguished himself with several excellent pieces for Liquor.com, including an enchanting account of his lifelong love affair with calvados and a cheeky guide to what your drink really says about you. Zaric immigrated to the United States in 1996 from the former Yugoslavia and began bartending at a number of New York hotspots. In 2004, Zaric partnered with Jason Kosmas, Igor Hadzismajlovic, Henry LaFargue and Billy Gilroy to open Employees Only. At the 2011 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, the bar won the titles of world’s best cocktail bar and world’s best drinks selection. In 2008, Zaric and his partners opened Macao Trading Co. in TriBeCa, and he recently co-founded The 86 Company, which offers a portfolio of premium pour spirits, including Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Cana Brava Rum, Ford’s Gin and Tequila Cabeza. Zaric is also co-author of You Didn’t Hear It From Us: Two Bartenders Serve Women the Truth about Men, Making an Impression and Getting What You Want and Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined.