We use cookies to track your browsing behavior on our site and provide ads relevant to you. You can opt out by disabling cookies in your browser. To learn more, see our privacy policy.

Story from
Partner Content

Get to Know the Tequila Herradura Legends Winners and Finalists

Presented by Tequila Herradura

Contributed by

Twenty-five bartenders arrived in Mexico for the Tequila Herradura Legends finale. Each finalist took a different route to Casa Herradura, using their own style and background to reach the last true tequila-producing hacienda.

Naomi Levy walked away from the hacienda the champion, with Christian Suzuki-Orellana and Ryan Puckett finishing close behind. Even though they were the only three to earn a cash prize, every finalist picked up something from the experience.

Earlier, the bartenders talked about what inspired their winning cocktails, but now they’re sharing what made Tequila Herradura Legends such a memorable experience. They even have tips for bartenders looking to stand out in next year’s competition.

Naomi Levy (Boston)

Most memorable moment: “The regionals were a great chance to meet great bartenders from all over New England. It was so fun to see everyone’s unique twist on a tequila cocktail.”
What they’ve learned: “How to integrate strong flavors with Tequila Herradura without one overpowering the other. It took a lot of trial and error.”
Tip for future competitors: “Challenge yourself, learn from others, and make a few friendships along the way.”

Christian Suzuki-Orellana (San Francisco)

Most memorable moment: “Getting a chance to experiment with unexpected ingredients in the semifinals.”
What they’ve learned: “That agave, raspberries and orange bitters go quite well with Herradura.”
Tip for future competitors: “Be honest with yourself, your competitors and your judges.”

Ryan Puckett (Nashville)

Most memorable moment: “Nothing could compare to hearing that I’d be advancing to the finale in Mexico, with the chance to represent my bar and city.”
What they’ve learned: “How important it is to challenge yourself. And it was a big challenge to create something true to the classic but distinctly my own.”
Tip for future competitors: “Mezcal and other bold flavors are fun with tequila, but you will lose the nuances of the spirit if you’re not careful. Build a drink around Herradura, not the other way around.”

Andrew Larson (Seattle)

Most memorable moment: “The chance to create drinks on the fly and make fun new things at the semifinals.”
What they’ve learned: “That you can create something incredible when you keep your head down and continue pushing yourself.”
Tip for future competitors: “Stay positive, stay hungry, and stay humble!”

Michael Cadden (Seattle)

Most memorable moment: “The regionals took place over the course of an afternoon, but I believe I made friends I will have for life.”
What they’ve learned: “All about the history of Herradura. That they have the last true hacienda and use barrel aging to invent a whole new type of tequila.”
Tip for future competitors: “Take a chance and enter. Every stage gives you more exposure. I still have customers today that I’ve meet at my first competition 10 years ago.”

Eddie Didonato (Winooski, Vt.)

Most memorable moment: “When I got an email the following morning that said I’d be going to the finale. There was a miscommunication at the semifinals, so I didn’t think I advanced because I came in second place.”
What they’ve learned: “Always prepare. Leading up to the competition, I spent almost all of my free time making adjustments until I knew I would be putting out my absolute best work.”
Tip for future competitors: “You gotta work. Put the time in, and make the best tequila cocktail you could possibly create.”

Adam George Fournier (Los Angeles)

Most memorable moment: “Having an all-female judging panel for the L.A. regionals. It speaks volumes about the L.A. bartending scene.”
What they’ve learned: “That I can work well with tequila, a spirit I’m not normally associated with.”
Tip for future competitors: “Get outside your comfort zone, and try to create something new.”

Shaun Gordon (Atlanta)

Most memorable moment: “Knowing that my drink, inspired by something so personal and dear to my heart, was chosen to advance to the finale.”
What they’ve learned: “The experience and confidence you gain from competing at a national level is immeasurable.”
Tip for future competitors: “Always challenge yourself to get better in all aspects of the industry.”

Kenton Gugliuzza (Roanoke, Va.)

Most memorable moment: “The semifinals in Arlington were so much fun. Industry people are so hospitable and welcoming.”
What they’ve learned: “That Herradura is a sustainable company and values making tequila the traditional way.”
Tip for future competitors: “Never stop trying. But when you make a great drink, let it be.”

Nick Hipwell (Las Vegas)

Most memorable moment: “As one of the youngest competitors, I didn’t have my hopes too high. So hearing I would advance to Mexico was an unforgettable moment.”
What they’ve learned: “The competition helped me realize I can keep my cool in stressful situations and still create a well-balanced and visually appealing cocktail.”
Tip for future competitors: “Give it a shot. There are always valuable things to be learned from each experience, all of which will help you grow professionally.”

Kyle Law (Savannah)

Most memorable moment: “The four of us in regionals pulled drinks from a hat and had five minutes to prep. We all cleared a table and laid out everything we brought individually and shared. It was a beautiful moment of collaboration.”
What they’ve learned: “Just how many amazing bartenders you meet in the competition. It’s a great chance to put your bar or city on the map.”
Tip for future competitors: “Did I expect to be going to Mexico? No. Am I going to do my best to crush this competition and make my city proud? Absolutely.”

Will Mohring (Indianapolis)

Most memorable moment: “It was refreshing to see the balance of camaraderie and competitiveness at the regional competition.”
What they’ve learned: “How to find balance in a Horseshoe Margarita. I didn’t want to use more than three ingredients but knew I had to add complexity.”
Tip for future competitors: “Being comfortable in a competition setting is something you can only learn by going through it yourself.”

Lee Noble (Lancaster, Pa.)

Most memorable moment: “I had a terrible cold at the regional in Philly, so I was amazed that I held it together well enough to pull off my presentation, let alone advance.”
What they’ve learned: “How to make a good cocktail in even the worst circumstances.”
Tip for future competitors: “Win or lose, you’re going to network with a lot of amazing bartenders and come home with a wealth of inspiration.”

Aaron Pollack (Chicago)

Most memorable moment: “When one of the bartenders on my staff made it to the final round of the semifinals in Indianapolis.”
What they’ve learned: “That Casa Herradura is the last true tequila-producing hacienda in the world.”
Tip for future competitors: “Don’t be afraid to put your work—and yourself—out there.”

Scott Ruggiero (Boulder, Colo.)

Most memorable moment: “The whole process of creating cocktails that balance my style with the flavor of Herradura.”
What they’ve learned: “Just how versatile Herradura can be. It seemed like every bartender used the tequila in a different way.”
Tip for future competitors: “Push hard and take it one step at a time. It’s awesome enough to make it to the regional finals.”

Carlos Ruiz (Morristown, N.J.)

Most memorable moment: “Making friends with all the other bartenders at each stage of the competition.”
What they’ve learned: “I’ve been amazed by all the techniques and flavor combinations I’ve learned throughout the course of the competition.”
Tip for future competitors: “Give it 100 percent, and always be overprepared. But keep having fun and being yourself.”

Kristine Serrano (New York)

Most memorable moment: “Going to the semifinals and hearing the stories behind every bartender’s cocktail.”
What they’ve learned: “How important it is to get outside your comfort zone. When you push beyond your nerves and self-doubt, good things can happen.”
Tip for future competitors: “Don’t be afraid to talk about what inspires you. Engaging with the judges and spectators definitely helps.”

Evan Sewell (Winter Park, Fla.)

Most memorable moment: “When they called my name and said I’d be going to Mexico. It didn’t even feel real.”
What they’ve learned: “The close ties between the history of Herradura and Mexico. I can’t wait to get to the hacienda and experience it up close.”
Tip for future competitors: “What do you have to lose? If you enter, you can gain so much knowledge and meet so many interesting and cool people.”

TJ Vong (Denver)

Most memorable moment: “In the semifinals, we had to scramble to figure out what we were going to make and how we were going to do it. I literally grabbed twice as many bottles as I needed because I couldn’t decide.”
What they’ve learned: “The competition has exposed me to all sorts of different flavor combinations that work well with Herradura.”
Tip for future competitors: “Ask as many questions as you can to help you understand how to perform at your best.”

Tim Weigel (Las Vegas)

Most memorable moment: “The second round of regionals. I was looking forward to the chance to improvise with the nontequila classics.”
What they’ve learned: “That the show must go on. I messed up in front of the judges during the regional competition, so I had to stay composed and fix the mistake.”
Tip for future competitors: “Having fun is key to a great competition.”

Chas Williams (Ferndale, Mich.)

Most memorable moment: “Getting together with all of the bartenders and making our drinks for the judges in front of everyone. It was a chance to see old friends and meet amazing new people.”
What they’ve learned: “The whole experience has been an opportunity to learn, which will continue at the hacienda.”
Tip for future competitors: “Do your research on the brand and the category. There is no such thing as useless information.”

Will Witherow (Alexandria, Va.)

Most memorable moment: “All of the support and congratulations I’ve received. It’s come from friends, family, colleagues, bar management and regulars.”
What they’ve learned: “Talking to and learning from so many talented bartenders in the competition has helped me improve and grow.”
Tip for future competitors: “This is a great way to meet some very talented people with interests similar to your own.”

Ryan Wolfe (Orlando)

Most memorable moment: “Seeing how talented the bartenders in my local area are. It’s inspiring to watch everyone’s expertise shine. It makes me want to be better.”
What they’ve learned: “Discovering that this is an opportunity to test myself among some of the most talented people in the industry.”
Tip for future competitors: “Be prepared. No one is competing to lose.”

Stephen Wood (Lancaster, Pa.)

Most memorable moment: “When I finally got to taste the flavors I dreamt up in my head, working in harmony.”
What they’ve learned: “How drastically the nuances of the blanco, reposado and añejo affect the outcome of a cocktail and how well they shine through all sorts of flavors.”
Tip for future competitors: “To take in your local surroundings for immediate inspiration all while being well-versed and read in Mexico’s rich history and culture.”

Rachel Wright (Buffalo)

Most memorable moment: “Getting to compete in the semi-finals. I met a ton of incredible bartenders and had an excellent time connecting with them following the event.”
What they’ve learned: “It’s possible to advocate for Buffalo in a national competition. My city often gets overlooked, but this was a great opportunity to represent it.”
Tip for future competitors: “I would tell upcoming bartenders to continue to challenge themselves through competitions and appreciate the connections you make through experiences like Tequila Herradura Legends.”

Brands: Herradura
Series & Type: People
Appears in 1 Collection

Still Thirsty? Sign Up for the Liquor.com Newsletter

Get more stories, news, recipes and more delivered straight to your inbox.

Follow us on Instagram