Heading to New York

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I’m packing my backs, loading up the camera with virtual film, charging the phone and (possibly) the laptop for New York city tonight after work. I’ll be there witnessing the first Master’s Competition put on by Martin Miller’s Gin, and pitting some of the best bartenders in the United States against some of the United Kingdom’s finest. Aw, hell, I’ll just start copying and pasting the press release, that’s what a real blogger is supposed to do, right?

Unlike other competitions which reward bartenders on their ability to perform for a mere snapshot of their careers, the Martin Miller’s Gin Masters Competition is rewarding the industry stalwarts who have spent a decade or more behind the stick and continue to tend bar or support the industry as an ambassador, trainer, supplier, or just a very good and consistent drinker! As a brand, we believe in timeless quality in everything we do, and so the Martin Miller’s Gin Masters Competition upholds our tradition of eschewing fads and short lived trends.

So let’s see who’s coming…

From the United Kingdom:

Jake Burger – “Johnny Cash meets rugby league” Jake is one of the most respected bartenders in the UK and has held court in Leeds for well over a decade. His bar, Jake’s, has won multiple awards for its incredible cocktails and peerless spirit selection. As well as being a shrewd operator and top bartender, his, is always the warmest welcome. Beware you might not get out alive!

I can personally attest to this…

Ben Reed – Ben opened and tended bar in some of London’s most infamous nightspots including Mezzo and the Met bar before forming IPbartenders with Tai Altman and Angus Winchester. As well as training thousands of bartenders over the past 7 years, Ben also has a range of bestselling cocktail books and starred in the BBC’s ‘Shakermaker’ TV show.

Jason Scott – Jason comes from Edinburgh, Scotland where he is the head Superhero at Bramble Bar & Lounge where he was recently named “Top Mixologist” by the Drambuie Chef’s Association. In addition (we have been told), Jason has spider like abilities including superhuman strength and the ability to cling to most surfaces (including bars). Jason is also extremely agile and has amazing reflexes – we are also told he also has a, “spider sense,” that warns him of impending danger (and bad cocktails).

Sean Muldoon – For 15 years Sean has overseen the bar at Belfast’s beautiful Merchant hotel, home of the $750 original Wray & Nephew 17 y.o Mai Tai. Without doubt, it is one of the slickest and most well run bars in the UK; Sean’s encyclopedic cocktail list is both ambitious and brilliant.

Giles Looker – Giles has been bartending in London for the past 13 years working alongside the likes of Dick Bradsell, Dale DeGroff and Sasha Petraske. Six years ago, Giles established a company alongside Michael Butt by the name of Soul Shakers Ltd. Since that time, Giles has set up numerous award winning bars including, Trailer Happiness, Mahiki, The Player, Lace Market Hotel, Quo Vadis, Whiskey Mist, Kukui , 30/7 (Moscow), Myhotel, Coco club (Switzerland) and Cantaloupe group. In addition, Giles has worked with Virgin Atlantic Airlines in developing the world’s first onboard mixology service, designing service systems and signature cocktails for the airline’s Lounges and Upper class bar service.

And from the United States:

Daniel Shoemaker – Daniel is a 14-year bartending veteran from San Francisco who now owns the Teardrop Lounge in Portland, Oregon. Daniel’s passion for mixology showcases what Teardrop is all about – creating innovative cocktails with local spirits which draws almost as much attention in foodie circles as the city’s top chefs.

Vincenzo Marianella – Vincenzo is often referred to as the “Cocktailian Deity of Los Angeles”. Vincenzo has been named Best Bar Chef in 2006 by Starchefs.com and LA’s Best Bartender in 2006 by Anthony Dias Blue of The Tasting Panel Magazine. Vincenzo is currently behind the stick at Gordon Ramsey’s recently opened London in Los Angeles.

Giuseppe Gonzalez – Giuseppe is currently the head bartender of Clover Club in Brooklyn, the newest venture from Julie Reiner of New York’s Flatiron Lounge. Giuseppe’s approach is simple – he brings awesome drinks, trains awesome bartenders and make sure everyone leaves that bar with an amazing feeling. Giuseppe is a second generation bartender, who has lived in Europe and the Caribbean before coming to New York City. Giuseppe provides a cocktail menu that educates the guest while still making it easy for them to order off menu.

Thad Vogler – Thad has been bartending for almost 20 years and has worked in the spirits industry in Paris, Ireland, Tokyo, Guatemala, Cuba, Belize and of course San Francisco. Thad has helped design, open and then manage the bars at the Slanted Door in the Ferry Building, Coco 500, the Presidio Social Club, and the Lounge at the newly remodeled Jardinière. Quite recently, Thad helped to design the bar at Camino restaurant in Oakland.

Jamie Boudreau – Jamie hails from the beautiful Pacific Northwest and more specifically the Emerald City, Seattle, WA, where he is the lead bartender at Vessel, an upscale Seattle bar. Jamie’s cocktails have been published in publications from the New York Times and Playboy to Difford’s Guide to Cocktails and The Wall Street Journal. In 2007, Jamie was named Seattle Magazine’s Bartender of the Year. Jamie’s big mark on the industry came at the Giffard West Cup, where he was part of the first team of three North Americans to be invited to this 50+ year old event held in France.

Erik Adkins – Erik is bar consultant to Flora restaurant in Oakland and the beverage manager at the Slanted Door restaurant on the pier in San Francisco. Erik’s cocktail technique highlights the use of the freshest herbs and spices from the kitchen at the Slanted Door which has established Erik as a bay area standout behind the bar.

Sam Ross – Recently nominated for global “Bartender of the Year” at the 2008 for Tales of the Cocktail, Sam is now behind the bar at the famed Milk & Honey. Sam’s cocktail journey began when he helped his mother and sister open a cocktail bar in Melbourne, Australia called Ginger in 2001. Ginger was very successful in Australia and was/is considered one of the front-runners for cocktail culture in Australia. Upon arrival in New York City, Sam teamed with Sasha Petraske and was part of the opening bar teams at both Little Branch and East Side Company Bar.

And of course, the judges:

Dave Wondrich – Dave Wondrich is widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on cocktails and their history. The New York Times has labeled him “A living iPod of drink lore and recipes”. Dave also helped to found the Beverage Alcohol Resource, America’s first serious training program in spirits and mixology. In 2003, his first book, Esquire Drinks: An Opinionated and Irreverent Guide to Drinking (Hearst Books, 2002), was awarded a Silver Ladle at Australia’s biennial Jacob’s Creek World Food Media Awards. In 2005, Wondrich published his second cocktail book, Killer Cocktails: An Intoxicating Guide to Sophisticated Drinking (HarperCollins), which Glamour named the “Year’s Best Drinks Guide.” His most recent book, Imbibe!, about the life and drinks of “Professor” Jerry Thomas, was published by Perigee books in November 2007, and was an instant success among cocktail aficionados and mixologists across the country.

Gary Regan – Gary Regan writes The Cocktailian, a bi-weekly column, for The San Francisco Chronicle. In the past he has written regular columns in The Malt Advocate, Nation’s Restaurant News, Cheers Magazine, and The Wine Enthusiast, concentrating on cocktails, bartenders, and the cocktailian craft. His work is also published in magazines in the U.K., Australia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Gray is also the author of many books, including “The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender’s Craft.” Together with his wife Mardee, Gary hosts www.ardentspirits.com, publish a free e-mail newsletter, Ardent Spirits, and maintain a Worldwide Bartender Database that serves to put spirits companies in touch with their most important ambassadors: The men and women who hold forth from behind slabs of mahogany all over the globe.

LeNell Smothers – LeNell Smothers owns LeNell’s Ltd, a wine and spirit boutique in Red Hook that specializes in American whiskey, cocktail education, bitters, and small family wineries from around the globe. Her background includes work in many aspects of the beverage industry such as bartending, managing a restaurant, retail liquor sales, and even wholesale wine sales. LeNell’s Ltd has been recognized by numerous publications including GQ Magazine as one of the “Best 50 Stores in America”, and also by New York Magazine as “Best Liquor Store” in New York City.

Paul Clarke – Paul Clarke is a Seattle-based writer specializing in spirits and cocktails. He is a contributing editor to Imbibe magazine; the spirits and cocktails columnist for the online food journal Serious Eats; and contributes articles on spirits and cocktails to the San Francisco Chronicle. Since May 2005, Paul has documented his exploration of fine spirits and mixology on The Cocktail Chronicles (www.cocktailchronicles.com), one of the first exclusively cocktail-related blogs on the Internet. Over the past three years he has written in-depth essays covering nearly 200 drinks, along with details of his exploration and home-brew of classic and sometimes obscure cocktail ingredients. Clarke is also the founder and moderator of Mixology Monday, a monthly online cocktail party that has attracted scores of participants from around the globe.

Sasha Petraske – In 2000 Sasha Petraske made his mark by opening the now legendary Milk & Honey in Manhattan’s lower east side. He helped to revive the lost art of classic 19th century style mixology. Since then, Sasha has opened Little Branch in the west village, further solidifying his place amongst the cocktail millieu. Milk & Honey and Little Branch are recognized internationally for being on the cutting edge of the cocktail industry. Sasha has been written about in major publications around the world for his contributions to cocktail culture. New York Magazine named him one of the most influential New Yorkers of 2006.

Ann Rogers – Ann is the founder of Tales of the Cocktail, an annual spirits and culinary event celebrating the history of the cocktail in New Orleans. She has planned, implemented and promoted the event since its inception in 2003. Now in its sixth year, Tales of the Cocktail, through Ann’s leadership, has attracted countless culinary and cocktail celebrities as presenters and hosts of the event and several top liquor brands and national magazines as sponsors for Tales of the Cocktail. Tales of the Cocktail is now considered by many to be the premier cocktail event in America.

I’ll try to blog while I’m there, but just in case I don’t get to post until after the trip, be sure to follow every play-by-play of the smackdown on my Twitter feed.

See you in New York!

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