"East coast Italian American meets the warmth and opportunity of the Texas hospitality industry." It's an interesting headline for an equally interesting story of the intelligent Rachel DelRocco. A New Jersey native bound to break out of her small town upbringing and thrive in the metropolitan spoils of New York City, Rachel's aspirations of being a songwriter mutated into being one of the finest minds in wine and spirits today. From New Jersey to New York to Houston, TX, she had made an amazing name for herself in such a short amount of time. It's hard to believe that at a young age of 29, Rachel hasn't even touched the tip of the career iceberg. We chat ankle injuries, marriage, and pork rolls in this sommelier friendly conversation.
Music fanatic, sound engineer, and all around taste virtuoso, Jesse Torres is one of the most inspired creators in the San Antonio cocktail scene. From playing in a Korean school band, to studying at the Culinary Institute of America, Jesse has explored all of the tangents of flavor and art. With sonic textures, and dissected flavors, Jesse brings his unique blend of military and kitchen training to the Esquire Tavern in SA. The wildly varied projects of life often take things down dark paths and we chat about finding poor business partners when it’s exactly too late. Sipping George T Stagg and relaxing at The Brooklynite, this conversation traverses everywhere.
Love's got everything to do with the brilliant journey of Josh Hendrix. From Georgia, to Louisiana, to Texas, Josh's diverse experiences fatefully catapulted him into the newly actualizing Dallas cocktail scene. As one of the "Dream Team" at Smyth, Josh established himself as a trustworthy, hard working, and lovable guy filled with integrity. This dedication to professionalism and keeping his wits led him to an amazing opportunity across the bar with Moet-Hennessey. The shift from shakers to spreadsheets is a jolting one, but a necessary step in becoming a formidable force in this industry. Josh and I talk music, milk punch, and the influence of the right woman.
At the switchboard of the industry, an ambitious, sociable, and shrewd business woman connects us all. Lindsey Johnson is the founder/owner of Lush Life Productions and the essential friend to the industry. Whether it's education in rum, bourbon, bar ownership, or just being humane, LJ is helming a movement while being one of the brightest icons in the booze industry. Part Texas and part New York, Lindsey is here to raise the bar of quality, connection, and education. As Lush Life evolves and matures, the dawning of a new Bar Institute program emerges. Traveling from city to city, this amazing educational summit will hit Austin in June of 2016. Without Lindsey's contributions to the booze narrative, many of us would have never forged the wonderful friendships we share today. We sip Russell's Reserve 1998 and discuss how the Cure can sometimes put us to sleep.
You would never suspect that most beer fanatics also have an adept appreciation of physical health, but Hops and Grain's Josh Hare is an amazing amalgam of health and business savvy. An Abilene fence builder in his youth, Josh understood fermentation as not just a scientific equation, but a basic means of making alcohol for the weekends. With a brief stint as a biology teacher, and a deflated sense of empowerment brought upon by antiquated Texas education curriculums, Josh headed to the health capital of America: Boulder, Colorado. After biking, swimming, and selling running accessories, Josh found a great opportunity in Austin and ultimately understood that he had to make beer for the people that needed it, health conscious Austinites. We sip bourbon and chat sex education.
A textbook gentlemen with an eye for flavor. Austin's Steven Robbins has amassed a wealth of experience in the service industry while developing an astute ability to make some of the best cocktails you'll ever taste. Currently at Austin's Small Victory, Steven has taken many turns in his exciting life, but has summed his predilections towards science and hospitality to a jedi level. While regaling me with tales of Alabama's beautiful terroir, we dive into his latest effort, an opulent dad bod calendar featuring the brightest personalities (and bodies) in Austin's cocktail culture. This calendar symbolizes a dedication to his community and his support for the Austin's Children Shelter. The event, to be held on February 1st at the Hops and Grain brewery, will combine cocktails and the Rubenesque bodies that brought the calendar to life. Steven has manners, tact, and a way with words. Enjoy this conversation and join us at the release party for the Dad Bod Action Squad calendar.
A soon to be lauded 30 under 30 star, or so I predict, Chris Harrison is one of the mad scientist founders behind Liber and Co (http://www.liberandcompany.com). This Texas boy turned entrepreneur mounted an amazing pedigree of science and dirt biking before realizing the cocktail movement wasn't just a flash in the pan. Empowering bartenders with beautiful syrups ranging from a Pineapple gum to real grenadine, Chris and Co. has taken the industry with a momentous force in their 4 years of operation. We chat twins, chemistry, and how drinking every day certainly has its merits....for science.
From small town California to the burgeoning Austin, TX, Brandon is a dedicated father that makes you feel loved across the bar. A blue collar, skateboard brandishing, Hot Damn gulping good guy, Brandon has become a great friend to the industry in his 3 years in Austin. While embracing a unparalleled humility and admirable work ethic, Brandon is now the newly elected VP of the Austin USBG chapter. We talk about the pressing dichotomy of drinking as a need vs drinking as a want and how we all have to cope somehow. Don't mention Star Wars because this might be the first SW virgin on the show, luckily we have bourbon to dissipate the finger pointing.
Hopefully the headaches are at a minimum on this post- San Antonio Cocktail Conference Monday. A book nerd Cape-Cod-ian, Killian Oliver, manages the beautiful Whiskey Cake bar space at La Cantera San Antonio. With a massive respect for studiousness and cost management, there is no ceiling to Killian's impressive career. But as it often goes in this industry, one's personal relationships become challenging while living the vampire 9-5. We chat agave, scotch, and how picking up a few books now and again can give you a much needed mental advantage.
It's San Antonio Cocktail Conference week at SDV! This installment is an homage to Chihuahua and its beautiful native spirit Sotol. Ricardo Pico, a true diplomat of the state and fellow Sotol teammate, is the international brand ambassador for Hacienda de Chihuahua. He's an articulate, business minded, gentleman who shares his tales of growing up in Mexico and how a few short lived business ventures turned into a great partnership with Hacienda. It's an agave love fest in this chat and if you're attending the conference this weekend, please see Ricardo's panel "Discovering Sotol" JANUARY 16, 2016 | 1:30PM - 2:45PM, Baker Room at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel. We also sample the new Rustico from Hacienda, which is one of the most robust expressions of Sotol to hit the US. Salud.
It's San Antonio Cocktail Conference week at Show de Vie! The premier booze event of Texas rolls into another year this upcoming weekend January 14th-17th. With many great SACC partners to detail, this time we chat with Director of Marketing at Twin Liquors, Sandra Spalding. A textbook go-getter with musical chops, Sandra is a So-Cal ingenue that loves to reflect on the halcyon days of 90's rock. From the Pixies to Pitbull, her love of music and hospitality sees no bounds. Moving to Austin on a whim, a serendipitous trip to Twin Liquors changed the trajectory of Sandra's career. 15 years later, she finds herself the brains behind Twin Liquors marketing division and a highly influential personality in the Austin booze industry. We salute the wonderful support of Twin Liquors and lament the saturation of modern music in this fruitful chat.
A student of both spirits and academia, Austin's newly appointed USBG president Katie Clas has been a great influence on the culture since she arrived nearly 2 years ago. From dog fostering to Malort shooting, this ex-Chicagoan moved to Austin for a large brand ambassador position that was suddenly dissolved shortly thereafter. Left with few leads, Katie chose to advance her education and ultimately accepted a role with the Phillips Distilling Company. These various opportunities converged proving that Katie is the ultimate survivor. Whether demonstrating her marketing shrewdness, or her midwestern down-to-earthness, nothing can keep a good Chicagoan down.
Like a Scorsese screenplay, Larry's childhood started with explosions and evading organized crime. Traveling around the US like an army brat, Larry ultimately settled outside of Austin, Texas. Despite his love of generous Texans, we chat about the different varieties of racism and the unique covert flavor that Texas has to offer. From his days in the trenches at The Belmont in early Austin to his more auteur experiences at Peché, Larry has worked in all areas of the food industry. Most recently, Larry's notoriety as Angel's Envy's bourbon boss has introduced him to a whole new aspect of the industry and the opportunities seem limitless.
Small Texas town gentleman turned political weapon, Revolution Spirit's founder Mark Shilling never expected that his days of lobbying would ignite a passion for distilling. It was one sip of quality moonshine that set Mark into the craft distilling stratosphere. Now, coming up on their first anniversary, Mark reflects on lessons learned and shares what Revolution Spirits is working on next. With a current product portfolio that spans from Gin to Coffee Liqueur, where does Revolution Spirits go from here and how does the term "craft" sometimes get in the way. Mark and I sip some fine bourbon and regale each other with tales of Gin escapades.
Hailing from the West Coast and inspired by a punk rock state of mind, Troy Kooper's early foray into graphics and design were the foundation that introduced him to whiskey. An early sip of scotch triggered all of the pleasure centers that ultimately led Troy into a love affair with Rye whiskey. Kooper Family Rye is the first rye out of Dripping Springs, but this floral, 80 proof, wonderfully balanced spirit won't be the only thing coming out of the Kooper Family. Enjoy this lovely chat about Detroit, fatherhood, wars, and how Rye is Troy's most beloved. Rye or die, as they say.
The quintessential spirits enthusiast, Jessica Tantillo Barnard is there to help us with all of our liquor ordering and educational needs. As an amazing asset to Twin Liquor in Austin, TX, Jessica's friendliness, worldliness, and penchant for good music inspires us all to live a great story. From humble beginnings in Tomball,TX, to traveling the world in search of culinary adventure, Jessica has seen all sectors of the booze industry and is a wonderful ally to the Austin cocktail culture. We reminisce karaoke, mezcal, and how once you find that one true love, it's all just a bit simpler.
Austin's dubbed, "Tiki-Trey" is a film student turned Rum fanatic. Both understated and pensive, Trey Jenkins has worked his way through many of the Austin cocktail landmarks, including: Peché and the tiki-centric Isla. A latent imbiber, and dedicated cocktail academic, Trey is through and through an artist. While balancing color and textures in celluloid, and parlaying his cocktail expertise into a chief mixologist position at RNDC, he has created an amazing amount of clout in a short amount of time. We dip into the Havana club this time around and have a fruitful chat.
The Texas cocktail movement would have never been the same without the behind-the- scenes brilliance of John Garrett. A recovering songwriter who happens to love the art of spirits and has dedicated his career to educating the industry with an unparalleled approachability. John has revitalized the excitement around Sherry, Mezcal, and Vermouth in the lone star state. And now with his most ambitious distribution gig to date, John heads Victory distribution with a new strategy and focus. We chat agave, becoming irrelevant, and how guitar is a great vehicle for what ails ya. It's an eye opening chat with a jet-setting unsung hero of the industry.
Inspired cook, admirable father, and shrewd businessman, Josh Loving is a man to be rivaled. He turned skillful weaving of esoteric ingredients at the now defunct cocktail incubator Fino into a successful stint in the world of consulting. This culinary journey not only created a Josh Loving brand of 5 spice bitters, but positioned him as one of the go to experts of cocktails in Austin. Starting in food, then transitioning to wine, Josh is now entering the next phase of his adventure, bar ownership. His new venture, Small Victory- 108 E. 7th Austin, Texas, opens very soon and the whole city is waiting in anticipation. We have a great chat ranging from post-college antics to the importance of being a present father. He's been there and done that, so let's drink some calvados and do this.
Being goth and Italian in Waco, Texas isn't the cakewalk you would expect. The multi-talented Becca King has established a name for herself in the entertainment, fashion (Waxed Black), and service industries (Drink.Well., East Side Showroom). This trinity of talents has taken her many places, and although ending up in Austin, Becca still pines over the hustling Los Angeles frenzy. We chat ex-spouses, new love, therapy, and Marilyn Manson in this 90's themed conversation.
An auteur of writing, sipping, and alcohol academics, Austin's Matt McGinnis has an interesting journey. Born in the midwest, and adventuring his way ultimately to Austin, Matt has dated models, borrowed the best wine bottles, and developed quite the thirst for spirits production in the process. Part prankster, part gentleman, we have a great conversation while sipping some fine 1960's bourbon; that's what we're drinking. And the conversation begs the question: What are You Drinking? (also Matt's blog)
An apple and PR infused power couple, Wes and Mary discuss their genesis and how working together becomes a challenging task at times. With a beautiful balance of reason and creativity, they share some great stories about Arkansas and how Wes' musical career peaked whilst opening for a premier harmonica player. We discuss how Argus became Argus and how Strange Fruit became the newly reborn Resplendent firm. Listen to the love and enjoy some cider in this great chat.
Tipsy Texan might be the most influential rock group to hit Texas mixology culture....ever. With a novel, string of mind altering classes, and a thorough disambiguation of cocktail concepts in the books. What's next for Tipsy Texan? This conversation with Joe Eifler might just reveal the answers. Growing up Catholic and shy, Joe details his love of plants and the formidable David Alan. From Mezcal to Rock'n'rye, Joe has helped guide the every shrewd step of the Tipsy Texan empire. Sit back and enjoy karaoke tales and misplaced song artists as Joe and I detail novice singing careers while educating the masses on the value of great cocktail ingredients.
In the conclusion to our wonderful interview, Shid talks about his military service in Somalia and how a notorious shot of Bourbon catapulted him into the next chapter of his life. From Peché to the world renowned Half Step bar, each chapter has been an interesting one for Shid. We talk the perfect bar and how his living room might just be the best prototype for the next big cocktail concept. Enjoy the chat, and spend some time knowing that you have to enjoy each challenge and each triumph because we all die sometime.
In part 1 of an extensive chat about life, love, death, and spirits, Shid demonstrates the power of positivity and allowing things to be what they'll be. An army brat constantly challenged with defining his sense of self, Shid has worked through countless hurdles to end up detailing his great American novel of a life in an amazing interview. A pop culture lover, and an 80's child with a love of movies, Shid has lived twice the lives most of us have. Sit back and enjoy this riveting tale about a guy doing what his does and doing it well.