Starting as a finicky eater and a boy of routine, Danny Mena's mathematical mind transformed in his college years. The once deeply analytical mind evolved into the world food. Supper clubs, and many flavor combinations later, Danny paired his business acumen and his kitchen experience to launch a successful restauranteur career. This deep passion of Mexico and flavor inevitably drove him into the beautiful world of Mezcal. We chat music, flavor, inspiration, and Mezcal.
Sombra Mezcal's Andres Portela was steeped in hospitality as part of a generous Argentinian family. Early studies in English and getting mix tape suggestions from his musical siblings encouraged Andres to take the stage, but not in the way you'd think. Working his way through the hospitality industry in Mexico, Andres now takes the stage to educate the masses on the beauty of Agave, and of course Sombra Mezcal. We chat Metal, RiotFest, sustainability, and Mezcal.
Few individuals have lived such a colorful life as the artist and agave shamen, Ron Cooper. As a creative kid interested in cars, travel, and love, Ron started the first chapter of his beautiful tale as an artist. A tale that weaves through decades of creation, learning, and ultimately Mezcal. We chat about everything.
Dallas has recently seen a nice influx of agave centric bars, but none have the heart and history like Las Almas Rotas. Shad Kvetko is a writer, a collector, and a passionate agave amigo. His deep passion for Southwest aesthetic, as having grown up in Arizona, changed the way he perceived his surroundings. Many tales late, after starting a semi-secret Mezcal club, a beautiful Mezcaleria, Las Almas Rotas, was born. We chat roadside attractions, Mezcal, cacti, and more.
The world of agave is constantly changing and without the efforts of Jason Paul Cox, this narrative wouldn't be moving forward as boldly. After years of translating Spanish to English for those in need, a combination of emotionally gravity and worldly compassion changed Jason's trajectory completely. A risky foray into food brought him to open the lauded Oaxacan culinary landmark El Destilado. The heavy focus on agave of the region naturally transitioned into the creation of Cinco Sentidos destilados de agaves. We chat empathy, entrepreneurialism, Puebla, and more.
When you decide that your journey as an entrepreneur has begun, that trek will never end. Arik Torren had family inspiration, and a lust for life when he set out to do that thing that would ultimately define his career. Agave Spirits have grown profoundly as a category in the US, but much the interest in Mezcal and Raicilla wouldn't have occurred without Arik's passion and tenacity. We chat restaurants, his baby Fidencio Mezcal, teaching, and more.
Aaron Kolitz has traveled around the world, sometimes cooking, sometimes sipping, but always learning. The San Antonio native has always been interested in education. And once the hospitality bug settled in, his ability to adapt and learn landed him gigs at various wonderful restaurants. Now as a brand ambassador for Casa Noble tequila, his kindness, interest in raw ingredients, and ability to connect with folks keeps propelling him forward. We chat shuttering a restaurant, top golf, and agave.
Nicole Austin brings a new breath into the world of whiskey. Former King's County blender and project engineer, Nicole has a blend of science and art in her blood that is truly unique. Her understanding of chemistry and love of music managed to converge into the world of whiskey. Now with her highest profile role yet, the distillery manager for Cascade Hollow Distilling Company, how can she bring the delicious George Dickel back to the limelight. For some of us it never left, but the saturated world of whiskey leaves lots of work to be done. We chat hardcore, horse riding, and the new Dickel Bottle in Bond.
David Blackmore brings suaveness, Scottish-ness, and charm to Ardbeg and Glenmorangie. As the global brand ambassador, he traverses the world sharing some of the most delicious drams in the world. With a keen background in wildlife, entrepreneurialism, and whiskey, he brings a certain flair to the conversation. Always the life of the party, he returns to the road for the newest Ardbeg release DRUM for Arbeg's commemorative day 6/1/19. We chat health, Deep Purple, grooviness, and more.
Sometimes you never realize where an advanced degree in fermentation might take you. Now decades later, it's easy to say, you get to create the best Scotches in the world with creative carte blanc. Dr. Bill Lumsden is one of the most insightful and humorous figures in Scotch whiskey. A fan of music, art, and dream journaling, his creative output is unparalleled. So much so, that in the last Glenmorangie Private Edition series Allta, he found a yeast never before used and made a Scotch out of it. We chat Prince, writing, inspiration, and age.
Diageo's Scotch Expert Ewan Morgan has achieved many accolades across his 25+ year career in Scotch. But perhaps most important is that Ewan is a humble, good guy. Whether traveling, fishing, farming, or just exploring the world of distillation, Ewan has kept a level head about it all. Perhaps it's the community of punk rock ideology, or maybe it's a penchant for horror movies? Either way, his love of people and process makes him an encyclopedia of Scotch knowledge. We chat GOT, John Carpenter, Clynelish, and more.
Jared Brown has been chronicling the world of spirits and bar culture for many decades. His efforts to bring understanding to cocktail culture, distillation, and overall "mixology" have resulted in publishing over 20 books on these subjects. But being an accomplished author wasn't nearly enough, as Jared now works for the British Gin company Sipsmith; a delicious concoction actually made within the London city limits. We chat about craft distilleries, love, traveling, peace, and more.
Jameson's Simon Nicolian is no stranger to travel and the ease of island life. Raised on the small island of Anguilla, he helped with day to day duties of his father's hotel. Hospitality was strong as a very young age. As relationships change, so do families and Simon then started to explore the streets of London. Never leaving his hospitality roots, Simon travels the world delivering great cocktail program, choice jokes, and a charisma you won't soon forget. We chat Thanksgiving, hats, mezcal, and more.
The new Austin cocktail staple has shifted the paradigm on cocktails in Texas. Constructed entirely from scratch, the basement-esque, Here Nor There keeps service #1 and pretention somewhere outside the doors. Chatting with a few brilliants minds that created the culture, Terry Robson and Nik the Greek, you quickly learn that this is the place you want to drink. Lauded, delicious, and still obscured by city streets, Here Nor There is just about to launch their new menu. We talk about acting, having what you want, creativity, and more.
Tullamore Dew's latest addition to the team is the Irish force, Donna Stewart. With a background in business and event coordinating, a fortuitous trip to L.A. turned into the beginning of a deep love of Irish whiskey. The seemingly random stint working at an Irish bar in California became the perfect stage for Donna to represent one of the world's finest whiskies. We chat Irish Coffee, podcasts, Boston, and more....
Bacardi Malts international ambassador Georgie Bell has trekked far from her original geography studies in Scotland. A fan of culture, travel, and flavor, Georgie traverses the world sharing drams of the finest Scotches: Aberfeldy, Craigellachie, Deveron, Aultmore, and others. Her keen interest in making Scotch accessible in terms of discussion and flavor keep elevating the narrative of whisky. We chat females in whisky, Marsala, Austin, and more....
The shores of Islay have been described as beautiful, gray, and obscured. However, this small area of Scotland produces some of the most beautiful and vibrant spirits in the world. Master distiller of Bruichladdich, Adam Hannett and master forager, James Donaldson, have constructed something different on Islay, something truly unique to the flavors of the area. The resulting Botanist Gin is the beauty, smoke, and grayness of Scotland in a bottle. The painstaking process of hand picking botanicals, using different distillates, and crafting something outside the comfort zone of Scotch, is the perfect of The Botanist gin. We chat fatherhood, humility, not recognizing actors, and more.
The dynamic duo of Travis Tober and Brandon Hunt have created the modern legend of a bar Nickel City. At first apprehensive of one another, the 2 forged a long lasting relationship over a few Old Fashioned's. Nickel City is the apex of hospitality and accessibility in the cocktail movement. With inexpensive food, rare whiskey, and an unparalleled staff, the Austin staple has quickly become one of the most lauded bars in the United States. But the only way to truly understand Nickel City is to sip a dram and enjoy a burger. Thanks to Travis and Brandon a monument to community thrives in East Austin.
Wild Turkey's Benny Hurwitz has no problem working any gig on the totem pole. For him, mastering even the smallest of things, leads to a much better and well-rounded life. After realizing the suit and tie lifestyle wasn't for this skateboarding Maryland native, he entered the freeing world of hospitality. This land of little structure, no lectures, and a lot of creative freedom set his career on a whole new path. With his great experience at the Columbia Room and Jack Rose Dining Saloon, he attending his first session of Behind the Barrel. This connection to the Wild Turkey family continued to grow and now he travels the states sharing fine drams from the Wild Turkey distillery. We chat stepping, skating, family, and older vintages of Russell's Reserve.
Christopher Stevens of Craft Distillers INC flies under the radar. He doesn't have much in the way of social media presence and his humility directly mirrors that of the producers for which he works. Once a psychology student focused on going into practice, his connection with hospitality and initially, fine wine, set his path on a whole new direction. Now as a regional sales manager for Craft Distillers Inc, he shares the fine mezcales of Alipus, Los Nahuales, and the Mezcalero collection with intrigued palettes across the states. We chat Hawaii, fatherhood, San Andres, and more.
Dalla's Amy Flores started down the straight and accepted path of college and a "real" job. For some this is a fine and regular endeavor, but as Amy's mind grew more creative and sought out more diverse experiences, a desk job just wasn't enough. Enter Hospitality stage left, and then a connection between people, spirits, and stories enrich Amy's life forever. After years behind the bar, time in distribution, and now as an educational liaison for Collectif 1806, Amy shares some of the finest Remy Cointreau products to the masses while conducting roundtable chats about insights with industry legends. We chat Bon Iver, Cognac, community college, and more.
The man of many talents, Mr. Nico Martini has traversed numerous aspects of the marketing and academia industries, but his largest passion has stemmed from the modern cocktail movement. As the founder of marketing company Hypeworthy, and a co-founder of large event/mobile draught system technology Bar Draught, Nico has had many irons in the fire. However, his latest effort turned writer, Texas Cocktails chronicles the history of Texas cocktails and details some of the producers in this great state. With such an illustrious set of projects and achievements, what's next? We talk heart issues, fatherhood, public speaking, and more.
Portland native Clayton Szczech leveraged writing, music, and civil service to the help the community around him. But as many stories twist and turn, (add disappointment with bureaucracy and a need for new horizons into the mix) Clayton found a new sense of purpose in agave spirits. Now the founder of such great curated tours like Experience Mezcal, and Experience Tequila, he is able to help invite people into the rich culture of Mexico. And to top it off he has also founded one of the only Tequila tasting bars in Jalisco, La Cata. We chat liberty, punk rock, agave sustainability, and more.
Nicola Olianas eats and breathes hospitality. As an Italian native, his surroundings were always rooted in food and community. The lifestyle of learning, fostering communication, and appreciating nature were at the foundation of his journey. But as it can sometimes feel limiting, his insular Italian neighborhood couldn't satisfy Nicola's cultural and travel inspired appetite. After studying abroad and rooting his passion for hospitality with some academic feats, the greatest handshake yet occurred: forging his relationship with the Fratelli Branca family. We all know and love Fernet, but let's dig a little deeper. We chat fatherhood, health, hosting, and more.
The world of mezcal is growing in a very rapid way. The divide between bottle pricing creates many questions for consumers and bartenders alike. With all the market opportunities, what does a burgeoning brand do to captivate the market and consumers alike. Fausto Zapata, the creator and CEO of El Silencio Mezcal, used his interest in people, real estate, and culture to bring a cost-effective spirit to the market. And now, a few years later, the bottle can be spotted just about anywhere. So where does entrepreneurialism end and passion begin? We chat agave blends, terroir, family, and food.