Judges Panel

Our judges are what set us apart from other international beverage competitions. We select the best and brightest beverage professionals in the New York Metropolitan area, including restauranteurs, sommeliers, retail buyers, importers, and distributors to participate, so that our entrants get the chance to make an impression on the people who will have the biggest impact on their sales. Our judges have daily contact with spirits consumers and up-to-the-second knowledge of what's selling and what's trending -- Don't miss the opportunity to have your product tasted by these industry-leading buyers.

Samuel Anderson

Sam is the Bar Director and Head Beverage Buyer for Salvation Taco a April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman Mexican Influenced Restaurant.  Prior to this he designed the Cocktail and Spirits List at the Breslin.  Sam will be joining the Tequila Panel.

Jason Cousins

Jason is a a master mixologist and a recognized expert on spirits with special emphasis on rum.  Jason is the founder of 1856 Beverage, a company providing consulting services to new and existing beverage programs.

Flavian Desoblin

Flavien Desoblin

Born and raised in the countryside of Burgundy in 1975 to a wine-lover father and “cordon-bleu” mother, Flavien Desoblin picked up early in life the scents and tastes of all things culinary.

A rather formal French education (boarding school, Sciences-Po, Master’s degree in business of wines and spirits) got mixed with an interest for the Hospitality field, which he entered in 1994 through the cocktail door. Later multiplying experiences in the world of bars and restaurants both in France and the U.S., Flavien fulfilled his long-time dream of opening his own establishment dedicated to brown spirits in 2004 when he created Brandy Library in the heart of TriBeCa, Manhattan.

Flavien thinks of beverages as “the other food," looking for the right balance of flavors, mouth feel, aromas and tasting profiles in anything liquid: wines, cocktails, and naturally, spirits.

He feeds his passion with numerous trips to distilling regions of the world, and puts it to work via hosting tastings, seminars and classes at Brandy Library. Brandy Library maintains a high-quality, knowledgeable service, along with one of the greatest whisky and brandy selections in the world, always focusing on “raising the Bar, one snifter at a time”.

Recently, Flavien was a judge on the ADI Whisky and Moonshine Conference tasting panel (May 2010) and received the International Cognac Personality of the Year 2010 Award in September 2010.

Ray Deter

Ray Deter

Ray was the proprietor of d.b.a. and one of our first judges. Even as time has passed since his tragic death...it is hard to take his name and image off this website. His friendship is still with us and he will stay on this page and will be a judge in spirit.

Dale Dorsey

Dale is the general manager as well as spirits buyer for Drink Wine & Spirits in New York, one of the premier boutique wine and spirits stores in the city. He is an experienced trade buyer who brings a wealth of experience from working at some of the top liquor stores in New York.

Elana Efrat

Elana has been a strong force in the spirits buying realm, working over the years at some of the top retail and online retailers in New York. She is now spirits portfolio manager for the esteemed Martin Scott Wines.

Ms. Franky Franky

Ms. Franky is a New York City hospitality industry veteran.  She was part of the opening staff at the highly acclaimed Clover Club, then went uptown to the historic Monkey Bar, before heading downtown to the award winning Dead Rabbit.  She can now be found managing events all over the world.

Franky was a three-time Apprentice at Tales of the Cocktail, a recipient of a Cocktail Apprentice Scholarship, and was selected as Beverage Media's "Top Mixologists to Watch 2009."  She has been a Presenter/Moderator at Tales of the Cocktail and the Prague Bar Show.  She is a graduate of Bar Smarts, holds a certificate with Distinction from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and became a BNIC Certified Cognac Educator in 2014.  As VP of the USBG New York Chapter she has already made her impact felt with her focus on member education and by creating the "Talk With a Pro" Interview Series

Kenta Goto

This Tokyo Native has found a home at the Pegu Club here in New York. He recently shared America Best Bartender Award which was awarded in July 2011 at Tales of the Cocktails.

Moises Galarza

This is the first year Moises is joining us a judge.  Moises is Director of Operations for Gabriela's Restaurant and Tequila Bar.  He will be on the tequila panel and is a respected Tequila Aficionado, master mixologist and master food taster.  He brings his years of experience in the industry as well as growing up in Mexico City to help oversee the 150+ Tequila & Mezcals Gabriela's offers its customers.  We are excited to have Moises join us!

Courtenay Greenleaf

We are delighted again to have Courtenay Greenleaf-- the "Tequila Librarian"-- judging with us again. Courtenay will be one of our anchors on the tequila panel.  Courtenay has taken on a new role recently after leaving Richard Sandoval's group, and is currently the Corporate Beverage Director for Rosa Mexicano. You can read more about Courtenay here in Esquire

Elish Healy

Elish Healy's career in the restaurant, wine and liquor industries began her first week upon arriving in New York City when she accepted her first fine-dining gig. While working amongst a series of acclaimed and world-renowned chefs for whom she deeply admired and having a great appreciation for their craft, her passion naturally gravitated towards wine and spirits. Under the leadership of some of the city's great Somms, her knowledge steadily grew. Desiring to work more directly with actual importers, distributors and makers of wine and spirits in order to learn more about their craft, moving over to the retail side was the eventual and logical next step. Elish is currently the Spirits Buyer for Shawn Fine Wine and Spirits, one of the top boutique wine and spirits retail shops in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Dawn Lamb

Dawn is an experienced wine and spirits buyer for the acclaimed Sherry Lehmann store here in New York.

David Lombardo

David is the Beverage Director of the acclaimed restaurant group Benchmarc Restaurants including its flagship Landmarc Restaurant located in Tribeca and the Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle.

Pat McCarthy

Pat McCarthy

Pat McCarthy has spent 30+ years working and supporting liquor & wine companies.  He is one of the top recognized whiskey experts on the retail floor, and his job includes sampling and selecting numerous barrels each year to be bottled for the Bayway World of Liquor Whisky Peddler label. We are very excited to announce that Pat will be inducted into the Keeper of the Quaich this October, just before the Competition. This society was founded in 1988 by Scotland's whisky distillers and is the most well respected in Whisky Industry.

Junior Merino

Junior Merino, "The Liquid Chef" , is a native of Mexico and is well-recognized as a spirits expert and mixologist.  He has crafted mixology programs around the world, and his base here in New York has over 3000 spirits labels, spices, oils, extracts, aromas and herbs from around the world.  Junior has a loyal following within the trade for his innovative cocktail programs and for his elegant productions at special events.

Marlon Paltoo

Marlon is the Whiskey Buyer for Park Avenue Liquors one of the premier whiskey retail destinations in the New York Metro Area.

Francis Schott

Francis Schott

Francis Schott

Francis Schott is co-founder and beverage director of Stage Left Restaurant and Catherine Lombardi Restaurants in New Brunswick, NJ. He has been an early champion of estate-bottled wines from small producers since Stage Left opened in 1992. Both restaurants boast an extremely well curated list of nearly a thousand selections. He has hosted more than 250 collaborative dinners with a star-studded list of the finest winemakers in the world. He has taught consumer classes since 1989, which have been praised by many publications, including The New York Times.

Francis also manages the restaurant's extensive spirits collections. He writes about spirits regularly for the innovative Spirits Project at Catherine Lombardi. With the help of Dale DeGroff, he established Stage Left’s craft cocktail program in 1993, which Francis will point out, is about 10 years before anyone gave a damn. It was NJ's first craft cocktail program, and in the opinion of many (including Francis' mom) it remains its best.

In addition to his own restaurant operations, Francis consults on fun projects here and abroad. He co-hosted The Restaurant Guys Radio program and is in demand as a public speaker. His TEDx talk on restaurants and community can be found online.

Francis was an early graduate of the B.A.R. 5-Day program and still classifies himself primarily as a bartender that knows a thing or two about wine and running restaurants.

Francis, his partners and his restaurants have been featured in The New York Times, Cheers, Food Arts, The Star Ledger, The Food Network, Eater, FoodBelfast and The Irish Echo...

Lucinda Sterling

Lucinda a Colorado native with a B.S in Psychology and Business, which is a dangerous combination for someone who is both a Partner and behind the bar at Middle Branch.  Lucinda was recently recognized as one of the top female bartenders to know in New York.We are also proud to know her!

Tommy Tardie

Tommy is the owner of the Flatiron Room which has immediately become a destination for whiskey lovers, from their selection to their curated events.  Stocking over 1000 whiskies, we enjoy visiting him!

Michele Vedernack

Michele is the wine and spirits buyer for Bottlenose Wines in New York, NY.  Their shop specializes in small craft producers.

Josh Wortman

Josh wears many hats, including being a Tequila/Agave expert and buyer for his restaurant, as well as working with Martin Scott Imports.

Marine Bettler

An experienced spirits professional with certifications from WSET, who understands the New York and USA market.