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September 21, 2011

Bert “Tito” Beveridge
By David Ransom

Ask for a vodka in Austin Texas, and invariably you’ll be asked the question, “you want OUR vodka or one from somewhere else?” That question says a lot about Texas, a proud and independent state, and if John McCain hasn’t ruined the term for the rest of us, the place where the word maverick was coined. One of the state’s true mavericks is a laid-back Texas native named Bert “Tito” Beveridge, a former geologist in the oil industry who ditched it all to follow his dream; and that vodka, “our” vodka as they say in Austin, is Tito’s.

Growing up in San Antonio, having a vodka bottle with his name on it was probably the last thing on Tito’s mind. While his interests certainly leaned towards the scientific, distilling is, after all, a science as well as an art, Tito’s original goal in life was to become a doctor. And it was with that in mind that Tito excelled in all things science related in school, eventually enrolling as a pre-med student at Vanderbilt University. However, like so many students, his focus changed as he went through college, and he ended up realizing that his true talent lay in the science of the earth, not the body. So tissue-covered slides and dissecting fetal pigs gave way to seismology and geology, and upon graduation, and armed with his degree, he returned to Texas, Houston to be exact, and entered the oil industry as a seismic data processor for a major oil company.

That time, the 1980’s, was a boom-time for the oil industry, with Texas-based companies expanding into countries all over the world. Tito did well also, eventually getting coveted contracts to work throughout the global oil fields and spending large blocks of time in countries like Venezuela and Columbia doing those things that energy geophysicists do, like sub-surface mapping and dynamite-blasting oil reserves.

However, he also had that classic Texas streak of independence running through his veins, and after a few years on the road, he tired of it and returned to his home state, settling in a town called Alvin; a place he calls “a hotbed of KKK activity” where he was actually invited to Klan meetings (which he politely declined).

It was in Alvin that he hung out his own shingle, becoming a wildcatter (an independent oilman, for those of you who haven’t seen the classic James Dean/Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor movie, Giant) and starting his own drilling company. While drilling was a good way to make a living, he didn’t love it, and soon was back on the road again, eventually ending up in Austin working on environmental projects and finally, once he’d had enough of the Oil business for good, as a mortgage broker.

But going from blowing up mountains to moving mountains of paperwork, also seemed unappealing after awhile, and by the early 1990’s, Tito, who by that time had started infusing bottles of store-bought vodka and giving it to friends in his spare time, was at a crossroads, wondering what made him happy, and what to do with his life that would have meaning. So, after a quick trip to the backside of Maui, where he spent four days camping at the Seven Sacred Pools, reflecting on, to quote the great author Douglas Adams, “Life, The Universe, and Everything” (RIP Douglas, I had to do it…), Tito returned to Austin, and, after attending a keg party where someone recognized him as “that vodka guy” while he was filling his cup at the tap, returned home that evening thinking that maybe he should look into the spirits industry.

As fate would have it, late that night on television, he saw a program featuring some Tony Roberts type guy, who said the following words, “If you want to find your dream job, find your passion. Then sit down with a pen and paper, draw a line down the middle of the page, and on the left make a list everything you love to do, then on the right, write down what you are good at doing. Once you’ve done that, find what you’re best suited for, and make it happen.” Well, Tito grabbed a pen and paper and did just that…why not? He’d just come home from a keg party, and it was the middle of the night? No harm, right? Continue Reading…

Rocks Stars


August 19, 2011

A Few Of My Favorite Things
By David Ransom

Photo by Charles Steadman

Once again this past July in New Orleans, Mrs. And Mr. Cocktail (aka Ann & Paul Tuennerman) put on what those of us in the business have affectionately come to consider the triathlon of liver survival (drink-filled seminars, drink-filled tasting rooms, and drink-filled dinners and parties… not to mention the obligatory night-ending swing through Old Absinthe House on Rue Bourbon every night just to prove you didn’t expire during the course of the day) that is Tales of the Cocktail (

Having just completed its ninth year, Tales has grown from a tiny industry-focused event that brought the nation’s top bartenders together for a few days of camaraderie, events, and parties, into a truly international symposium, complete with a “Spirited Awards” program (like the movie industry’s Oscars) that hands out honors to establishments and industry leaders from around the world, and now brings in professionals and consumers from all over the globe to celebrate the world of cocktails in the city that created them.

Rocks Stars and I feel honored to be given the chance to attend each year, and as always, I’m thrilled to be able to share some of my experiences…now that I have recovered enough to be able to write again…

So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things from this year’s Tales, both good and bad, but really all good, as nothing that includes having a well-crafted drink could ever really be bad… and in no particular order:

Best Hosts Under Pressure: Ann & Paul Tuennerman. Nine years into it, Tales could probably have run itself, but Ann and Paul were everywhere. Every event. Every day. Every night. What amazes me about this is that Paul was recovering from a health scare and had just spent time in the hospital. I have to tip my hat to these two intrepid souls for not staying in the background and recuperating at home while “their baby” was staged. Quite to the contrary, they were all over the place from Tuesday’s Media Welcome Party at Arnaud’s French 75 bar (beautifully run by Chris Hannah, one of NOLA’s finest drinks-smiths –,to the final Sunday Brunch with Mr. & Mrs. Cocktail, and everywhere in between. I even ran into Paul solo, visibly tired yet surely on the mend, at the Suntory Suite ( one afternoon where we chatted on the balcony overlooking Bourbon Street while enjoying a glass of Japan’s finest single malt. Continue Reading…

Rocks Stars


August 5, 2011

Five Questions for Rob Montgomery of The Miller Tavern in Toronto, Ontario

Q1. How many years have you been coming to Tales of the Cocktail?
A. This is my first time

Q2. Do you wear an armband when tending bar?
A. (laughs) No, I’m not a member of the Hitler Youth…

Q3. As a 20-year veteran of this industry, what advice do you have for someone who’s just starting out in the business?
A. SHUT UP AND LISTEN! Learn… lather, rinse, repeat…

Q4. What’s your Go-to spirit these days?
A. Gin and Tequila, for sure. As a bartender, I’m pretty sick of making vodka drinks.

Q5. Do you have a favorite garnish?
A. A beautiful woman…

Couldn’t think of a better one myself! Enjoy Tales…

Rocks Stars


August 4, 2011

Five Questions for Dr. Mixologist Darryl Robinson, Host of Drink Up on The Cooking Channel.

Q1. How many years have you been coming to Tales of the Cocktail?
A. Five

Q2. Do you wear an armband on your show?
A. No

Q3. Do you have a favorite ingredient?
A. Agave Nectar

Q4. As a veteran of this industry, what advice do you have for someone who’s just starting out in the business?
A. Pick someone you admire in the industry, study them, and then do better

Q5. What’s your Go-to spirit these days?
A. Liqueurs, like St. Germain, etc. They are able to help create such interesting cocktails

Agreed. Enjoy Tales…

Rocks Stars


July 31, 2011

5 questions for Owen Thomson, Lead Bartender for Jose Andres’ Think Food Group, Washington, DC

We know Owen Thomson has a big appetite for creative drinks and delicious food. We’ve broken bread with him at New Orleans locals’ favorite restaurant Elizabeth (; the man can order!

Plus, during Tales ( he sat on the SavourEase panel with Mixtress Gina Chersevani and Chef Peter Smith of PS7s (

With all this under his belt it is no wonder he’s running the beverage program for celebrated chef Jose Andres.

And has this to say about the industry…

Q1. How many years have you been coming to Tales of the Cocktail?
A. Five

Q2. Do you wear an armband behind the bar?
A. Uh… NO…

Q3. As a veteran in the industry, what advice do you have for someone who is just starting out in the business?
A. Keep and open mind, and don’t ever think that you know everything.

Q4. Sponsorships aside, what’s your Go-To spirit right now?
A. Bourbon and Rye. Although, I drink everything…

Q5. Cubed or Crushed Ice?
A. Summer? Crushed. Other times of the year, Big Fat Cubes…

Agreed! Enjoy Tales…

Rocks Stars


July 24, 2011

Five Questions for Dushan Zaric of NYC’s Legendary Employees Only
By David Ransom

And now some words of wisdom from the man behind Employees Only (, winners of “Best Drinks Selection” and “World’s Best Cocktail Bar” at last night’s Tales of the Cocktail ( Spirited Awards presented by Pernod Ricard ( and Beverage Media (…


Q1. How many years have you been coming to Tales of the Cocktail?
A. 3

Q2. Do you wear an armband behind the bar?
A. No.

Q3. As a veteran of this industry, what advice do you have for someone just starting out in the business?
A. Find someone who inspires you both as a person and a bartender. Get to know his students, and if you like what you see, then BEG him to teach you everything he (or she) knows. Because, in the end, your styles will be similar, so you need to love your mentor’s style, as well as his knowledge.

Q4. Sponsorships aside, what’s your go-to spirit these days?
A. Tequila and Campari(… at different times, of course…

Q5. Cubed or Crushed ice?
A. Cubed. Large, very cold cubes. It’s really a matter of habit now, although I’ll use crushed when I need to. NEVER Cracked…

Amen to that! Enjoy Tales…

Rocks Stars


July 21, 2011

PS7’s Mixtress rolls into the Big Easy with some SavourEase
By David Ransom

Rocks Stars goes to Tales of the Cocktail 2011

*This week, when we’re all in New Orleans doing what it is we do at Tales of the Cocktail, columnist David Ransom will be catching up with Rocks Stars to find out what’s happening in their universe. five minutes, five questions (those asked at The Absinthe House or Alibi are fair game too). First up, Miss Gina Chersevani.

5 Questions for Gina Chersevani, Head Mixtress at PS7’s in Washington,DC.

Q1. How many years have you been coming to Tales?
A. Six

Q2. Sponsorships aside, What’s your go-to spirit right now?
A. These days, I’m lovin’ white whiskey and mezcal. LOVE THEM!. Can’t get enough of them, and they’re all over my drink menu at the restaurant.

Q3. Do you wear an armband?

Q4. You are one of the most imaginative bartenders I’ve come across. You seem to be simply fascinated by the makeup of ingredients and the chemistry of the flavor profiles they create when paired in a drink. Where does that inquisitive nature come from?
A. Too much education, I think. I have two degrees (so far…), and just love to learn everything I can about everything.

Q5. As a veteran Bartender, I mean Mixtress, what advice do you have for someone just getting into the business?
A. READ! … Pick up every book you can and read it until the end… And when you’re done reading it pick up another and read that one until you fall asleep…and when you wake up to turn off the light, don’t, and keep reading. There is so much to learn out there! Oh, and don’t bullshit your customers…

‘Nuff Said. Enjoy Tales…

Rocks Stars


October 11, 2010

Julie Reiner
By David Ransom

Julie Reiner’s favorite spirit is not what you probably think it is. As she’s a native of Hawaii, one would think that Julie’s dream drink would include exotic ingredients like pineapple, star fruit, and rum, and inspire visions of far off places like the north shore of Kauai or the white sand beaches of Fiji. However, while she does show a deft hand at creating masterful libations reminiscent of Gauguin’s South Pacific, her personal go-to drink is far more mainland than that. But rather than let the cat out of the bag in my own words, I think it may be best to let Julie tell us in hers…later.

As one of the world’s most accomplished and respected mixologists, Julie has helped define an industry, and along the way, built herself a mini empire of trendsetting cocktail bars that have been emulated countless times around the world. Strange as it may seem, while growing up the last thing Julie ever thought was that she’d end up in the business she’s in, or that she’d play such a major role in pioneering what we now call the world’s “cocktail culture.” Yet that’s what she’s done, and it may have been inadvertently due to the fact that she gets bored easily.

Spend some time with her, and one almost immediately notices that Julie has a somewhat restless spirit, visibly apparent in her mannerisms and constant need to out-do her last success and not rest on her laurels. So, it may not be such a stretch to say that boredom played a key role in making her who she is today, as lack of inspiration invariably leads one to want to change a situation to the way they feel it should be. And this is certainly true in Julie.

Like many young people first starting out in the job world, she was first drawn to the hospitality industry for the benefits it offered; like flexible hours, excitement, and quick money. Her first job, as a cocktail waitress at the Hotrod Café on Honolulu’s famed Waikiki Beach, was the perfect vehicle for this, and she did well there, but never dreamed of actually pursuing it as a career path. However, life has a strange way of dictating to us what we are born to do; and we are powerless to change it, no matter how hard we try. Calvin called it predestination, Aristotle and Taylor called it fatalism, and luckily for us, Julie’s experience at Hotrod Café lit an internal spark that remained burning no matter how hard she tried to extinguish it. And it kept coming back to life until she finally gave in and let it blaze the path to her future.

After the Hotrod Café, college was in her immediate future and, having spent her formative years on Oahu, and feeling there was lots more world to see, she decided to go to school as far from Hawaii Continue Reading…