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Angus Winchester



June 12, 2014

Tales of the Cocktail 2014 Logo with New Orleans

Coming to you from a webcam in an apartment in NYC Simon Ford and Jacob Briars initiated the inaugural broadcast of the top four finalists in each category of the 2014 Spirited Awards. As Ford notes, “Millions tune in for the Oscars, and we are going the same route for bars. There are more bartenders than actors [out there].”

And speaking of more…Briars explains, “This was the biggest and most comprehensive Tales Awards nominations pool ever.” With over 2,000 individual nominations and over 50 countries being represented with at least one nominee, the 135 judges were hard pressed to whittle it down to a list of four per category. Let’s see who we’ll be cheering on Saturday night at Tales during the Black and White themed 8th Annual Spirited Awards® show (although you know you’re all winners).

American Bartender of the Year
• Jeff Bell (New York)
• Marcovaldo Dionysos (San Francisco)
• Bobby Heugel (Houston)
• Sean Kenyon (Denver)

Best American Brand Ambassador
• Brooke Arthur (House Spirits)
• Chris Patino (Pernod Ricard USA Portfolio)
• Neyah White (Suntory Japanese Whiskies)
• Angus Winchester (Tanqueray Gin)

Best American Cocktail Bar
• canon (Seattle)
• The Dead Rabbit (New York)
• Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco)
• Williams & Graham (Denver)

Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar
• Employees Only (New York)
• Honeycut (Los Angeles)
• Polite Provisions (San Diego)
• Trick Dog (San Francisco)

Best American Restaurant Bar
• Clyde Common (Portland)
• Gramercy Tavern (New York)
• The NoMad (New York)
• nopa (San Francisco)

Best American Hotel Bar
• Clyde Common (Portland)
• The Hawthorne (Boston)
• Sable Kitchen & Bar (Chicago)
• The Spare Room (Los Angeles) Continue Reading…



February 13, 2013

What’s with this title?
By Francine Cohen

InsideF&B OpEd Header

This column was born out of journalistic frustration that reached a boiling point. This was after one too many press releases hit the old inbox touting holiday/special event themed cocktail recipes created by, as the publicist sending the release noted, “Master Mixologist insert name here created these signature cocktails for our brand.”

Master Mixologist? Huh? Is that “Master” title anything like the “Master Plumber” title appropriated by the guy in the tax prep company’s commercial who confuses the husband in his kitchen because the two guys first met a week before when the now “Master” plumber was doing the husband’s taxes? Well, not if you ask a Master Plumber. They actually have to have years of apprenticeship and training to call themselves that.

So, back to wetting your pipes, instead of clearing them; we want to know, what the heck does that “Master Mixologist” title mean and who conferred it? Aside from the USBG – which we’ll come back to in a moment – its not as if there are numerous accredited graduate degree programs at universities, the traditional US standard bearers for educational degrees with their alphabet soup shorthand (e.g. BA, BS, MA, PhD, etc.), conferring a Master Mixologist title.

The wine world has such an accepted body; the Court of Master Sommeliers which, through its reputedly rigororous training, names a limited number of skilled wine professionals as “Master Sommelier.”

But where oh where does one go to study and attain this title when they’ve spent their career behind the bar? The USBG offers spirits testing that upon successful completion confers an earned title of “Master.” Livio Lauro, President of the USBG’s MA program, notes, “The program launched in 2009 and we currently have 118 spirits professionals (level 1), 7 advanced bartenders (level 2) and will start our first round of USBG master mixologists in the second half of 2013. This exam will be open to our current 7 advanced bartenders plus any new advanced bartenders that may graduate between now and then.”

Needless to say, none of their names have ever been referenced in these press releases we’ve received. So it leads to the question of why bartenders are being touted as “Master Mixologists” and whether we allow the perpetrators of this title (I.e. PR teams who present it and the media who accept and repeat it) to continue fooling their readers with it.

Let’s take a stand for the sanctity of bartending and marketing and professionalism and demand Continue Reading…



September 17, 2010

A look at a much maligned (or at least misunderstood and under appreciated) spirit
By Angus Winchester

***Editor’s Note – With National Vodka Day coming up on October 4th, and recent debates on the topic held in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail and San Francisco (as sponsored by the USBG’s Northern California Chapter), we felt it was time to reinvigorate the debate.

Let it be known that we side with Mr. Winchester, and don’t hate the entire category. We are somewhat disappointed with how the spirit has been taken for granted and mixed without great regard. We challenge you to share in the dialogue, give into your inner culinary yearnings, and boldly mix with vodka once again to explore and exploit the unique textures and flavors present in each style.***

And now, a word from Angus Winchester (as presented in New Orleans)….

(I feel a tad like Tony Hayward in front of the Senate Committee as being on the I Love Vodka side at Tales means a cold reception is surely guaranteed, so in this vein I would like to start with a prepared statement)

Thanks to Claire Smith for the chance to participate in a good “healthy” debate… I love a good argument and figured here that I should be on the underdog side… I am here to defend a product I feel is much maligned, has become a target for the Cocktail Taliban and yet has been co-opted as a poster child for much that I feel is wrong in our industry.

Now Love and Hate are very strong words… many feel there is a very thin line between the two but if I had to choose between them I will always be a Lover not a Hater, but that’s not the basis of my love for Vodka.

I love good Gin. I love good Scotch. I love good Tequila, Mezcal, Green Chartreuse (always good), Bourbon, Rye, Cognac, Armagnac, etc., etc.; but only the good stuff. The well made stuff. The stuff that is not just a pretty bottle on the shelf that makes your legs unsteady and members of the opposite sex look more attractive, but is someone’s life’s work and pride and joy.

“Read, learn, mark and inwardly digest” was something my History Master used to tell us at school about a topic… and I have done this in my quest to know as much as I can about drinks, drinkers and those that serve them. I feel I know what the good stuff is and I know there is good vodka. And there is bad vodka. And bad gin, scotch, tequila etc.

It is obvious it takes skill to make great vodka and I am a fan of anything that it takes great skill and expertise Continue Reading…